We’re tripling the number of Artists’ Awards this year to six, and the total grant money available to $15,000, in an effort to support the creation of new work by Connecticut performing artists and provide some relief for artists who have lost income during the coronavirus pandemic. Because these are artistic/creativity awards and not income-relief grants, applicants do not need to show that they have lost income because of the coronavirus.

We’ve been able to increase the number of awards largely because of the generosity of donors through the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven’s Great Give event and of two festival supporters who are each funding an award in its entirety. Carol Sirot of Guilford is sponsoring the festival’s dance award, which this year will be named the Carol Sirot Guilford Performing Arts Festival Artists’ Award in Dance; the other donor is anonymous, and the award can be given in any performing arts genre.

Applications open May 31 for awards in music, drama, dance and spoken word. Each award comes with a grant of $2,500. At least one award will be given in each genre. All professional performing artists who live in Connecticut are eligible. They must use the grant to develop original, new work and premiere it at the next biennial Guilford Performing Arts Festival, scheduled for September 23-26, 2021.

Award criteria, rules and an online application can be found below. Applications will close at 11:59 p.m. on July 31. No late applications will be considered. Recipients will be announced in late summer this year.

GPAF created the Artists’ Award program in 2018 as a way to support the creation of new work by Connecticut performers and to provide a vehicle for premiering original material at the festival. The program has a larger and more humanitarian mission this year, as many performing artists have struggled for income in a world shaken by COVID-19. For that reason, GPAF initially increased the number of awards from two to four, adding awards in dance and spoken word, then the new donors came forward to sponsor two additional awards.

“It can be challenging enough in ordinary circumstances for a performing artist to take the time and spend the money to create new work,” said William Boughton, chairman of the festival. “With live performances around the world canceled because of the coronavirus, many artists have lost their largest or only source of income. We feel it’s more important than ever to contribute in some small way to sustaining their livelihoods and nourishing their creativity.”

This will be the second cycle of GPAF’s Artists’ Awards, which are given in the festival’s off-years. The inaugural winners, in 2018, were jazz pianist/composer Noah Baerman of Middletown and screenwriter/playwright Susan Cinoman of Westbrook.

To be eligible, applicants must be professional performing artists, be Connecticut residents and commit to creating new work or completing work that is already in progress, then debuting it at the following year’s festival. Applications will be evaluated by festival programmers and independent judges on the basis of artistic merit, originality and innovation, cultural or social relevance, fit with the festival’s diversity mission, and the ability of the work to be performed with quality during the festival. Because of limited venue space, the festival may not be able to accept applications that call for elaborate staging or presentations of dance, drama or musical theater that call for more than four performers; exceptions may be granted for performances that can be staged outdoors on grass, sand or in the water. Performances are limited to 60 minutes in length.

The 2021 Guilford Performing Arts Festival will again feature four days of live music, drama, dance and spoken word, performing arts workshops, arts-based community-service projects and spontaneous happenings. Events will take place on and around the historic Guilford Green as well as in various other places in town—the community center, library, public schools, churches, coffee shops, markets, dance studios, bookstores, arts centers and historic homes. This will be the third Guilford Performing Arts Festival staged; it started in 2017 with the goals of enlivening the Connecticut Shoreline, illuminating social causes and fostering cultural diversity, building audiences for live performance, provoking thought, and supporting and showcasing the work of Connecticut performing artists.

The 2019 festival presented 73 shows featuring 540 performers, drew a total audience of nearly 6,000 people, reached 400 students and had an estimated local economic impact of $567,000.