With limited methods for the accurate tracking of individuals with arts as their primary income source, estimated figures of total US working artists (from literary to performing, cultural and visual) are around 1.4 million.
It’s often very difficult for working artists to conveniently finance the creation, exhibition, and marketing of their arts thanks to their relatively low earnings. This makes them almost always in need of financial support for art materials, fabrication costs, travel, studio space, exhibition, marketing, and other expenses.
Although most foundations generally provide grants to nonprofit organizations only, artists are the exception to this rule as fellowships and grants are a very popular source of their funding amongst others cited below;
Fellowships and Grants
Often provided by private foundations and a few art agencies (publicly funded), the funds can take care of fees and other expenditures giving the artist freedom to worry only about creativity. Grants are generally competitive and provide assistance of different terms such as the awarded amount, procedures for application, stipulations etc. Some are much more restricted than others with eligibility and openness varying from nomination and application, to need or being awarded as a for a particular competition.
This funding opportunity for artists usually requires displacement from normal obligations and environment to benefit from studio space, housing, living stipends, and travel often provided in Residencies.
Contracting with a non-profit for fiscal sponsorship when having projects related to their mission can provide a valuable funding opportunity for artists. This fiscal sponsorship relationship implies the artist makes use of the tax exempt status of the sponsor to solicit for charitable contributions which are tax-deductible.
Free or Discounted Services
Certain organizations and agencies are dedicated to making health care, tax and legal services particularly available to cash-strapped artists facing hard times. Some of these services are provided at discounts with others being totally free.
Even with the existence of numerous funding opportunities for artists such as cash grants, internships, employment and residencies, understanding eligibility issues and qualification requirements is very important and should be given enough attention. Poor proposals account for many artists being overlooked for funding. So, amongst the important activities like research for valuable information, hiring the services of a qualified grant writer will definitely have great enhancement effects on the chances of an artist to be selected for funding because his/her proposals are prepared with professional experience.
Although eligibility is by nomination only, the MacArthur Fellowship and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant are amongst the most valuable and prestigious awards to support artists. With a wide range of different requirements for eligibility, examples of leading artist grant opportunities available for open application include;
The Awesome Foundation for the Arts and Sciences
For: Awesome projects
Time: Awarded monthly. Applications are rolling
This Foundation is a group of small philanthropists awarding monthly micro-grants of $1,000 to individuals who have awesome ideas. The grant for every chapter is donated by 10 trustees, $100 each for scientific, artistic and/or social projects. Previous “awesome” beneficiaries include a phone book farm in Ottawa, a pipe organ (portable), and a Boston giant hammock. There are no eligibility restrictions for this awesome grant.
Brooklyn Arts Council Grants
For: Enthusiasts in G train
Time: Late summer, annually
Value: Average between $1,700 and $2,100
This grant is open to artists based in Brooklyn. It rewards projects with public component funding. It covers dance and theater productions, gallery exhibitions, musical concerts, films, workshops, installation of public arts, screenings and curatorial projects. With about 30 – 40 % of applicants usually benefiting from at least some funding, chances of getting assistance upon application are very high. Eligibility requires artists with proof of residence in Brooklyn.
The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
For: Painters, drawers, printmakers, and sculptors
Time: No deadlines
Value: Depending on the circumstances particular to the artist ($5,000 – $20,000)
This foundation, started by Jackson Pollock’s widow, Lee Krasner, who is also an Abstract Expressionist painter awards grants at all times within the year to artists. Applicants are required to be of financial need while possessing and demonstrating peculiar artistic talent with their recent works in galleries, museums and/or exhibition spaces. Examples of Individuals of note who have received this grant include Zoe Leonard, Jane Benson, Valerie Hegarty, Thornton Willis, Alyson Shotz.
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship
For: New York based writers, artists, filmmakers, and musicians
With ever changing categories and mediums every year, this grant is the Holy Grail for New York based artists. Artists from a wide range of disciplines receive cash awards through the NYFA fellowship without restrictions on how they will be used. Five categories are open for applications each year. Examples of notable grantees include; Zhou Long, Jennifer Egan, Doug Aitken, Barbara Kruger, Todd Haynes, Junot Diaz; Spike Lee, Marilyn Minter, Christian Marclay.
There exist many other accessible national and international grants, fellowships and other funding opportunities for artists which are general or speak to particular groups like disciplines, location, race, sex, religious belief, ethnicity, political background etc. Finding the ideal one only requires proper research and application or follow up.
Chris Bouchard is a creative coach who helps artists and non-profits position themselves for success and realize their full potential. An accomplished grant writer and fundraising consultant, Chris started his business in 2013 to help small non-profits through the sometimes overwhelming prospect of navigating the world of social business. To contact Chris, please visit his coaching website at