What Is Kresge Looking For In Future Artist Fellows?

The Kresge Foundation recently awarded its 2014 Artist Fellowships to seventeen metropolitan Detroit artists, plus one collective. The fellowship comes with an unrestricted prize of $25,000. You can check out the winners here. In the meantime, we also want to check in with Kresge and understand what, precisely, Detroit-area artists can expect when applying for future Artist Fellowships.

As we note in our Grant Finder profile on Kresge, the foundation has two main areas of giving in arts and culture: Detroit Arts and Culture and Harvesting Leading Practices. Both of these program areas focus on the support of community development and revitalization efforts through the arts. Under the former program, the foundation offers its Artist Fellowships to artists in dance/music, film/theatre, literary arts and visual arts whose "commitment to artistic achievement, in contemporary or traditional forms, is evident in the quality of their work."

But what, exactly, were they looking for in this round of funding? The answer, like anything else in Detroit, must be viewed through the lens of the Motor's City's financial woes and the community's relentless hope for a brighter future. The city's problems — and the incredible arts-related opportunities that are springing from these challenges — are, of course, well-documented. And the Kresge Foundation firmly believes that artists, dancers, and filmmakers will be instrumental in the city's transformation.

Don't just take our word for it. Here's Rip Rapson, president of the foundation: "Artists challenge us. They move us to reflect on all dimensions of community life. They inspire us. As we look to a future beyond the city’s bankruptcy, artists provide an indispensable wellspring of insight and creativity from which our community can draw inspiration and hope. This year’s Kresge Artist Fellows exemplify these traits."

Now we'll be the first to admit that for Miami- or New York-based artists looking for grants, your approach will, of course, be different. Those cities simply haven't been wracked by the problems that have faced Detroit in the last two decades. But for those artists residing in the Motor City or other (particularly Midwest) cities transitioning toward a post-industrial future, it is important to contextualize your work within your town's larger narrative. And don't forget: Optimism is contagious, and if your work exudes a strong sense of purpose while strengthening your community in the face of persistent obstacles, foundations will respond.