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For the Record

Support for USITT’s Grants & Fellowship program, comes from the triennial Art Auction in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2009, and from direct donations. At left David Weiss, professor emeritus of the University of Virginia, gives an art auction piece a close examination.

Grants, Fellowships Encourage Investigation

Tim Kelly
Co-Chair, Grants & Fellowships Committee

As USITT commemorates its 50th year of service to the entertainment industry, the Grants & Fellowship program celebrates its 25th year of funding creative work of Institute members.

In the early years of the Institute, Edward F. Kook, one of USITT’s founders, mandated that the organization provide assistance to members by fostering creativity in technical theatre practice. It’s only appropriate Mr. Kook, who along with Chuck Levy developed the leko stage light, has his name attached to the Kook Fund that provides resources for funding innovative research.

Mr. Kook’s charge was realized in 1985 when President Randy Earle established the Endowment Fund Management Committee with the express purpose of soliciting project grant proposals. That year Dennis Dorn was the first grant recipient, receiving $2,300 for a project in modular stage platform construction.

More than $250,000 has been awarded in the ensuing years for 36 Project Grants and 12 Research Fellowships.

The importance of this program to our membership can best be characterized in comments from past G&F recipients:

  • Rafael Jaen 2008 Grant "Receiving a USITT Grant is a terrific way to validate scholarly research and foster creativity; both the students that participated in this project and the audience members that viewed the results expressed excitement and wanted to use the techniques in their productions".
  • Lance Brockman 1999 Grant "Like the current (US Government) Stimulus Initiative, the Kook Fund of USITT provided the catalyst for research that started in my early 30s with the Twin City Scenic project and has sustained me through my current work on the lost art of scenic painting and the Masonic project."

The measure of success for this program can be found in the body of knowledge uncovered through study and experimentation. An equally valuable component is the professional growth the researchers experience in completing a Project Grant or Fellowship.

In many cases funding provided by the USITT Grants and Fellowships program stimulates other granting sources by reinforcing the credibility of a researcher’s work. USITT is well known to be the association for the entertainment industry and provides an important professional standing to its members.

  • Deborah Bell 2006 Grant & 2009 Fellowship "I have spent about $35,000 visiting and learning about mask makers throughout the world and the creative challenges they confront today. Part of this endeavor was supported with a $7,000 USITT grant and a $4,000 USITT fellowship. As a result of USITT’s faith in my project, my university provided another $2,000.

Many who receive these cash awards have their careers greatly influenced as new avenues for research are opened and personal development opportunities are realized.

  • Laura Crow 2008 Grant "Through my USITT grant, I have been offered a new beginning along a road that will keep me engaged for the rest of my life. I am excited about this new beginning because it has allowed me to work with a number of students who now have a profound regard for history as a result of their work with the costume archive."
  • Robert Gerlach 2001 Grant "Because it opened doors and invited interaction with leading professionals across the country, my USITT grant came with multiple benefits: it established the connections that jump-started my career in lighting; it helped fund the incubation of a successful technology; and it supported the development of unique tools that many people across the industry have now been able to utilize."

USITT’s Grants and Fellowships program is successful on many levels by encouraging investigation and dissemination of information on topics of concern to the membership. Receiving a USITT Grant will not only afford funding to carry out a project, it will provide research credentials for professional standing.

This program is open to all USITT members and in alternating years offers significant funding to Project Grants or Research Fellowships. In the late fall of 2009, Project Grant applications will be accepted for the 2010 funding cycle. The deadline for Grant applications is January 10, 2010. All those interested in this program are encouraged to visit the USITT website for application information.

The USITT Grants & Fellowship program represents a real commitment of USITT in promoting research and scholarly activity within the entertainment industry. As USITT looks to the future, the committee is undergoing several transitions. As part of that process, the committee is very interested in gaining additional input and ideas from the entire membership.

Anyone interested in participating is urged to contact either of the committee’s co-chairs Tim Kelly or Rich Dunham. Mr. Dunham noted "Some of the most important activities that all of us can use to promote these funds are to support activities like the Art Auctions or simply make a direct donation.

"No matter the size of a personal contribution/donation, if we all can provide a little seed each year -- we can eventually have a forest and will make even more significant contributions to the future projects and fellowships that will be supported," he said.

Contributions to the Edward F. Kook Endowment Fund will receive a 50 percent match through June 2010 in recognition of the Institute’s 50th year. Click here to make a secure online donation or download a form to mail in. Donations also may be made by calling 800-938-7488, ext 102.

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