Launched in 2017 in celebration of the Hewlett Foundation’s fiftieth anniversary, the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions is a five- year, $8 million commissioning initiative that is the largest of its kind in the United States. The initiative will support the creation of 50 exceptional works of performing arts and their premiere in the Bay Area through grants of $150,000 to Bay Area nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit organizations will receive funding to achieve their creative vision in partnership with the commissioned artists, who may be based anywhere in the world.

The ultimate beneficiaries of the new program will be local audiences, who will be among the first to see important new works in the performing arts premiered in their communities.

The Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions align with our longstanding commitment to providing Bay Area audiences with access to world class performing arts, and it is our hope that the works created will go on to inspire, engage and challenge audiences across the country and around the world in years to come.


Ten commissions will be awarded annually in each of five performing arts disciplines from 2017–2022. The recipients of the first two rounds of awards, in music composition and theater, musical theater, and spoken word, have been announced. Applications for awards in dance and movement-based performance are due by November 13, 2019. 

Future years will focus on:

2020/2021: Folk and Traditional Arts

2021/2022: Film and Media

Eligible 501(c)(3) public charities must be based in one of the 11 Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma). Applicants do not need to be arts-focused organizations, and we encourage organizations working on diverse issues to consider submitting an application. We also encourage organizations that serve disadvantaged or historically marginalized communities to apply. Successful proposals will represent an authentic collaboration between organization and artists. Lead artists will receive a minimum of $50,000 from the Hewlett Foundation award as their commissioning fee.

Applying for a grant

501(c)(3) public charities based in the San Francisco Bay Area submit an application identifying the artist they propose commissioning and describing the proposed project. The most competitive applicants will be identified by an anonymous panel of outside experts, and Hewlett Foundation staff will make the final decision about the recipients of the awards.

Those interested in submitting an application are invited to register for one of three in-person applicant workshops the foundation has scheduled. Applicants should also review the guidelines for this year’s awards and the growing list of frequently asked questions about the commissioning program.

Applications for the Hewlett 50 Commissions in dance and movement-based performance are due by November 13. The Hewlett Foundation hosted applicant workshops throughout the Bay Area for those interested in applying. You can watch a recording of the workshop we hosted on September 4, 2019 here.