How This Local Arts Funder Revamped Its Chattanooga Grant Strategy

Chattanooga is one of the most artsy towns in the Southeast, with lots of local galleries and studios for experienced and aspiring artists of all kinds. And there’s one arts funder, ArtsBuild, that’s all about creating united voice for all cultural organizations and activities in Hamilton County.

ArtsBuild used to be called Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga and was established in 1969, initially to give a boost to-one-time events. However, it’s grown and expanded since then and now has the capacity to give money to local organizations any time of the year. The group also has a goal of making the city of Chattanooga a premier arts destination by boosting tourism and drawing in new employers. The group recently emerged onto our radar when it changed its community grant process to become easier for nonprofits to participate in.

Instead of static deadlines, ArtsBuild is now using a rolling grant process so that groups don’t have to plan so far in advance for funding opportunities. The funder is now prepared to process new applications within a matter of a few days, which should come as a relief to local grantseekers that find it burdensome to schedule their arts events around funding cycles.

Like many foundations, ArtsBuild enlisted the help of some industry experts to reevaluate its strategy and ultimately make this change. The consulting company determined that ArtsBuild’s old grant strategy needed to be more flexible, which is something that a lot of local funders could probably stand to consider as well.

ArtsBuild’s Community Cultural Connections Grant Program was originally designed to reach new groups that weren’t already associated with the funder. Back when this program was created in 2012 and still today, funding for these grants has come from Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd and the Lyndhurst Foundation, a private family funder also committed to the Chattanooga region.

ArtsBuild has given out over $158,000 through 66 grants to 58 different arts organizations since this community grants program was established. According to the Times Free Press, that represents 1,716 hours of art instruction to 5,548 participants in Hamilton County, and 90 percent of participants are from low-income families. Julie Jackson, ArtsBuild’s director of development and communications, said that the program has reached new demographics in the region and also exceeded their expectations.

The goals of this grantmaking program are to bring the arts to diverse audiences and broaden the types of art being offered to demonstrate the overall positive impact of arts in the community and bring residents together. Current grant projects as of May 15, 2016 include support for Art120, the Chattanooga Chinese Association, H*Art Gallery, La Paz, the Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association, and RiverCity Co. You can learn about current and past recipients to get a better idea of what this funder supports on the ArtsBuild grants page. Only organizations based in Hamilton County, Tennessee are eligible to apply.

While now a bit more accessible to grantseekers, keep in mind that these ArtsBuild Community Cultural Grants mostly go towards short-term festivals, exhibits, and performances. This isn’t the type of grant program that funds capital improvements or seed money for new art start-ups. One unique thing to note is that you do not need to have a 501(c)(3) status to apply for these grants. The grants are awarded for up to $2,000, and the application form can be downloaded online.

Any questions about the Community Cultural Connections grantmaking process should be directed to Program Assistant Liza Blair at 423-697-1739 or Blair37405@yahoo.com or Director of Grants and Initiatives Rodney Van Valkenburg at 423-777-4214 or Rodney@artsbuild.com.

See our profile of this funder.