USITT Commits Half Million Dollars to Rigging Safety, Gateway Diversity & Innovation Research Programs

Monday, December 12th, 2016

USITT Terrence SpiveyThe United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Board of Directors has committed an record $500,000 to increase the impact of some of the organization’s most important programs: Rigging Safety, Gateway Diversity, and Innovation Research Grants.

“This significant investment increases our opportunity to advance three very different areas of the theatre industry, while reaffirming our commitment to our members and the future of entertainment design and technology,” says Mark Shanda, president of USITT.

“Sure it’s an unprecedented investment, but even that is not as significant as the impact this will have on the future safety and opportunities for children and adults across our country, and even the world,” adds David Grindle, USITT Executive Director.

USITT is the nation’s leading professional organization for practitioners of theatre design and technology. The Institute has been creating opportunities and promoting dialogue, research, and learning since it was founded in 1960. Today it has grown to include members at all levels of their careers and is the leader in life-long learning opportunities for the entertainment design and technology industry.

Rigging Safety Initiative at Schools Across America

USITT is investing $85,000 in its Rigging Safety Initiative, which provides stage rigging inspections and safety training at no cost for secondary schools across the United States. In its first five years, the Rigging Safety Initiative has already improved stage safety at more than 120 secondary schools impacting the safety of more than 150,000 students.

This additional investment will help the program to reach more schools, students and professionals nationwide.

“Whether schools are housed in older facilities or brand new buildings there is often a lack of trained support for rigging and safety in secondary school theaters,” says Shanda. “Through improved measures and proper training, it is possible for schools to provide enhanced productions, expand community engagement opportunities and in some cases to save on insurance expenses.”

More information is available at www.usitt.org/rsi.

Gateway Diversity Initiative

The organization’s Gateway Program will receive $85,000 to help expand the reach of this diversity inclusion initiative. Launched in 2014 to create mentorship opportunities for students from underrepresented populations within the industry, the Program offers funding for young people to attend the USITT National Conference and meet with professionals in the industry.

In 2015, a dozen students from underrepresented populations were able to attend and be mentored at the USITT National Conference in Cincinnati because of this program. Six were fully funded (including travel, housing and conference costs), and six received partnered support from USITT and the school or organization that nominated them.

“Our industry is very homogeneous, at the community level and on a national level. We have seen it with more public roles like actors and directors, and it is just as homogenous behind the curtain, too,” said David Stewart, USITT Board of Directors Diversity & Inclusion Committee Member. “In order to create our best work it is imperative to diversify and ensure a plurality of voices. That is the purpose of the Gateway Initiative.”

Gateway activities at the Annual Conference are designed to provide the students with greater access to professional mentors and opportunities within the industry. Underrepresented populations include, but are not limited to: race, gender, sexual orientation/identity, or disability. More information is available at www.usitt.org/gateway.

Innovation Research Grants

In addition to growing some of its most impactful current programs, USITT is also investing $330,000 over the next six years in Innovation Research Grants, which will sponsor research projects addressing technology challenges faced by the entertainment industry. USITT has offered grants for more than 30 years, but has never before seen this level of funding.

“The new Innovation Grants program not only raises the amount of funding available for distribution and ultimately for greater impact, but we hope it will also increase the stream of research projects over multiple years,” said Shanda. “These grants will allow for larger strides to be made in areas like safety, or sustainability and energy savings, and could even lead to new partnerships for the industry.”

More information about the application process for the Innovation Grants, and about all of USITT’s initiatives, will be announced at its Annual Conference & Stage Expo in St. Louis on March 8-11, 2017.

“This $500,000 in funding is a yet another return on the investments made by our membership and our generous donors. Continued support from members and donors helps support and expand our mission, ensuring the positive impact of the organization for practitioners, educators, and students in the theatre and entertainment industry well into the future,” said David Grindle.

For more information about USITT or to inquire about membership, giving, the Annual Conference or any of the aforementioned programs visit www.usitt.org.

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