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The National YoungArts Foundation (previously the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, or NFAA) is a talent-based scholarship program which honors and awards high school and college students, mostly American, for their prowess in the performing, visual and literary arts. It is the flagship program of the National YoungArts Foundation. The program is considered by many to be the most prestigious arts competition for young adults; it is also the exclusive nominating organization for the U.S. Presidential Scholars of the Arts.
YoungArts was founded in 1981 by the late Ted Arison, founder of Carnival Cruise Lines, and his wife Lin Arison, with a mission to identify emerging artists and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development; and to raise the appreciation for, and support of, the arts in American society. The foundation is headquartered in Miami, Florida.
The National YoungArts Foundation's signature program is YoungArts Week.
YoungArts accepts registrations in ten disciplines:
- Cinematic Arts – animation, narrative, and non-narrative
- Dance – ballet, jazz dance, tap, modern dance, choreography, and world dance forms
- Design Arts - architecture, fashion, gaming, etc.
- Jazz – composition and instrumental
- Music – composition and instrumental
- Photography – color, black & white, digital, silver process, etc.
- Theater – spoken and musical
- Visual Arts – painting, drawing, sculpture, multimedia, ceramics, scenic design, costume design, fashion design, jewelry, among others
- Voice – classical, jazz, and popular
- Writing – poetry, short story, novel, creative non-fiction, playwriting/scriptwriting
Eligibility and requirements
YoungArts is open to American students or students who have residency status. As of December 1, you must be between the ages of 15-18 years old OR in high school grades 10-12. Students are permitted to apply for more than one discipline simultaneously.
Students submit an online application with corresponding materials depending on their chosen discipline. The materials are judged by arts professionals and university educators in mid-November and award levels are announced on December 1.
Using a completely blind judging process and a standard-of-excellence-based adjudication system, YoungArts selects between 600-800 students for recognition and awards more than $500,000 in cash each year. Colleges, universities, and conservatories offer an additional $3 million in scholarships to students who register for YoungArts.
Students who rank in the Top 5% of the registrants receive a Merit Award. Students who rank in the Top 3% of the registrants receive an Honorable Mention Award of $250.
Students chosen as National Finalists are invited to attend YoungArts Week in Miami, Florida, all expenses paid, usually during the second week of January. YoungArts Week provides the Finalists with a series of master classes, showcase performances, exhibitions, readings, interviews, interdisciplinary activities, enrichment programs, and final, live auditions which determine their award level. Each National Finalist is placed in one of six levels of excellence with a corresponding cash award.
- Gold Award: $10,000
- Silver Award: $5,000
- Level I Award: $3,000
- Level II Award: $1,500
- Level III Award: $1,000
YoungArts finalists are able to work with notable master teachers as part of both YoungArts Weeks. Past master teachers have included Edward Albee, Liv Ullmann, Frank Gehry, Plácido Domingo, Vanessa Williams, Raul Esparza, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts
Since 1982, YoungArts has also been the exclusive nominating organization for the selection of Presidential Scholars in the Arts to the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, governed by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Up to sixty YoungArts Week National Finalists are nominated to the Commission after YoungArts Week. These nominees submit additional candidacy materials to the Presidential Scholars Program and the Commission selects twenty YoungArts winners as the Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
The YoungArts Scholars in the Arts join 121 other Scholars chosen for academic excellence and receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC in June. There, they are honored by the President in a White House ceremony. The Scholars in the performing arts are featured in the Salute to the Presidential Scholars at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The works of the Scholars in the visual and literary arts are exhibited at a national gallery for the month of June.
Only high school seniors are eligible. Finalists in college cannot participate.
Other programs and activities
Several documentaries have been produced highlighting this unique program and its extremely talented award recipients. Most notably, Rehearsing a Dream, produced by the Simon and Goodman Picture Company, was nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. A documentary television series entitled YoungArts MasterClass, in which program alumni are teamed with famous mentors, is in its second season on HBO. YoungArts has developed a study guide, based on the HBO series, for high school teachers with Teachers College, Columbia University.
In 2012, YoungArts commissioned Frank Gehry to design a master plan to convert the 3.5-acre former corporate campus of Bacardi USA on Miami's Biscayne Boulevard into a multidisciplinary arts complex that will include year-round cultural programming. As part of the plan, Gehry will not change the signature Bacardi buildings themselves - including the eight-story main tower, designed by Enrique Gutiérrez in 1963, and a smaller annex building, designed by Ignacio Carrera-Justiz in 1975 -, whose exteriors were landmarked in 2009.
In the past 32 years, YoungArts has honored more than 16,000 artists with $6.4 million in cash awards.
Notable YoungArts award winners include:
- Doug Aitken, nationally renowned visual artist
- Terence Blanchard, jazz trumpeter and film composer
- Timothee Chalamet, actor
- Viola Davis, Oscar-nominated and Tony Award-winning actress
- Raul Esparza, Broadway actor and singer
- Nancy Falkow, singer/songwriter
- Santino Fontana, Tony-nominated actor
- Allegra Goodman. National Book Award nominated writer
- Kimiko Glenn, actress, Orange is the New Black.
- Shalita Grant, Tony-nominated actress
- Denyce Graves, opera singer
- Lauren Greenfield, independent photographer and filmmaker
- Adrian Grenier, actor and musician
- Josh Groban, musician and singer
- Anna Gunn, actress perhaps best known for playing Skyler White on the TV series Breaking Bad
- Roy Hargrove, jazz trumpeter
- Kamal Khan, conductor and pianist
- Jennifer Koh, violinist
- Jenji Kohan, creator of the TV series Weeds
- Sarah Lane, soloist for the American Ballet Theatre
- Sam Lipsyte, author
- Alison Lohman, actress
- Tarell Alvin McCraney, writer and actor
- Nicki Minaj, rapper and singer
- Gillian Murphy, principal ballet dancer for the American Ballet Theatre
- Eric Owens, opera singer
- Jared Padalecki, actor currently starring on the television series Supernatural
- Sarah Paulson, film actress
- Billy Porter, Tony-award winning actor
- Andrew Rannells, stage and television actor
- Desmond Richardson, modern dancer and choreographer
- Ida Saki, dancer in season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance
- Max Schneider, actor and model
- Zuzanna Szadkowski, actress
- Nathan Trasoras, finalist on season 6 of So You Think You Can Dance
- Conrad Tao, composer, pianist and violinist
- Kerry Washington, film and television actress
- Vanessa L. Williams, Grammy- and Tony award-nominated singer and actress
- Chris Young, country music artist
Arison and Alumni Award
At its annual end-of-YoungArts Week fundraising event, An Affair of the Arts Performance and Gala, YoungArts bestows the Arison Award on an individual who has a national reputation for helping young artists. The award carries a $10,000 donation to the recipient’s charity of choice. The Arison Award is named for YoungArts’s founders Lin, and the late Ted Arison and has been presented to:
- Quincy Jones (2001)
- Jacques d'Amboise (2002)
- Roberta Guaspari (2003)
- Plácido Domingo (2004)
- Mikhail Baryshnikov (2005)
- Michael Tilson Thomas (2006)
- Dave Brubeck (2007)
- Frank Gehry (2008)
- James Rosenquist (2009)
- Liv Ullmann (2010)
- Bill T Jones (2011)
- Robert Redford (2012)
- Joshua Bell (2013)
- Rita Moreno (2014)
In 2006 as part of its 25th anniversary celebration, YoungArts created a YoungArts Alumni Award which is given to a former winner in recognition of significant contributions and professional success in her/his chosen art form. The award carries a $5,000 stipend to the charity of the recipient’s choice. The first Alumni Award was presented to Vanessa Williams followed by best-selling author Allegra Goodman, Executive Director of the American Ballet Theater Rachel Moore, award-winning actor Raul Esparza, dancer and choreographer Desmond Richardson, actress Kerry Washington, multi-media artist Doug Aitken, actor Adrian Grenier and actor Andrew Rannells.
YoungArts has partnerships with numerous organizations including American Ballet Theatre, Baryshnikov Arts Center, The Gordon Parks Foundation, Hirshhorn Museum, Hunter College, The James Royal Palm, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Miami Art Museum, Miami City Ballet, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Dance Institute.
YoungArts winners are known as YoungArts Alumni. YoungArts continues to help them at critical junctures throughout their careers. YoungArts Alumni can continue to participate in the YoungArts program by being selected for YoungArts Alumni performances throughout the nation, internships, fellowships, resident advisor positions, and through partnerships that YoungArts has set up on their behalf (see Partners section above).
YoungArts has an endowment of $42 million. Its $6 million annual budget is expected to increase as much as 40 percent as its operating expenses grow.