Urban Gateways is currently accepting applications for Touring Artists for the 2020-2021 season!


Urban Gateways is looking for artists/groups to join the diverse roster of Touring Performances for school and community audiences across the Chicago area for the 2020-2021 season. We are looking for professional performers who are passionate about sharing their art with students, families, and general audiences and can also provide cohesive educational background information in an engaging way.

Urban Gateways is a non-profit arts partner, not an agency. The objective of this program area is to thoughtfully expose audiences to a wide variety of artistic disciplines and cultures through live performances. Roster artists receive professional development opportunities, administrative support, regular feedback, and various other perks.

Urban Gateways Touring Performances:

  • Are 40 minutes in length;
  • Showcase high quality performing arts, backed by a strong educational foundation;
  • Are full arts experiences that include visual elements such as sets and/or costumes appropriate for the show;
  • Are adaptable for various settings ranging from fully-equipped school auditoriums to bare-bones community venues;
    • Artists must provide all necessary technical elements, though some sites may be able to provide select items. When required, artists must provide their own amplification systems.
  • Have been designed specifically with primarily youth audiences in mind;
    • Approximately 80% of performances take place in school settings, 20% occur in community venues (libraries, parks, etc).
    • Artists may determine their own grade range (ex. PreK-5, K-8, 9-12, etc) for school performances, however, a broader range typically results in more inquiries/bookings. The majority of Urban Gateways school partners serve K-8th grades.
  • Are arts-focused.
    • We present dance, music, and theater, as well as multidisciplinary shows. All are encouraged to apply.


We are currently accepting Touring Artist applications for the 2020-2021 season on a rolling basis. To apply, please submit the following:

If you have any questions or concerns about submitting the supplemental materials, please contact Kelly at kjenkins@urbangateways.org.


1. Video footage

2. Resume of the artist and/or ensemble

3. Copies of three total reference documents

4. Written copy of the show outline or script (optional)

For your application to be accepted and reviewed, all required materials must be submitted and in the formats specified on the application.

Please mail materials not submitted online to:

Urban Gateways
1637 N Ashland Ave Ste 1
Chicago, IL 60622
Attn: Kelly Jenkins

Please note: Application materials will not be returned unless accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage. Application materials submitted by artists accepted to the roster remain on file at Urban Gateways.

Additional Information

Applications are reviewed annually by a panel of Urban Gateways staff. We will review each applicant based on the following criteria:

  • Artistic quality;
  • Strength of educational elements;
  • Urban Gateways’ need and/or interest in the artistic discipline or performance type – see Urban Gateways’ current Touring Roster here to ensure your application complements these offerings;
  • Performer availability;
  • Interview and audition (if selected).

Please note: Urban Gateways will not accept applications submitted by a third party individual or organization. All applications must be completed and submitted directly by the individual and/or group.

Additional information about Urban Gateways’ Touring Performance Program:

  • Accepted artists are contracted for work beginning summer 2020 and are expected to be available at least two weekdays regularly;
  • There are no limits to the number of performers in a group, however, it is difficult to compensate large groups competitively, due to partners’ restricted budgets (ideal cast size is typically 2-5 performers);
  • Due to varying needs, the number of annual bookings cannot be guaranteed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Urban Gateways Touring Performance?

Great Question!  We currently have a roster of 46 different shows unique to Urban Gateways that perform on-site at schools and community centers across Chicagoland delivering high quality, participatory, educational arts programs directly to students and young people.  All shows are 40 minutes long and feature examples of the art form in action, opportunities for audience volunteers to interact with the art form, educational/contextual information that enhances individual appreciation of the techniques required by the artists or the people and cultures that developed the art form. We also encourage all programs to identify a central theme or ‘big idea’ that connects the elements of the show.  This big idea is not necessarily specific to the art form, but rather something that audience members can apply to their daily lives.

I’m interested but don’t have a full performance ready. Can I still apply?

Yes! There are options for you to apply with both shows that have been conceived but not yet performed AND without a specific show idea. While specific shows tend to be easier for our review committee to evaluate, we consider both types of applications. 

Please note: artists making it to the final round of the process will be expected to be performance-ready with an Urban Gateways-specific show by May. 

I have a great idea for…
  • a 40-minute concert performance with a setlist
  • a lecture demonstration
  • a master class / workshop
…that relates to young people. Does this work within the Urban Gateways format?

Urban Gateways performances follow a unique model. 

Rather than concert-style, all touring shows are presented by artists with excellent public speaking skills who can clearly articulate both arts and non-arts concepts for audiences of all ages, including the skills, creative process, and/or social and historical context of their art form. We encourage designing a performance with a high degree of audience involvement and discussion with the presenting performers.

As opposed to a lecture demonstration, performances are truly performed from start to finish, and while speaking sections do not need to be acted, every element should feel engaging and relate directly to an overarching theme. While shows should have interactive elements throughout, there must be many examples of professional performances demonstrated so that audiences are seeing a high level of artistry from start to finish, rather than a workshop format. 

I have an idea for two (or more) performances. How do I apply?

Fill out the application for your first show then please contact Kelly (kjenkins@urbangateways.org) for additional instructions. 

What does audience participation look like in Urban Gateways Touring Performances? 

Opportunities for audiences to interact within a show can come in a variety of forms and styles. Artists may use a range of approaches, mini-lessons, and demonstrations throughout a performance that engage audiences in the creativity, skills, or concepts that are central to the show. The audience participation should leave a meaningful, lasting impression that enhances the show, and not feel like an afterthought or gimmick.

Do I need to be local to Chicago to apply?

While there is no residency requirement, artists on the touring roster are expected to be available to perform in the Chicago area for the majority of the season. Currently, we have performers who live in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin and are able to commute to partner sites. But we are unable to support partnerships with artists who reside outside these states or internationally.

Does joining the Urban Gateways roster guarantee work?

We promote all shows equally, but we can’t guarantee a number of performances to any specific program. Please be sure to review our current touring roster to consider how your proposed performance differs from shows already available through Urban Gateways (we do not duplicate programs).

Do artists receive payment for performing under Urban Gateways?

Yes! Once accepted to the roster, all artists sign an annual agreement and are compensated per show with a predetermined rate based on the number of performers.

We are currently accepting Touring Artist applications for the 2020-2021 school year on a rolling basis. To apply, please submit a completed ONLINE APPLICATION as well as any Supplemental Materials.

If you have any additional questions, please contact: Kelly Jenkins, kjenkins@urbangateways.org.