National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is a Challenge America grant of $10,000 to the University of Saint Francis Jesters program for guest artist residencies featuring an ensemble from Second City Chicago. The Challenge America category supports primarily small and mid-sized organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.
“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as the University of Saint Francis Jesters, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”
“The Jesters program is excited to give participants, teaching team of artists and the community at large the opportunity to interact and work with Second City Chicago,” said Jesters Director Allison Ballard. “As a result of this residency, we expect skills, abilities and relationships to be expanded in ways that will support both individual growth and community development.”
The Second City Chicago will send a small ensemble to Fort Wayne to teach improvisational techniques to the University of Saint Francis designed to enhance the existing Jesters program. The NEA Challenge America grant will support two, three-day guest artist residencies with the Jesters program during 2017. The work will focus on teaching a range of improvisational techniques and processes to people with intellectual disabilities/developmental disabilities, students and community artists, including ensemble work and beginning scene work.
The Second City Chicago has developed improv classes for anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and senior citizens. The guest artists will work with the Jesters Director to plan the workshops and culminating performance. Throughout planning and implementation, Second City artists will reference and integrate the curriculum they use to teach adaptive improvisational theatre classes to special needs students in Chicago.
The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.