This is a revised version of a post we created in September 2008, about a subject that never seems to go out of style: funding for artists. Specifically, artists in Massachusetts (though there may be an opportunity or two in here for those of you who live out-of-state).
We thought it was about time to examine the piece, pluck out its gray hairs, add some new flourishes as one might add wax to one’s mustachio, and send it forth into the arms of the ArtSake-embracing public.
MCC Artist Fellowship Program
When Massachusetts artists contact us at the Massachusetts Cultural Council to ask about grant support for individual artists, our first response is, of course, to strongly encourage they investigate our Artist Fellowship Program, a competitive, anonymously judged award recognizing artistic excellence in a variety of categories. The program currently offers unrestricted individual fellowships of $7,500 and finalist awards of $500, to categories that alternate each year, and two deadlines in any given year (one in Fall and one in Winter). It’s always a good idea to sign up for the Artist News e-newsletter to receive the upcoming deadlines, and to check current guidelines to see what the current grant amount is, as this can fluctuate based on our agency’s legislatively-allotted funding.
So, if you’re a generative artist who lives and works in Massachusetts, check it out. However, we thought it might be useful to list some of the other grant opportunities we share with artists looking for funding for their ongoing work.
Keep in mind that not every grant opportunity listed here will be right for every artist. Before applying, you need to ask yourself whether that particular grant is a good fit and thus worth taking time and energy away from your work. Also, this is by no means a comprehensive list, so feel free to let us know about other funding opportunities for individual artists.
Local Cultural Council Grants
Another MCC program that includes support for individual artists is the Local Cultural Council Program. Massachusetts has 351 cities and towns that support community cultural activity through Local Cultural Councils (LCCs). Several LCCs offer individual artist fellowships, similar to MCC’s state fellowships: Somerville Arts Council, Worcester Cultural Commission, and Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire.
But most LCCs concentrate their funding on smaller grants (typically averaging $200-$500) for projects that benefit a specific Massachusetts community – including projects by individual artists.
When applying for an LCC grant, you’ll need to explain how your project will benefit that particular community and engage its residents. Funding criteria and priorities vary from town to town, so the best way to see if your project is right for a particular community is to contact that LCC (get the skinny on specific LCCs). The deadline is generally mid-October.
Traditional Arts Apprenticeships
If you’re a master artist of a traditional art form, and you’re looking to pass on your knowledge, our Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program offers funding for exceptional master artist/apprentice teams. See some of our past successful apprenticeships.
So what’s available for Massachusetts artists, beyond MCC’s programs? If you don’t want to know, then don’t read on!
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Artist’s Resource Trust
A.R.T. grants from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, ranging from $1,500 to $10,000, are for New England visual artists who demonstrate a financial need. Painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, or mixed media artists who have lived in New England for at least two years at time of application are eligible. As of this writing, the guidelines call for (among other things) up to ten images, a one page letter describing what the artist plans to accomplish with the A.R.T. grant, and some IRS forms (per the “financial need” criteria). Received-by deadline is August 1. Past recipients include Liza Bingham (Painting Finalist ’10).
Founded in response to the decline of NEA funding for individual artists, Artadia offers unrestricted grants to visual artists in specific communities. In 2007, Boston was added as one of those communities, and a group of 10 visual artists/collaborations received awards. Another group of artists received funding ranging from $3000 to $15,000 in 2009. Past recipients include Hannah Barrett (Painting Fellow ’04), Jane D. Marsching (Photography Finalist ’03), and Stephen Tourlentes (Photography Fellow ’05).
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s Lillian Orlowsky and Wiliam Freed Foundation Grant
Grants are offered to American painters aged 45 or older who demonstrate financial need. The fund honors its namesakes, in particular Lillian Orlowsky, who sought to provide financial support to mature artists due to her passionate commitment to art. The goal of the grant is to promote public awareness and a commitment to American art, as well as encouraging interest in artists who lack adequate recognition. Grants will range from $5,000 to $10,000. At the time of this post, applicants need to fill out an application, send 10 images, and complete financial disclosure form. In 2010, applications need to be postmarked by August 16, 2010.
For the over 15 years, LEF Foundation has played a key role part in fostering and promoting contemporary art in New England. Currently, LEF’s funding is focused on supporting independent documentary film through its Moving Image Fund.
New England documentary filmmakers applying for LEF grants will need to find a nonprofit organization to act as fiscal sponsor (Filmmakers Collaborative, Independent Center for Documentaries, Documentary Educational Resource all offer this service, as does the New York-based organization Fractured Atlas). Currently, LEF accepts proposals for pre-production, production, and post-production funding. More information, including how to apply, here. Numerous prominent New England filmmakers have received LEF funding including Ross McElwee (Bright Leaves) and Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan (Troublesome Creek).
Mass Humanities offers pre- and post-production and distribution grants to film projects that support humanities themes (check out Executive Director David Tebaldi’s post on The Public Humanist blog about what makes a good humanities film). Similar to the LEF application process, individuals will need a fiscal sponsor to apply. For example, At Home in Utopia, a film by Michal Goldman (Film & Video Fellow 07), received Mass Humanities funding by applying through the Filmmakers Collaborative. As with other programs, the best way to see whether this funding is right for your project and to learn more specifics is to contact the organization.
By nomination only
Why mention grants that are by nomination only? Well, I was thinking this might save you the trouble of hearing about these grants, thinking, “Hey, maybe I should apply,” only to find unsolicited applications are not accepted. Or, maybe you’ll be nominated, in which case, yippee!
Foster Prize: the James and Audrey Foster Prize, awarded by The Institute of Contemporary Arts, is a $25,000 biennial award for nominated Boston-area artists. Though there’s only one big winner, all finalists are featured in an ICA exhibition.
Brother Thomas Fellowship: this nomination-only award offers $15,000 unrestricted grants to Boston-area working artists of all disciplines. The award is administered by The Boston Foundation and sustained by sales of world-renowned porcelain ceramics by Brother Thomas Bezanson, a Benedictine monk. See an ArtSake post on the inaugural winners.
St. Botolph Foundation Grants: the foundation offers awards of $2,500 for emerging New England artists, plus an award for a distinguished artist. See the 2009 emerging artist grant winners on Our Daily RED. The 2009 distinguished artist was M.T. Anderson.
Further research on arts grants
The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston offers a “comprehensive index of arts-related employment opportunities, internships, civic engagement partnerships, grants, residencies, exhibitions, competitions, public art commissions, artist workspaces, and related community resources,” called artSource.
NYFA Source is a searchable database of national grant opportunities, sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts. Don’t be alarmed that the site is hosted by a New York organization; the database includes opportunities from throughout the country. You can set your own search criteria, which is useful for filtering out those that don’t apply.
Whereas artSource and NYFA Source are the stately institutions of grants databases, think of Mira’s List as the Mom & Pop shop. It’s a terrific blog run by generous and industrious Massachusetts artist/writer Mira Bartok, listing useful grants deadlines and info for artists of all disciplines. Also highly recommended is Mira’s Primer on Grants and Residencies on ArtSake, a great resource for grant-seekers at any stage.
Of course, we wish there were more: more funding sources, more funding from those sources. If we hear of new opportunities, we’ll add ’em. (So don’t be shy about sharing them with us.)
And if you’re interested in seeing MCC’s funding for individual artists continue and grow, sign up to receive announcements of advocacy opportunities from the Massachusetts Advocates for the Arts, Sciences, and Humanites (MAASH).
Images: Mary O’Malley, HAECKELS GARDEN (2008), Metallic ink on paper, 32×40 in; Liza Bingham, CORNER PIECE ll (2009), Oil on linen on panel, 10×19 in (photo credit: Steward Woodward); Heather White, MURMURING BROOCH (2006), cast sterling lips, gold, rubies, seed and cultured pearls, 4.75 x 4.75 x .75 in.