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Grants For Artists

Endowments for Individuals, Organizations & Communities
Awards, grants, and endowments are provided each year to individuals and organizations for the furtherance of art. These funds are used to ensure that the public has access to art and that innovation in art is developed through individual artists and through art communities.

Receiving a grant is a highly complex, highly competitive undertaking. The limited funds which are available for promotion of the arts generally go to organizations, making the competition for individual awards even more challenging.

The enviable individual endowments for artists provide funds which never have to be repaid. The monies can be used by the artist to experiment and explore, to refine skills, and to promote work to the public providing the artist with criticism and affirmation.

Art Goals of Investors
The investors who fund programs have specific, targeted goals. The goals vary according to foundation. Seekers are wise to read up on available awards and to become educated on what drives investors to provide funding.

Most programs are looking for some or all of these qualities in the work they will endorse:

Excellence - Awards go to artists whose work exhibits exceptional quality.

Education - Grantors are focused on both the present and the future. They want to ensure that the next generation has opportunities to develop both their skills and appreciation for the arts. These awards go to artists who provide purpose-driven experiences in the arts for the community.

Cultural Enrichment - As generations pass, culture changes. Grantors are committed to preserving the past and encouraging innovation for the future. These endowments go to artists who can demonstrate evidence that they are preserving a cultural tradition and to ambitious artists who will impact the future.

Socially Engaging - Grantors want to invest in creations that will get the public talking.

Kinds of Programs
Grants can be widely lumped as public and private.

Public grants originate from the federal government and operate through the National Endowment of the Arts. As is common of federal funding, a large percentage of the federal funds are channeled to the states. Each state has a state art agency which belongs to the National Assembly of State Art Agencies. State agencies use federal funds as well as state funds to provide grants for individual artists and art organizations.

Funding for private opportunities comes from individuals and from art communities. Similar to the NEA and NASAA, funding goes to individuals and organizations who exhibit exceptional, ambitious work.

Get Educated
In order to have a viable bid, you will need to understand the programs and find awards that align with your art. Seldom does a foundation provide "generic" monies. Grants are highly specialized. They are specialized into disciplines such as choreography, music composition, interdisciplinary art work, media, crafts, design, photography, 2E visual arts, 3D visual arts, fiction and non-fiction prose, poetry, playwriting, criticism, etc. They are focused in audience -- audiences such as museums, street art, schools, etc. They are specialized to qualities of the artists which may include such things as the age or education of the artists.

You will need to research to ensure that you apply for programs that fund work most like your own.

Get Prepared
The process is grueling. Every time you hear of an artist that has been awarded a grant, you can be assured that the funding represents hundreds of hours spent developing the art and navigating the process. Understand that the application process may require you to spend more time securing the grant than providing the art.

Notice time constraints and limitations. Grants in a particular discipline, such as poetry, may be offered only in odd-numbered years while clothing design may be offered in even-numbered years. Missing a deadline could set you back two years. Also note any restrictions on the number of times you can apply. Some have restrictions that allow artists to apply only a limited number of times for a particular grant.

Get Experienced
Grantors tend to seek out "under recognized" artists. They are looking for highly-skilled, experienced artists who have yet to be recognized. If you do not have an impressive body of work in one genre, if you are still unknown in your local community, if you have yet to develop a fan base, consider delaying your application until you have more experience.

During the months or years while you are gaining experience, you can immerse yourself in your local community. Volunteer with an agency that promotes the arts. Use social media to publish your work. Go to a grant-writing workshop. Study the process of grant application online through an organization such as Foundation Center or Foundation Grants to Individuals Online. Become a well-rounded, contributing member of the community who has a convincing track record that will impress grantors.

Focus your talents. Develop one style which will be your identity. At the same time, begin formulating ideas on specific goals for grant money which you can present to the grantor, assuring them that their funding will be used for promotion of the arts.

Top Grants
Because funding from NASAA or NEA can mean up to $25,000, public grants are the most desirable. For NASAA grants, you need to be a resident of the state which awards the grant and continue to live in that state throughout the life of the grant.

Harpo Foundation offers 7-10 grants per year to artists or non-profit organizations. Their focus is new works by under-recognized artists. Learn more about their programs here.

Several art communities have compiled lists of awards. Cranbrook Academy of Art listed here, Michigan State University listed here, and listed here. These sites give good insight into the number and types of public and private grants that are available.

Pursuing the art business is expensive. Securing funds that enable you to devote time into development and promotion of your art for the good of the public means freedom for you and enrichment to the world around you.