Ethan Murrow (Drawing & Printmaking Fellow ’16), WOODLAND MADRIGAL – SUCCULENT ODE (2016), graphite on paper 52x36in
You’re a Massachusetts artist and you’re looking for grants. Here are some ideas. (Article updated July 2018.)
Direct Funding for Artists
When Massachusetts individual artists ask us about grants, our first response is to strongly encourage they investigate our Artist Fellowships. They are competitive, anonymously judged grants (currently, $15,000 for Fellows, $5,000 for Finalists) to recognize artistic excellence in 12 categories: Choreography, Drawing & Printmaking, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction, Painting, Poetry, and Traditional Arts (even years); and Crafts, Dramatic Writing, Film & Video, Music Composition, Photography, and Sculpture/Installation/New Genres (odd years). There are two deadlines per fiscal year, one in early October and one in late January.
So, if you’re an artist who creates original work in one of the above-mentioned categories and who lives and works in Massachusetts, sign up for the Mass Cultural Council’s Artist News e-newsletter to receive the most up-to-date news on deadlines and applications.
Other Mass Cultural Council Programs for Artists
Local Cultural Council Grants
Another Mass Cultural Council program that includes support for individual artists is the Local Cultural Council Program. Local Cultural Councils in 351 cities and towns throughout Massachusetts award smaller grants (typically averaging $200-$500) for cultural projects that benefit a specific Massachusetts community. Most councils accept applications from individual artists. In fact, several councils – including Somerville Arts Council, Worcester Arts Council, Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire, and Boston Cultural Council – offer individual artist fellowships.
When applying for a Local Cultural Council 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 Local Cultural Council). The deadline every year is October 15 (extended to Oct. 16 for FY18 cycle).
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. Schools apply for grants ranging from $500-$5,000 to support creative learning residencies (including by artists) of three days or more.
Frank Gregory, CATHERDRAL UP (2014), oil on canvas, 15x18in. Frank Gregory received a 2016 Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s Lillian Orlowsky and Wiliam Freed Foundation Grant
Non-Mass Cultural Council Programs
A number of other groups offer funding for Massachusetts artists:
Founded in response to the decline of NEA funding for individual artists, Artadia offers unrestricted grants to visual artists in specific communities. In the years 2007-2014, Artadia funded 20 artists with impactful unrestricted grants in the greater Boston metropolitan area. In February 2022, Artadia announced it would resume awards in Boston, selecting three visual artists annually to receive unrestricted $10,000 grants.
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.
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).
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.
Boston Art Commission
The Boston Art Commission accepts proposals from artists for permanent or temporary public art projects, providing funding sources.
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.
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, Center for Independent Documentary, and Documentary Educational Resource, and 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 benefit and engage Massachusetts residents through the humanities. Similar to the LEF application process, individuals will need a fiscal sponsor to apply.
The New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA)
Whereas Mass Cultural Council is the state arts agency, NEFA is the regional agency, serving Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. There are numerous grant programs through NEFA that individual artists can benefit from, including programs for artists touring New England states, public art commissions, and dance initiatives.
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum’s Lillian Orlowsky and William 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.
Marilyn Arsem (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Fellow ’17), EARTH AND ORANGES (2012). The artist received the 2015 Maud Morgan Prize from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
By nomination only
Why mention grants/prizes 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 and Museum for an artist with New England ties
Rebecca Blunk Fund: $2,500 grants to support the creation of new work and for professional development for New England artists, to honor the legacy of former NEFA director Rebecca Blunk
St. Botolph Foundation Grants: $3,000 for emerging New England artists, plus a $7,500 award for a distinguished artist.
Further research on arts grants
Grant-seekers can sign up for subscriptions to use the Foundation Center’s database of private foundations to individuals.
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.
- Read artists’ tips on approaching arts funders
- Read our interview with artist grants expert Gigi Rosenberg
- Check out our weekly Artist Opportunities round-ups
LAST PLACE EVER (2014) by Pat Falco (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Fellow ’19), recipient of an April 2014 Awesome Foundation Grant
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.
Images: Ethan Murrow (Drawing & Printmaking Fellow ’16), WOODLAND MADRIGAL – SUCCULENT ODE (2016), graphite on paper 52x36in; Frank Gregory, CATHERDRAL UP (2014), oil on canvas, 15x18in; Marilyn Arsem (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Finalist ’15), EARTH AND ORANGES (2012); LAST PLACE EVER (2014) by Pat Falco.