Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts (CIRA) Grant

The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts (CIRA) has been committed to cutting-edge, interdisciplinary arts research since its inception in 1986. CIRA encourages border crossings across the fields of written, visual and performing arts; across disciplines and schools; between faculty, staff and students; and between Northwestern University (NU) and outside communities.

Since 1996, CIRA's focus has been to promote and fund art works that are interdisciplinary and/or collaborative in their creation, production or dissemination. Traditionally the arts have been an area in which new ideas are tested, norms are challenged and possibilities are entertained. CIRA supports such innovative work.

CIRA’s first priority is to fund projects that challenge traditional notions of art in an innovative way and fit into one of three categories:

  • Transdisciplinary projects are those proposed by a single creator and must be multidisciplinary in concept. 
  • Collaborative projects are those proposed by creators who come from the same discipline. These projects must show how they involve new practices beyond what is traditional in their fields. 
  • Interdisciplinary projects are those proposed by collaborators from different disciplines. These projects are expected to combine disciplines in new ways. (Applicants from fields that are by definition interdisciplinary—such as theater and film—must show how their project goes beyond the traditional interdisciplinary nature of their field.) 

CIRA’s second priority is to fund innovative artistic projects by individuals:

  • Within the criteria outlined above, projects may be in any of the arts or in a combination of arts; they may be oriented either toward the creation of new art or the presentation of art in new ways.
  • Participants may include scholars and some aspects of the project may be scholarly, but projects dedicated to scholarship alone will not be funded. We particularly encourage projects that find new ways to bring scholarship and creative arts together or that think about the practice(s) of scholarship and art-making in conjunction. 
  • Projects that bring together different parts of the NU community are encouraged. Examples include: exchanges among artists and scholars in different disciplines or schools; events that provide a chance for dialogue among faculty, staff and students; and projects that invite responses from people outside the specialized fields of the presenters.
  • Projects may include artists, scholars or communities from outside of Northwestern University.


  • Friday, April 6, 2018


  • All graduate students enrolled full-time at Northwestern University whose art projects meet the criteria outlined in the introductory paragraph above are eligible to apply. Faculty and staff applicants should visit the Grants for Faculty webpage.
  • Students must continue to register full-time in the upcoming academic (award) year to be eligible for the CIRA grant. 

The maximum award for a graduate student project is $9,000

Review Criteria

  • Aesthetic significance of project. 

  • Intervention into one or more fields.

  • Potential impact for the applicant’s artistic/scholarly research.

Eligible expenses

Not an exhaustive list:

  • Essential travel for well-defined research/creative purposes.
  • Payment for locations or services. On occasion, funds may be approved to pay for technical or other services essential to a project. (Honoraria for project participants, however, would not constitute an eligible expense.)
  • Scholarly and artistic supplies beyond what would be considered normal and customary in the field. For example, the purchase of a computer would generally not constitute an eligible expense, except in cases where cutting-edge technology and project-specific software are required.
  • Construction, rental or purchase of special equipment not available on campus. The possibility of renting or leasing items (rather than purchasing) such as audiovisual and photographic equipment should be explored.
  • In no instance will retroactive charges for expenditures incurred or committed prior to review and approval of the application be allowable.
  • Grants are awarded for one year. 

Application Instructions

The materials described below must be submitted directly by the applicant via The Graduate School online grant/fellowship application tool. Applications and recommendation letters must be submitted by the deadlines listed above.

1. Two-page, double-spaced statement (PDF)


  • Description of the project
  • Justification of the interdisciplinary, collaborative, and/or transdisciplinary nature of the project
  • List of all personnel/collaborators
  • Explanation of how the project is innovative for the arts
  • Schedule for completion of the project

2. One-page itemized budget (PDF)

List precise, non-estimated costs of all essential items for the proposed project. Donations of items essential to the project should also be specified. Please use the budget worksheet and save it as a PDF.

4. Applicant's curriculum vita or résumé and CV/résumé of the main collaborators (PDF)

5. Sample of past work (PDF)

  • Examples should be from work that will assist in the evaluation of your proposed project. This could be a series of images (no more than 10) of traditional artwork, a musical composition, a website or a film. For audio/visual submissions, please be aware that the committee will view no more than a ten-minute segment. For installations or performances, please provide whatever appropriate documentation you might have.
  • Include a brief (no more than one page, double spaced) description of the work.
  • Samples that cannot be embedded in a PDF document (such as sound or video clips) must be made available on the web and the applicant should upload a PDF that includes the URL for accessing the work and a description of the work.

6. Unofficial Northwestern transcript (PDF)

Unofficial transcripts may be obtained from CAESAR. 

7. Letter of recommendation from advisor or other faculty member

Submitted by a faculty member best qualified to comment upon the student's academic/research performance and potential (typically the advisor), and the proposed project. When submitting the application via the online application tool, applicants will have an opportunity to invite a faculty member to submit a letter of recommendation. (Note: Faculty member must be invited using their primary Northwestern email address.) See the "Deadline" section, above, for recommendation letter deadlines. Applicants should notify the intended letter-writer in advance of entering their name in the online application tool.  Applicants can check the status of the recommendation letter or change the recommender via the online application tool. 


For more information, please email: