The Flea to Launch New Leadership Model & Community Building Projects With $1.2M Grant From The Mellon Foundation

The theater’s mission is to support and invest in experimental art by Black, brown and queer artists.

The Flea has announced The Mellon Foundation has become a new funding partner supporting the theater’s mission to support and invest in experimental art by Black, brown and queer artists. The Mellon Foundation has gifted The Flea a $1.2M grant to be dispersed over 36 months to support the launch of a new shared leadership structure with resident theater makers and the establishment of a new community building project.

As The Flea continues to embody its new mission it is simultaneously building its capacity to serve a community of artists and audiences with productions, residencies, commissions and community programs to enhance and uplift experimental art by Black, brown and queer artists. Since its refounding in 2021, The Flea has added resident artists and community members to its Board, hired critical new staff positions and supported over 150 artists, as well as offering capacity building support for Resident Companies, renters and community organizations. The support from The Mellon Foundation will ensure The Flea’s ability to continue building out its operations and filling key staff positions in partnership with its Resident Companies and key community partners.

“This is an incredible investment in our organization and points to the deep work we’ve done over the last two years to center Black, brown and queer artists and their communities and audiences. We are grateful to Emil Kang, Program Director for Arts and Culture, and Isabel Quinzaños Alonso, Program Associate, for being fierce advocates and unwavering partners during this process. This investment will stabilize our operations and afford us the time and resources to grow a unique operational model that embodies our mission and values,” said Niegel Smith, Artistic Director of The Flea.

As The Flea prepares for their 2023 season which includes two world premieres, Hang Time, written and directed by Pulitzer finalist, Zora Howard and cheeky little brown, written and starring, Nkenna Akunna, its annual Juneteenth commissions, performances from its resident companies, The Fled and Emerge 125 and its annual house party, The Flea is grateful for funding partners who continue to invest their time and financial support in its vision.

For all information, please visit

The Flea Theater is a prolific NYC-based company founded in 1996 by three downtown artists who set out to “raise a joyful hell in a small space.” In 2021, The Flea refounded itself with a new mission and core values through collaborative efforts with CJAM. Our new operational model exemplifies our investment in artists and social equity and embraces our experimental, downtown NYC artistic heritage.

Our work with CJAM included a restorative partnership design process with The Flea’s former resident artists; DEI training for our Board of Directors, Executive Leadership and Board development; and a visioning process that helped to collaboratively design The Flea’s new organizational model and mission. The Flea’s new mission is: To invest in experimental art by Black, Brown, and queer folks. We provide space, financial support and producing partnership so that they may develop and share their vision in community with audiences.

The Flea is committed to programs and operations that are Human Centered; Anti-Racist & Anti-Oppressive; Collaborative; Innovative; Sustainable; and Transparent.

The Flea has produced more than 160 world premieres in its 25-year history, earning many awards including two Obies and a Special Drama Desk. Previous Flea productions that have become part of the theatrical canon include Ellen McLaughlin’s The Trojan Women, Will Eno’s Oh, the Humanity, Thomas Bradshaw’s Fulfillment, Edward Iskandar’s The Mysteries and NSangou Njikam’s Syncing Ink.

Learn more about The Flea and Flea Leadership at