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Sources of Funding for Individual Artists: A Primer


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Orientation to grant and fellowship support for individual artists and writers. First presented to a group of undergraduate and graduate students in a Fine Arts program.

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Sources of Funding for Individual Artists: A Primer

  1. 1. Seeds of Funding for Individual Artists advice and ideas Jane Kokernak  April 25, 2014 Al Weiwei’s “Sunflower Seeds,” via, 2012
  2. 2. 2   An orientation to arts funding for individuals 1.  Motivations for artist and funder 2.  Sources and kinds of funding support 3.  Finding relevant funders 4.  Presenting your work + a budget 5.  Summary of outreach process
  3. 3. exercise 1: wish lists Take  a  sheet  of  paper;  make  3  columns.   Think  of  an  in-­‐progress  or  dream  art  project  for  a   minute.   In  le<-­‐most  column,  at  top  write  “$500,”  in  middle,   write  “$1,500,”  and  in  right  column,  “$10,000.”   Listen  for  instrucFons.   3  
  4. 4. 4   Reasons artists seek grants + fellowships •  Money to make art, learn more, develop career “Alleviates pressure of having to work 40 hours a week so you can spend quality time in your studio.” (artist) •  Scope and completion of specific art works “It's the difference between being able to go to Paris to view museum collections of the things you are writing about and sitting at home wondering what it was like.” (novelist)
  5. 5. 5   More reasons … •  Encouragement and validation “I love getting grants, though I write many more than I receive. Receiving one carries a nice emotional boost as well as the financial help.” (artist) •  Valuable credentials in the art community “Grants show the world that other professionals in your field appreciate your talent and are willing to support your growth.” (artist)
  6. 6. 6   Reasons funders support artists •  Belief that the arts are central to a functioning society •  Business strategy to show visible support for arts and artists •  Personal interest in the arts in general or a particular art form •  Personal association with artists
  7. 7. 7   Resources $$$ Connection Interests What makes for a good source of funding?
  8. 8. 8   Sources of funding support •  Public (national, state, municipal) •  Private (non-governmental) Foundation grants Non-profit orgs (grants, artists in residence) Corporate giving programs Individual donors, esp. crowd-sourced platforms
  9. 9. 9   Kinds of support •  Direct support (direct to artist) •  Indirect support Intermediary organizations Fiscal sponsorships (e.g., Fractured Atlas) •  Restricted •  Unrestricted
  10. 10. 10   Specific types of support •  Cash grants •  Professional development (e.g., to attend conferences) •  Fellowships •  Monetary awards (like a prize) •  Commissions •  Apprenticeships (more formal) •  Internships •  Residencies (arts colony) •  Teaching residencies (placements in schools, theatres, etc., may require teaching, performance, exhibit) •  In-kind support (donated supplies)
  11. 11. exercise 2: I have a dream… Take an index card; answer these questions. 1.  In the near future, what is something you really, really want to do in art, if money were no object? 2.  What kind of time and activities are involved? 3.  What stage is this thing at? 4.  How would it add to your portfolio or knowledge or artistic career? 5.  Who would benefit from it? 6.  What kind of support would you need to do it? 11  
  12. 12. On the index card, circle what you think are key words. Look for • Nouns (person, place, thing) • Verbs (action!) • Numbers (time and money) 12  
  13. 13. 13   Finding relevant funders •  Public (national, state, municipal) National Endowment for the Arts Americans for the Arts National Park Service Artist-in-Residence Program National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Go here for fellowship support for artists from a region or state.
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  18. 18. 18   Finding relevant funders •  Private (foundations, nonprofits, corporations) Back pages of art magazines, like Sculptor Google “artist grants” and find articles like this: “20 Top Artist Grants and Fellowships,” ArtInfo, 2012: New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) “Opportunity Listings,” CaFÉ -- Call for Entry: The above resources are freely available. Another excellent resource is Foundation Center Online -- -- available for a fee, or at some libraries.
  19. 19. 19   Evaluating the fit between you + a funder •  Do more research once you know the name of potential funder. Foundation Directory Online: •  Study funder guidelines (on funder website) •  Check limitations and exclusions •  Ask artist friends and mentors for knowledge of funder   Avoid the “scattershot” approach. Apply only for grants and other support that are a reasonable fit, a good match. It’s likely that you’ll apply for just one or two at time.
  20. 20. 20   Presenting your work + a budget What goes into a typical funding application? •  Cover letter (1 page) •  Project description (up to 2 pages) •  Budget sheet •  Supporting materials (may include portfolio, resume or artist statement, and other recent documentation of career)
  21. 21. Exercise 3: simple budget Look  at  items  from  $1,500  wish  list  (exercise  1).   1.  Group  them  into  relevant  categories  of  expenses:   Materials   Salary   Travel   2.  Imagine  other  support  for  this  work  (in-­‐kind  or   money)  for  contribu-ons  or  income.   3.  Add  both  expenses  and  contribuFons.  This  is  your   total  budget.   4.  Determine  your  “ask”  or  request.   21  
  22. 22. 22   Sample project budget Remember: you can tinker with amounts and categories to make your request in line with funder guidelines. How could we adjust down for a request limit of $1,500?
  23. 23. 23   Components of cover letter/email inquiry •  First paragraph: a thank you for the opportunity to apply, and a straightforward request with amount: “I am applying for an unrestricted artist’s grant of $750.” •  Body: a summary of project (a few sentences), and specific mention of one aspect of your project (think: motivation and funder interests) •  Closing: reasonable expression of interest and a one-sentence description of attachments or enclosures.
  24. 24. Exercise 4: motivation and funder interests Look  at  notes  from  dream  project  (exercise  2).   Consider  this  RFP  (Request  for  Proposals):   A  major,  internaFonal  ad  agency  has  a  new  office  in  Boston.   The  firm  wants  to  establish  its  presence  in  the  creaFve   community,  and  announces  a  project  that  “seeks  art  works   from  individual  arFsts  that  recognize  the  diversity  of  ciFzens   and  arFsts  in  the  Greater  Boston  area.”  Awards  are  up  to   $1,500  in  direct  support.   Discuss  with  your  neighbor  your  proposed  project  and  how   it  might  fit  with  the  call  for  new  work.   24  
  25. 25. 25   Final words on process •  Do your research; know what’s out there. •  Evaluate potential funders for good fit with your work. •  Prepare budget and description that makes the case for your work. •  Seek feedback and help from friends and mentors. •  Revise budget and description. •  Emerging artists: start small, get feet wet. •  Persist.
  26. 26. 26   Additional resources •  Artist Grant Proposal Writing Handbook (online), First Peoples Cultural Council FPCC_Grant_Writing_Handbook.pdf •  Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing: How to Find Funds and Write Foolproof Proposals for the Visual, Literary, and Performing Artist (print, $16.99), by Gigi Rosenberg, 2010 •  Funding for Individual Artists (online), Grant Space, Foundation Center •  Grants for Individuals: Arts (online), MSU Libraries •  Proposal Writing (online), San Francisco Art Institute
  27. 27. 27   Acknowledgements Alexander Chee Kathryn DeMarco Ted Harris Ian Kennelly Tim Murdoch Lowry Pei Leslie Sills Madelyn Smoak “Both Hands Clapping,” via Brandulariy, 2012