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National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts

The National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (known by the acronym NFAA) honors the most talented high school seniors in the performing, visual and literary arts from the United States through the youngARTS program.(formerly known as the acronym ARTS).

NFAA 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.

youngARTS disciplines

youngARTS accepts registrations in nine disciplines:

Eligibility and requirements

youngARTS is open to American students or students who have residency status except in the discipline of Jazz which is open to international students. Students must either be in their senior year of high school or age 17-18 on December 1 to be eligible for youngARTS in as many disciplines and sub categories as they choose. High school juniors of any age are not eligible until their senior year. Registrations are due by October 1 each year and audition/portfolio materials must be received at NFAA headquarters by November 5. Students register for the program online at []. Students, parents, and teachers can also review the requirements in each discipline at the website:

Students submit dvd’s, cd’s, digital portfolios, or writing samples depending upon their chosen discipline(s). 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 of $100. In 2007, a total of 323 students received Merit Awards.

Students who rank in the Top 4% of the registrants receive an Honorable Mention Award of $250. In 2007, a total of 185 students received Honorable Mention Awards.

For the 2007 NFAA youngARTS program, 141 students were designated as National Finalists and were invited to attend youngARTS Week in Miami, Florida all expenses paid during the second week of January. youngARTS Week, Jan. 7-13, 2008, provides the Finalists with a series of master classes, showcase performances, exhibitions, readings, interviews, interdisciplinary activities, enrichment programs, and final, live auditions which determined 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
  • Level IV Award $500

Presidential Scholars Program

Since 1982, NFAA youngARTS has also been the exclusive nominating organization to the Presidential Scholars Program which is governed by the Commission on Presidential Scholars for the selection of Presidential Scholars in the Arts. Up to sixty (60) NFAA youngARTS Week National Finalists are nominated to the Commission after youngARTS Week. These nominees submit additional candidacy materials to the Presidential Scholars Program by mid-February. The Commission selects twenty (20) youngARTS Winners as the Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

The youngArts Scholars join 121 Scholars chosen for academic excellence and receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC in June where 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.

Other programs and activities

NFAA also produces Breakthrough in New York City each spring. Breakthrough is an original musical theatre production featuring a selection of youngARTS finalists in every discipline.

NFAA publishes the youngARTS magazine three times each year and distributes it to high schools and teachers nationwide. youngARTS details the accomplishments of artists who have been honored by youngARTS over the years and gives an inside look into the organization and its programs. All issues of youngARTS are available for viewing on the youngARTS website, [].

NFAA also produces an annual Educators Conference during youngARTS Week for high school teachers who want to enhance their skills at preparing their students for the college audition/interview process. The conference brings teachers together with admissions representatives of the nation’s leading arts schools for discussions and presentations.

Previous winners

In the past 26 years NFAA youngARTS has honored more than 12,000 artists with $6.4 million in cash awards.

Notable NFAA ARTS award winners include:

Arison & Alumni Award

At its annual end-of-youngARTS Week fundraising event, An Affair of the Arts Performance and Gala, NFAA 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 NFAA’s founders Lin, and the late Ted Arison and has been presented to:

Quincy Jones (2001) Jacques d’Amboise (2002) Robert Guaspari (2003) Placido Domingo (2004) Mikhail Baryshnikov (2005) Michael Tilson Thomas (2006) Dave Brubeck (2007)

In 2006 as part of its 25th anniversary celebration, NFAA created an NFAA 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 and the second to best-selling author Allegra Goodman in 2007.

Partnering Organizations

youngARTS has partnerships with numerous affiliated organizations including the Educational Theatre Association and the International Thespian Society; Music Teachers National Association; the ACT-SO competition of the NAACP ; the Spotlight Awards of the Los Angeles Music Center; the National Forensic League and the National Speech and Debate Tournament; Young Playwrights, Inc.; and the Sphinx Competition among others.

NFAA also partners with several organizations to offer summer exclusive summer internship opportunities to youngARTS award winners including the Sundance Theatre Lab and the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Alumni Astral Grants

youngARTS winners may also apply for the Alumni Astral Grants each year. The Astral Alumni Grants provide financial assistance for a specific project that will enhance a youngARTS winner’s artistic and professional growth. NFAA awards two grants totaling up to $2500 each during the given grant period. Grants are NOT rewarded for living expenses, travel, or further studies. The 2007 Alumni Astral Grants will be offered exclusively to 2002 and 2003 youngARTS Winners (including Honorable Mention and Merit Awards) for projects which will begin no later than September 1, 2007. Applications are due August 1, 2007 and details are available on NFAA’s website.

External links

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