Here, we look at funding opportunities for artists in Massachusetts (though there may be an opportunity or two in here for those of you who live out-of-state).
This article was first created in 2008, but recognizing the funding landscape is ever-shifting, we’ve snipped its split ends, straightened its lapels, and spiffed it up with updated details.
Direct Funding for Artists
When Massachusetts artists ask us (Kelly and Dan at the Massachusetts Cultural Council) about grant support for individual artists, our first response is to strongly encourage they investigate our Artist Fellowships Program. It’s a competitive, anonymously judged program to recognize artistic excellence in Choreography, Crafts, Drawing, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction, Film & Video, Music Composition, Painting, Photography, Playwriting, Poetry, Sculpture/Installation, and Traditional Arts. 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. (Always a good idea to sign up for the MCC’s Artist News e-newsletter to receive the upcoming deadlines.)
So, if you’re an artist who creates new, original work in one of the above-mentioned categories who lives and works in Massachusetts, check out MCC’s Artist Fellowships. 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.
Not every grant opportunity listed here will be right for every artist. Before applying, you need to decide 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 Massachusetts artists.
Other MCC Programs for 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). LCCs award smaller grants (typically averaging $200-$500) for projects that benefit a specific Massachusetts community. Most LCCs accept applications from individual artists (and in fact, several LCCs – Somerville Arts Council, Worcester Arts Council, Springfield Cultural Council, and Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire – offer individual fellowships similar to MCC’s Artist Fellowships, as well).
When applying for an LCC project grant, you must 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 (here are a list of LCC contacts). The deadline is October 15.
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 Apprenticeships program offers funding for exceptional master artist/apprentice teams.
Grants in the STARS Residencies go to MA schools to fund residencies for artists, scientists, and scholars. The program provides $500-$5,000 to support creative learning residencies of three days or more. Check out the recently funded schools – with much of that funding going to compensate artists.
A number of other groups offer funding for Massachusetts artists:
Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Artist’s Resource Trust
These grants, 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 of the artist’s work, a one-page letter describing what the artist plans to accomplish with the grant, and some IRS forms (per the “financial need” criteria). Deadline is generally August 1. Learn more.
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 17 local visual artists/collaborating groups have received awards, ranging from $1,500 to $15,000, to date.
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 range from $5,000 to $30,000. Generally, there will be three or four grants awarded annually. Read a Studio Views with past winner Morgan Russell.
Founded in 1985, the 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 is available online.
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. 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.
The Awesome Foundation
To win one of the The Awesome Foundation’s $1,000 grants, you’d be well advised to do awesome work, since that’s their only funding criteria. The foundation, which was launched in Boston and also has chapters in LA, New York City, San Francisco, and throughout the world, gives no-strings-attached grants to “crazy brilliant” projects (such as vibrant DIY basketball nets to invigorate neighborhood courts or a Big Hammock in the Rose Kennedy Greenway).
Iguana Music Fund
Club Passim in Cambridge fosters a vibrant and exciting music community not only as a music venue but also as a funder. The Iguana Music Fund offers seed grants to aspiring local musical artists. The fund awards grants between $500 and $2,000 to individual artists with a New England residence or affiliation to support recording, publicity, instrument repair/purchase, special projects, or other activities related to career or creative growth. ArtSake favorite Kristin Andreassen is one of the past winners.
Assets for Artists
Assets for Artists is a great opportunity for artists seeking to advance entrepreneurially and financially. Massachusetts artists apply to participate in an innovative matched savings grant program, along with financial/business training, including home ownership assistance. It’s administered by MASS MoCA with a host of partnering and sponsoring orgs (including us).
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!
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.
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.
Maud Morgan Prize: awarded by Museum of Fine Arts Boston to honor a “Massachusetts woman artist who demonstrates significant vision, creativity, and contributions to contemporary art in the Commonwealth.” $10,000 is awarded biennially to a state resident working at least 10 years in her field.
Rappaport Prize: annual $25,000 award by the deCordova Sculpture Park + Museum. This prize for an artist with ties to New England celebrates the “achievement and potential of an artist who has already demonstrated significant creativity and vision” and encourages “the artist to continue in a career of innovative art making.”
St. Botolph Foundation Grants: the foundation offers awards of $2,500 for emerging New England artists, plus a $5000 award for a distinguished artist. See the past emerging artist grant and distinguished artist award recipients.
Tanne Foundation: created in 1998 by an artist, the Tanne Foundation gives awards (administered by the Boston-based GMA Foundations) that “recognize outstanding achievement and are an expression of gratitude to artists for their passion and commitment to their work.” Award levels vary depending on the foundation’s assets. The foundation’s trustees nominate artists, then convene to decide on individual artist awards. Past recipients include THINK AGAIN (David Attyah and S.A. Bachman), kanarinka, and Joanne Rice.
Further research on arts grants
The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston offers an 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, NYFA Source, and Foundation Center 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, a great resource for grant-seekers at any stage.
Of course, we wish there were more funding sources, and more funding from those sources. If we hear of new opportunities, we’ll add them here. And if you’re interested in seeing MCC’s funding for individual artists continue and grow, find out more about advocacy opportunities on our Advocacy Action Center.
Images: Luke O’Sullivan (MCC Fellow), SUITCASE (100,000 DOLLARS) (2009), screenprint on wood, 18x13x11 in; Holly Lynton (winner of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Artist’s Resource Trust Grant), TURKEY MADONNA, MASSACHUSETTS (2010), C-print; Elizabeth Alexander (MCC Fellow and winner of St. Botolph Foundation Emerging Arts Grant), UPWARD MOBILITY (2009), mixed, 16.3×6.2×5 ft.