Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts (CIRA)

CIRA provides grants to support innovative projects in the arts at Northwestern. CIRA has been committed to cutting-edge, interdisciplinary arts research since its inception in 1986.

CIRA's first priority is to encourage border crossings:

  • Across the fields of written, visual and performing arts
  • Across disciplines and schools
  • Between faculty, staff, and students
  • Between Northwestern and outside communities.

CIRA's second priority is to fund innovative individual artistic projects. 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. The maximum award for a single faculty/staff project is $9,000 for a one year project period. At the end of the project period, any remaining funds in the project account revert back to CIRA.


Friday, April 6, 2018


All Northwestern University faculty and staff are eligible to apply. Faculty and staff whose art projects meet the following criteria are encouraged to apply:

  • 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, collaborative, or interdisciplinary. 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 Northwestern 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.


The maximum award for a single faculty/staff project is $9,000. Grants are awarded for one year. At the end of the project period, any remaining funds in the project account revert back to CIRA.

Review Criteria

  • Aesthetic significance of project. 

  • Intervention into one or more fields.

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

Application Instructions:

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

1. A two-page, double-spaced project description (PDF), including:

  • project description
  • 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. A budget (PDF)

A one-page itemized budget listing precise, non-estimated costs of all essential items for the proposed project (in-kind donations of items essential to the project should also be specified). Use the budget form and save as a PDF. Allowable expenses include:

  • Essential travel by the least expensive means 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, rather than purchasing, such items 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.

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

4. 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.