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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 and nurture the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary, design and performing arts and assist them at critical junctures in their educational and professional development. YoungArts aspires to create a community of alumni that provides a lifetime of encouragement, opportunity and support. The foundation is headquartered in Miami, Florida.

The National YoungArts Foundation's signature program is YoungArts Week.

YoungArts disciplines[edit]

YoungArts accepts registrations in ten disciplines:

Eligibility and requirements[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[1]

YoungArts campus[edit]

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.[1]

Previous winners[edit]

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:

Arison and Alumni Award[edit]

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:

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.

Partnering organizations[edit]

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.

Alumni Opportunities[edit]

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.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Robin Pogrebin (October 2, 2012), Gehry to Turn Bacardi Complex Into Arts Campus New York Times.
  2. ^ "Arison Award & Arison Alumni Awards". National YoungArts Foundation. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 

External links[edit]