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, or, more specifically, American students in the 17-18 year-old age bracket, in the performing, visual and literary arts through the youngARTS program (formerly known as the acronym ARTS). The youngARTS program is considered by many to be the most prestigious arts competition for young adults; it is the exclusive nominating organization for the Presidential Scholars of the 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 accepts registrations in nine disciplines:

* Cinematic Arts – animation, narrative, and non-narrative
* Dance – ballet, jazz dance, tap, modern dance, choreography, and world dance forms
* 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, multi-media, 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. Students must either be in their senior year of high school or age 17-18 on December 1 to be eligible for youngARTS. High school juniors of any age are not eligible until their senior year. High school seniors and college students who have not yet turned 17 are also eligible. 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 []. Parents, students, and teachers may 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 3% 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

The approximately 20-40 students chosen as Gold and Silver award winners participate in a second youngARTS week in late spring. Held in New York, the week culminates in several performances of an interdisciplinary show.

youngARTS finalists are able to work with phenomenal master teachers as part of both youngARTS weeks. Notable master teachers include Edward Albee, Liv Ullmann, Frank Gehry, Placido Domingo, Vanessa Williams, Raul Esparza, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

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.

Only high school seniors are eligible. Finalists in college cannot participate.

Other programs and activities

NFAA also produces a production highlighting its Silver and Gold award winners in New York City each spring. Most recently, NFAA produced 'In the Studio' at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.

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.

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 series entitled 'Masterclass,' a documentary program involving these students and famous mentors, is also scheduled to air on HBO.

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