How Does the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Support Artists Across Genres?

Back in 1963, John Cage and Jasper Johns, two heavyweights of the American arts world, created the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), originally known as the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. But what's even more striking is how they got the idea. According to the foundation's site:

Jasper Johns, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and other painters and sculptors came together to help Merce Cunningham and his dance company finance a proposed season on Broadway by arranging for a sale of their artworks. Their fundraising efforts were so successful that there was money to spare, and when they asked Cunningham what he thought they should do with it, he replied, "We're all in the same boat—why don't you give it to other performing artists?"

We know what you're thinking. Wow, artists with some leftover money to spare? Apparently, it can happen (albeit every 50 years or so).

The FCA's mission is to "encourage, sponsor, and promote innovative work in the arts created and presented by individuals, groups and organizations." It provides unrestricted, grants by nomination, supporting pioneering work across the fields of dance, music/sound, performance art/theater, poetry and the visual arts. The foundation also maintains a fund to assist artists with emergencies and unexpected opportunities related to their work.

Since the foundation's inception, more than 2,500 grants have been awarded to artists and arts organizations, totaling over $11 million.

To date, over 900 artists have made these grants possible by contributing paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs to multiple fundraising exhibitions held over the years. Its first exhibition in 1963 contained works from Marcel Duchamp, Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Saul Steinberg and Andy Warhol.

Which brings us to the present day. The FCA provides grants through five programs: Grants to Artists, the John Cage Award, the Merce Cunningham Award, the Robert Rauschenberg Award, and Emergency Grants.

The foundation just awarded 16 unrestricted grants to artists. (You can see the winners here.) The grants, which are administered by a confidential nomination and selection process, are supported in part by a grant from the Frederick R. Weisman Philanthropic Foundation.

It also named artist and vocalist Joan La Barbara the winner of the biennial $50,000 John Cage Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in the arts for work that reflects the spirit of John Cage. And Brooklyn-based visual artist Jennie C. Jones won the Robert Rauschenberg Award in recognition of outstanding achievement that reflects the spirit of its namesake. The Merce Cunningham Award, meanwhile, is a biennial grant made through Grants to Artists in recognition of outstanding achievement in the arts that reflects the creativity and spirit of Merce Cunningham.

Last, but not least, is the Emergency Grants program, the only one that accepts unsolicited applications. The grants, which range from $200 to $2,000, are earmarked for artists who have sudden, unanticipated opportunities to present their work to the public when there is insufficient time to seek other sources of funding; or incur unexpected or unbudgeted expenses for projects close to completion with committed exhibition or performance dates. 

As for 2015, the FCA was on track to distribute $140,000 to more than 100 artists through the Emergency Grants program. Click here for more information.

And while we're on the topic of iconoclastic 20th century artists and their respective foundations, we encourage you to check out the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation's grant offerings here and some insight around the recent give from the Merce Cunningham Trust here.