You’re a Massachusetts artist and you’re looking for grant support. Here are some ideas. (Article updated and re-published.)
Direct Funding for Artists
When Massachusetts artists ask us (the Artists Department at the Massachusetts Cultural Council) about grant support for individual artists, our first response is to strongly encourage they investigate our Artist Fellowships. They are competitive, anonymously judged grants (currently, $10,000 for Fellows and $500 for Finalists) to recognize artistic excellence in Choreography, Drawing, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction, Painting, Poetry, & Traditional Arts (even years), and Crafts, Dramatic Writing, Film & Video, Music Composition, Photography, & Sculpture/Installation (odd years). So, if you’re an artist who creates original work in one of the above-mentioned categories who lives and works in Massachusetts, check out MCC’s Artist Fellowships. It’s always a good idea to sign up for the MCC’s Artist News e-newsletter to receive the most up-to-date news on deadlines and applications.
Additionally, 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.
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 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 (find your local LCC). 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).
LEF Foundation Moving Image Fund
These grants are for New England documentary filmmakers. Founded in 1985, the LEF Foundation is a longtime supporter of New England arts and now focuses its funding on nonfiction film. 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). Currently, LEF accepts proposals for pre-production, production, and post-production funding.
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.
The Awesome Foundation
To win one of 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 has chapters throughout the world, gives no-strings-attached grants to “crazy brilliant” projects (such as a micro museum in Somerville’s Union Square).
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.
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.
Iguana Music Fund
The Iguana Music Fund from Club Passim 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.
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).
Boston Art Commission
The Boston Art Commission accepts proposals from artists for permanent or temporary public art projects, providing funding sources.
By nomination only
Why mention grants that are by nomination only? To 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: $15,000 unrestricted grants to Boston-area working artists of all disciplines
The James and Audrey Foster Prize: $25,000 biennial award from The Institute of Contemporary Arts for Boston-area artists; one award winner but finalists have ICA Boston exhibition
Maud Morgan Prize: $10,000 awarded biennially by Museum of Fine Arts Boston to honor a Massachusetts woman artist
Rappaport Prize: annual $25,000 award by the deCordova Sculpture Park + Museum for an artist with New England ties
St. Botolph Foundation Grants: $2,500 for emerging New England artists, plus a $5000 award for a distinguished artist
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.
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.
Grant-seekers can sign up for subscriptions to use the Foundation Center’s database of private foundations to individuals.
Whereas artSource, NYFA Source, and Foundation Center are the stately institutions of grants databases, think of Mira’s List as the Mom & Pop shop. Blog creator Mira Bartok, a generous and industrious Massachusetts writer/artist, is not currently updating the site, but the site maintains all of the useful grants deadlines and info she’s collected through the years. Also highly recommended is Mira’s Primer on Grants and Residencies, a great resource for grant-seekers at any stage.
The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing
This book takes a pragmatic, step-by-step approach to finding funding as an individual artist. Read our interview with author Gigi Rosenberg.
Liz Devlin of the arts blog FLUX. Boston wrote a smart post on Massachusetts grant opportunities.
Read artists’ tips on approaching arts funders.
Not every grant opportunity listed here is right for every artist. Before applying, you need to decide whether a 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. 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: still from DEN (2012) by Amanda Bonaiuto (Film & Video Finalist ’13); Sophia Ainslie (Painting Fellow ’12, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation A.R.T. awardee), FRAGMENT-Z (2013), Flashe, acrylic paint and India ink on Polypropylene, 77×54 in; still image from RORSCHAK (2010) by Suara Welitoff (Rappaport Prize Winner ’12).