McKnight Fellowships for Dancers: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the McKnight Fellowship program for Dancers?

This program, administered by The Cowles Center, awards three unrestricted $25,000 fellowships to professional Minnesota dancers each year. McKnight Fellowships have been awarded to dancers since 1997. The program is one of eleven Fellowship programs funded by the McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information on McKnight Artist Fellowships in other program areas go to the McKnight Foundation website.

How do I apply for a Fellowship?

Specific and complete directions are available on this web site under "How to Apply."

 There are two parts to the application process:
           (1) Submit the online Intent to Apply form and notify us of your upcoming performances using the Calendar form by September 4, 2019 at midnight CST.
           (2) Final applications will be due on March 30, 2020 at 3:00 pm CST. Check our website after mid-January 2020 for specific information on how to submit your final application. 

I've missed the Intent to Apply deadline.  Can I still submit a final application?

The Intent to Apply deadline is firm. Applicants who miss the Intent to Apply deadline may still submit a final application. However, without an Intent to Apply, you will not receive deadline reminders or important updates about the application, you will not be eligible for assistance with application preparation and the panel will not view your live performances. The only exception to this is that first-time applicants who miss the Intent to Apply deadline are eligible for an in-person meeting regarding their application, by contacting us at 

What does the panel look for?

The panel looks for mid-career artists whose work is of exceptional artistic merit and who have created a substantial body of work over a period of time. In other words, these awards are not intended for dancers at the beginning stage of their career, nor are they for a single work of merit. Above all, the panel looks for artistic excellence in a dancer's body of work. The panel also takes into account whether an applicant has received a prior McKnight Fellowship at the $25,000 level in any discipline – including how recently and how many prior awards since 2001.

How do you define "mid-career"?

Mid-career artists will have a history of sustained professional dance work over a period of at least five years, demonstrated through performances, creative work, residencies, grants, fellowships, or other recognition in the field. Accomplishments must be outside of accredited degree programs, i.e. student performances will not count towards the five-year period of professional accomplishment.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must be residents of Minnesota for at least one year prior to applying. Furthermore, fellows must remain in residence in Minnesota during the fellowship year or forfeit the award. Applicants may not enrolled full-time in an academic program. Recipients of 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018 McKnight Fellowships in any field are not eligible. Applicants to this program may not apply to any other McKnight Fellowship program in the same year. Please see complete information on eligibility requirements at How to Apply.

I DON’t have a minnesota Driver’s License. Is there something else I can use in my application to SHOW THAT I am a mn RESIDENt?

The final application asks you to upload a copy of your MN driver’s license or MN state identification card. If you do not have either of those documents, contact the program staff at for permission to upload other supporting documents, which may include a utility bill in the applicant’s name or a tribal ID indicating a geographic location in Minnesota.

I notice that some things have changed in recent years. Why?

In an effort to create more uniformity across all of the McKnight Artist Fellowship’s artistic disciplines some changes have been made that affect all McKnight artistic disciplines. These changes include a uniform sit-out period of five years (prior to this year different disciplines had different sit out periods), required proof of MN residency, and some changes in guideline language. 

Also note that the work sample length is 15 minutes maximum, total running time. Any work samples that are longer than 15 minutes will be ineligible. Please check your vimeo upload carefully for the total length.

What are the Fellowships for?

The McKnight Fellowships are unrestricted funds available to dancers to support their work and artistry. The fellowships are not project grants, and the panel does not evaluate project proposals as criteria in the selection process. A fellowship can help an artist set aside periods of time for study, reflection, experimentation, and exploration; take advantage of an opportunity; or work on a new project. Applicants cannot be enrolled in school full-time during the fellowship year and the fellowships funds may not be used to support work associated with a degree program. However, fellowships may be used to support professional study. If you have further questions about what the fellowship may support, please contact us at

Who reviews the applications?

A panel of two out-of-state and two area arts professionals reviews applications and selects fellows. Panelists are knowledgeable about dance work and the panel represents a range of backgrounds and areas of expertise. The panel makeup changes each year. The panel is confidential and names of panelists are not revealed until after the selection process is complete.

Will panelists see my work live? How do I let the panel know about my live performances?

Yes, local panelists attend live performances throughout the season. We make an effort to have all applicants' live performances viewed, but we cannot guarantee every performance will be seen. The panel is available to see work prior to the Intent to Apply deadline and continues to see work until the third week of May 2020. 

To keep the panel informed of your upcoming performances (if you have submitted an Intent to Apply) fill out the online Calendar Form for each of your performances this season. You must fill out this form when you submit your Intent to Apply, letting us know about your performances for the entire season. You may add performances throughout the year. If you have performances in the summertime prior to the Intent to Apply deadline, you may fill out the Calendar Form even before you submit the Intent to Apply form. While we cannot guarantee that every performance will be seen, we recommend submitting your performance information as early as possible (minimum 4-6 weeks suggested.)

What should I say in my artist's statement?

Since the fellowship is an award for an artist and a body of work (rather than a specific project), we suggest using the artist's statement to help the panel get a better idea of who you are as an artist. The statement may take any one of several directions: you may choose to write about your background, the development of your work, your particular interests as an artist or your aesthetic position, your future direction, or anything else pertinent to your art. Do keep in mind that the artist statement is not a project proposal. You may, if you wish, talk about your plans for the fellowship year, but it is not required. If you are a prior awardee at the $25,000 level, you might want to address your artistic development since your last award and why another fellowship would be timely for you now.

May I use the same artist statement I submitted last year?

Yes, certainly, if it is still pertinent. The panel make-up changes every year, so each panel is seeing application materials for the first time. 

For my work sample should I show only recent work or older work or both?

It is best to submit work that covers a span of time, making sure to include a good dose of recent work. Applicants who do not submit recent work (last 1-2 years) will be at a disadvantage. If you have previously received a McKnight Artist Fellowship, your work sample must only focus on work since your last award. All applicants must submit samples from at least three but not more than 6 different performances. Your work samples do not need to be in chronological order.

Please note that the work sample length is 15 minutes maximum, total running time. Any work samples that are longer than exactly 15 minutes will be ineligible. Please check your vimeo upload carefully for the total length. We strongly encourage you include titles at the start of each excerpt, to make identification easy.

What should I include in my resume and what format should I use?

Your resume is extremely useful in determining whether you are a mid-career artist, so it should reflect your dancer performances, and any honors, awards, and other recognition in the field, as well as give information about your education and related work. In your resume it is very important to include dates with all listings. If you would like assistance tailoring your resume for the fellowship application, please contact us at:

I've received a fellowship in a previous year. Can I reapply?

You may reapply if you received a McKnight Artist Fellowship in 2014 or earlier.  You are not eligible to apply if you received a McKnight fellowship in any category in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019. To check prior awards, go here.

I have questions about the fellowship that aren't covered here.  Who can I contact?

Email or call Program Director Mary Ellen Childs at 612.206.3645.

Can I get assistance with my application?

Yes, email us at with your questions or to schedule a phone appointment. In the weeks prior to the final deadline, Program Director Mary Ellen Childs is available at specified times for individual in-person appointments to review application materials and answer your questions. Many applicants have found assistance with application materials to be very helpful.

All those who submitted an Intent to Apply in September are welcome to request help. First time applicants who may have missed the Intent to Apply deadline are also eligible for application assistance by contact us at

Can I get feedback about my application after selections are made?

Yes, you may make a phone appointment to receive feedback from the Program Director. If you do not receive a fellowship, the notification email you receive will include information on how to make a phone appointment for panel comments.

How can I be sure to receive information about the fellowship program next year?

If you previously applied for a dancer or choreographer fellowship, you will automatically be added to our email list to receive ongoing news and information about the McKnight Dancer and Choreographer Fellowship programs. Also, anyone can sign up for our McKnight Fellowship Email List using the form at the bottom of our webpages.

I am a McKnight fellow. Where can I find the banner logo for my own use?

You can download a zip file of banner logos here.

Are there any web sites offering more information about other grants or services for dancers?

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few websites dancers and choreographers may find useful:

  • For more information about the McKnight Foundation Arts Program, go to their website here.

  • Metro Regional Arts Council (MRAC) offers several grants that may be of interest to dancers and choreographers, including the Next Step Fund, funded by The McKnight Foundation, which provides project grants up to $5,000 to professional artists in any discipline for the purpose of career development and artistic achievement.

  • Minnesota State Arts Board offers grants to Minnesota artists.

  • New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) is a grantmaker, program initiator, aggregator of resources, and builder of creative partnerships among artists, arts organizations and funders

  • National Performance Network (NPN) supports national touring and the creation of new work for select artists

  • has information about Midwestern artists, opportunities and topics of interest to artists.

  • Springboard for the Arts is based in St. Paul, Minnesota and offers various services for artists and non-profit arts organizations.

  • Dance/USA is a national service organization for professional dance artists.