Our History

YoungArts founders Lin and Ted Arison
Ted and Lin Arison

Established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison, YoungArts was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization originally named “National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA)” to identify, encourage and reward emerging talent in all art forms. The following year in 1982, National YoungArts Week—the organization’s signature program—was held in Miami for the very first time, with finalists from around the country adjudicated in Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Arts and Writing from over 4,300 applicants. Following National YoungArts Week, the organization made its recommendations to the U.S. Presidential Scholars on the Arts Commission, and for the past 40 years YoungArts has been the only nominating agency for this high honor.

In the 1990s, YoungArts expanded its programs to include additional disciplines such as Jazz, Photography, Voice, and Film, and in 2014, introduced Design Arts. The national arts competition today now attracts approximately 7,000 applicants across 10 artistic disciplines every year, and in 2021, award winners hailed from 40 states, Puerto Rico, South Korea and Taiwan.

Tyrone Reese (2020 Dance) dances in the Jewel Box during National YoungArts Week

Tyrone Reese (2020 Dance) in the Jewel Box

In 2012, we acquired the former Bacardi campus and changed our name from The National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts to National YoungArts Foundation. This shift also signaled the beginning of the most significant programmatic expansion in the organization’s history.

Today, YoungArts provides award winners—Finalist, Honorable Mention, and Merit Award levels—a lifetime of creative and professional development opportunities ranging from artist in residence programs to emergency microgrants, and professional development symposiums to presentation opportunities in Miami and in cities around the country.

To help ensure that all award winners have access to YoungArts program, opportunities are shared via YoungArts Post—a free online platform launched in 2018 where award winners can connect with their peers, share their work, and apply for opportunities offered through YoungArts or cultural partners.

For 40 years, YoungArts has empowered artists to pursue a life in the arts. We do not do this alone. We thank the many individuals, parents, educators, organizations and donors that have supported this vision, and above all, we thank the artists who make YoungArts what it is today: a foundation that serves artists.

Learn more about our mission, vision and values.