Helping funders and arts organizations realize their vision since 1996.


Case Study: Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists

A National Initiative Made Possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

DFA was a watershed experience for me in learning how funding silos can and should be broken down more. You provided a stellar model. I have valued our talks and exchanges and learned so much from you about program management. I could have never imagined a better outcome.

—Lily Kharrazi
Director of Special Initiatives, Alliance of California Traditional Arts, and advisor
to DFA


You went out of your way to ensure that diverse voices were included in the program design. Every time I advocated, my voice was heard.  I saw how you nimbly navigated the days of the grant panel, continuing to listen and adjust our process.

—Anne Huang, Executive Director, World Arts West, advisor to DFA, and Board Chair-Elect, Dance/USA

Training and Facilitation
In addition to one-on-one consultation to clients, we have provided numerous trainings and facilitated forums for funders. Read about some of our past speaking engagements and trainings that have complemented our philanthropic services.

Voices from the Field: Dance/USA Fellows in Practice and Community.
Click to view a downloadable PDF.

In 2018, Callahan led the collaborative design and management of Dance/USA Fellowships to Artists (DFA), a national program that awards over $1 million in unrestricted support to dance artists who address social change.   In December 2020, a second round of funding was announced. the firm transitioned out of its managerial role.  

Below is the story of its initial conception, design, management, results and documentation. It is intended to provide an example for funders or nonprofits who are interested in collaborative design, wish to address equity, and/or support individual artists. This story is excerpted from Dance/USA’s book about the program, referenced below. 

DFA addresses a decades-long issue in the dance field — the importance of supporting individual artists. For 25 years, there had not been a national program that offered unencumbered, five-figure support to scores of dance artists across the country.* Most of the programs that existed prioritized western dance forms. Across the country, many artists’ voices had not been heard or amplified prominently; while some might work on concert stages, many of their practices took place in communities. Our country was on the cusp of the 2020 civil uprising. Dance artists’ voices and stories and experiences urgently needed to be supported and heard. 

The collaborative design process involved gathering scores of artists, funders and administrators, to have conversations and provide feedback. The collective goal emerged to amplify artists’ voices and raise their visibility to presenters, funders and others in the field. Support would center artists’ practices, rather than projects.  Feedback was offered from people who spoke in first-voice perspective about one or more of the communities that the program sought to reach. 

The application process intentionally differed from most funding programs, including those that CCA had managed. In advance, with the collaborators, we analyzed the historical barriers that artists faced when applying for funding and addressed as many of them as possible. Care was taken not to privilege the written word alone, knowing that some artists may have a deep impact on their communities but limited grant-writing experience or are not English-first speakers. Short, informal “artist statements” via video, recorded on a phone or computer, allowed artists to speak directly to the panel and say anything that they could not express in writing. Community references submitted letters and stories about their relationships with the artists. 

In its inaugural round, a national panel selected 31 DFA Artist Fellows, who received support of $1,005,000. Nearly half of the Fellows had more than 15 years of practice; 13% identify as disabled; two-thirds identify as female and 13% identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or two spirit; nearly one quarter identify as LGBTQ; and 84% are artists of color. 

The program culminated in Voices from the Field: Dance/USA Fellows in Practice and Community, an article series and book. The publication’s 15 writers capture and raise visibility for the Fellows’ practices and stories. They are intended for use by “artists, academicians, funders, presenters, cultural practitioners, and community workers who understand that the plurality of creative voices reflecting people of color and other historically marginalized people must be valued and welcomed into the pantheon of what constitutes American dance.”  The book highlights these artists’ practices:

Invention can mean the literal engineering effort to extend wheelchair movement into dance, or dance rituals that reclaim waterways and urban streets, giving voice to the people and issues that surround them. Others remind us that dance lineages from Native and Indigenous peoples continue to serve as a bedrock through time to speak to the contemporary “now.” Inuit drum dancing, hula, Hopi hoop dance, and interdisciplinary contemporary Native art all reflect a continuum of practice. Many of these artists work in post-modern dance — drawing from practices and influences including improvisation, performance art, and theater. Scores of practices link the African diaspora with not-so-distant-cousins from Senegal and Liberia to Cuban sacred and secular forms to the vernacular and urban styles of Chicago footwork, krumping, or tap. This continuity of traditional dance and contemporary expression manifests as a theme for every genre, whether it’s South Indian or Khmer classical dance or Mexican zapateado—from Voices From the Field

* Since the culture wars in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the National Endowment for the Arts was mandated to end most of its support for individual artists, funding had been increasingly given to projects.

Above: Dance/USA Artist Fellows Prumsodun Ok with students, photo by Morn Sopharoth; Patrick Makuakāne and dancers from his hālau in I Mua: Hula in Unusual Places, photo by Ron Worobec; Amara Tabor-Smith’s Episodes, photo by Robbie Sweeny. Callahan Consulting for the Arts led the planning and launch of this new funding program.