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Made Possible, in Part, by the National Endowment for the Arts
Evan Wildstein, Manager of Education and Adult Learning Programs, OPERA America
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Original Content1/29/2010

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As the largest annual funder of the arts, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), has a long history with opera. Since its inception in 1965, the NEA has made more than 4,500 grants to opera companies, artists and organizations, totaling nearly $167 million. Many of these grants have assisted the creation or implementation of education, community and outreach programs. Throughout the past year, the NEA has made grant investments totaling nearly $2.1 million in support of opera projects, through two of the NEA's grant categories: Access to Artistic Excellence (AAE) and Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth (LITA).

Of the 62 AAE grants awarded in FY2010, more than half supported educational opportunities such as a lectures, in-school presentations, young artist programs or community events. For instance, Des Moines Metro Opera's educational touring troupe, Opera Iowa, will travel to over 70 schools presenting age-appropriate workshops and one-act operas. The Atlanta Opera will develop a program tailored for middle and high school students at area schools, as well as an educational touring production based on Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. A March spring break opera camp will be offered by Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

LITA grants feature projects that connect arts learning to state and national standards. In 2009, an award to Opera Carolina supported Music! Words! Opera! (M!W!O!), an OPERA America-sponsored program, in their community. Through M!W!O!, students are introduced to the art form through great works and they produce their own original opera. Educators also learn to connect opera with other subjects, paying particular attention to standards, assessment and evaluation. An award to Seattle Opera supported the Opera Goes to School Program, in which classroom teachers learn to incorporate opera into their curriculum, and students work with Young Artists to present a new, commissioned children's opera based on Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Organizations may apply to the NEA twice each year — once as the primary applicant and a second time for a separate project in consortium with an eligible organization (such as a school district or another nonprofit organization). Deadlines for both grant categories have been announced on the NEA Web site, and are as follows:

  • March 11 — Access to Artistic Excellence: Projects include new productions, existing productions, local/regional/national premieres, commissions/workshops of new work and concert opera
  • June 10 — Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth: Projects that help children and youth acquire knowledge and skills in the arts; and/or projects that increase the knowledge and skills of teachers, artists, youth program providers and others who work in arts learning with children and youth.
  • August 12 — Access to Artistic Excellence: Projects include education, outreach and touring to provide access/experience to children, adults, intergenerational groups, schools and diverse communities, as well as festival opera; services to companies/singers/composers; artist residencies; professional development programs; simulcasts; recordings; technology projects and documentation/preservation/conservation.

More in-depth information can be found at Specific questions about Access to Artistic Excellence grants can be directed to Georgianna Paul, opera specialist, at and Learning in the Arts inquiries can be sent to Denise Brandenburg, arts education specialist, at
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