What Has Doris Duke Learned from their Partnership with Creative Capital?

In early 2012, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation partnered with Creative Capital to launch and oversee the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award Program. In the intervening time, they've distributed $1.2 million to 21 different artists. They recently took a moment to look back and reflect on this exciting new program. So what have they learned?

Since 2000, Doris Duke has been an integral partner in Creative Capital's core grant program. They've been the largest single funder of Creative Capital's Performing Arts grants, so it only made since that they partner for the Artist Awards Program.

The Doris Duke Performing Artist Award Program is one of the most generous grants for individual performing artists in the areas of contemporary dance, jazz, theatre, and "related interdisciplinary work." They offer unrestricted grants of $225,000 over a three- to five-year period, with an additional $25,000 in unrestricted funds available to artists "who can demonstrate that they have started or increased resources that will allow them to continue their creative exploration in their later years." They also offer restricted project funds of up to $25,000 to support audience development.

Under this program they also offer the Doris Duke Impact Award, which is given to "artists who have influenced and are helping to move forward the fields of dance, jazz and/or theatre." Nominations for these awards are made by previous recipients of the Artist Award and the nominators are encouraged to "consider more interpretive artists, including dancers, actors, and non-composing musicians, or artists of regional significance, who are not eligible for the Doris Duke Artist Awards."

So far the awards have gone through three cycles and Doris Duke's Program Director for the Arts, Ben Cameron, and Creative Capital's President and Founding Director, Ruby Lerner recently commented on what they've learned so far.

"We have learned a lot about more effective administration for the program and have instituted a more predictable schedule for reports and cash requests," explained Cameron. "We have learned more about how to optimize the orientation meeting for each new class of awardees. But the basic ability of the program to respond to artists—the flexibility of unrestricted funding (which the bulk of the grant is)—hasn’t really changed."

"I think this year has forced us to be clearer about the two tiers of support that the program offers—to clarify the distinctions between Doris Duke Artists and the Impact Award grantees. The two awards were conceived for different kinds of artists, and the selection process is quite different. Having to pinpoint those differences was a challenge, both for us internally and for the nominators for the Impact Awards. But again, the concept of multi-year, largely unrestricted funding still remains valuable and largely unchanged."

Lerner agrees, stating, "What excites me is the artist-to-artist nature of the Impact Awards—the fact that they are nominated by the previous classes of Doris Duke Artists. It is a really lovely way to honor how much artists know about their fields, and how generous they are."

Interestingly, they've also compiled data about how the Doris Duke grantees have spent their funds in year one. What that data shows is that the largest percentage (15%) went toward—wait for it—taxes. The runner up at 14% went toward company support, with project support, retirement, and living expenses all coming in at 12%, and housing at 9%. What's also interesting is that it seems that expenses were split relatively evenly between life needs and work-related needs, which should speak volumes about the day-to-day necessities of working artists. And the fact that taxes took up such a large portion of the artists' grants wasn't lost on Cameron or Lerner.

"I only wish, of course, that the tax burden weren’t so significant on these artists," lamented Cameron. "Might we hope for the days where, like Ireland, there are at least some artists of national merit who are exempted from income taxes?"

Lerner agreed, saying, "Wouldn’t that be great?"