Do’s & Don’ts of a Successful Spirit & Place Application

It’s time to submit that application! What exactly might the Selection Committee give you props for and what might they ding you on? Here are some key “do’s and don’ts.”


  • Be inventive and collaborative. For example, in 2015 the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice created an event (“Dare to Dream”) featuring a lecture by anti-apartheid leader Allen Boesak—a pretty tried and true event format. But, they partnered with the Kheprw Institute [LINK] to create a short documentary that was shown before the lecture and featured local youth sharing their dreams. This provided a fresh design twist and demonstrated the creative power of collaboration.
  • Put the theme front and center. Be clear on how your event drew inspiration from the theme and how the audience will experience/reflect upon the theme during the event. Here’s an example from the Indianapolis School of Ballet’s 2015 application for “Suite Dreams are Made of These”:

Theme: The Nutcracker, one of the most well-known and beloved ballets, is closely linked with dreams of dancing. In the Nutcracker story, Clara’s journey through the Land of Sweets in Act II is often interpreted as a fantastic dream. Many dance students, including those in the preview performance, began dancing after seeing a production of The Nutcracker. Children in the audience may have dreamt about dancing but never had the occasion to try. This program is about encouraging children to follow their dreams, including children who have hearing impairment, with its visual emphasis, participation and interaction.

  • Demonstrate your capacity. Some applications read like a whirlwind of activity and leave the Selection Committee wondering how on earth the event partners will pull everything off. We want you to challenge yourself by creating something unique and never-seen-before, but still keep it focused on what can actually be accomplished. Your application should be  more than a wish list.


  • Force what isn’t there. You might have an awesome idea for an event . . . that doesn’t really connect to the theme or invite wide community participation. The festival isn’t the right venue for all events. Trying to force a connection to the theme or back-engineering a design component that encourages wide participation is usually pretty transparent and “dinged” by the Selection Committee.
  • Ignore your audience. Invest the time in really talking about the needs, wants, and values of the audience you hope to attract and serve. In particular, if you want to attract a new audience, make sure you are working with a partner who can help you understand and serve that audience.
  • Get lost in language. The application questions have word limits for a reason: To force succinct explanations. Be descriptive, but direct. Compelling, but concise. You don’t need to be Tolstoy.

What are you waiting for? Apply today!



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