Samuel H. Kress Foundation: Grants for College Arts and Humanities

OVERVIEW: The Samuel H. Kress Foundation doesn’t have a massive endowment, but it does support a variety of scholarly work in the field of art history. The foundation has generally provided a few million dollars annually in the form of dozens of grants and fellowships in the focus areas of scholarly art history, art conservation, and digital resources.

IP TAKE: The foundation’s application process is comprehensive—3 to 5 pages, plus color illustrations, if possible. Applying for funding is well worth the time, but keep in mind that your higher ed project will likely be facing stiff competition.

PROFILE: Founded in 1929, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation is a small but mighty funder in the field of art history. The foundation describes its strategy as one that provides “support [for] the work of individuals and institutions engaged with the appreciation, interpretation, preservation, study and teaching of the history of European art and architecture from antiquity to the dawn of the modern era.”

Each year the foundation invests a few million dollars into museums, post-secondary institutions and a few libraries, but the grant dollars go around. Grants go for anywhere from $5,000 to $45,000, with a select few going over those limits. 

The foundation’s grants come out of its three programs, all of which are competitive and offer awards to institutions that include colleges and universities. 

The first of these programs, History of Art, supports “scholarly projects that will enhance the understanding and appreciation of European art and architecture.” Projects receiving past support include everything from museum exhibitions to technical and scientific studies. This leaves a wide berth for art historians looking for funding. The largest share of grants in recent years have come from this program.

The Conservation Fellowships program looks to support the “professional practice of art conservation, including conservation research, scholarly publications, international conferences and symposia.” In the past, colleges and universities have received grants in all of these areas, though in recent years fewer grants have been awarded from this program. 

With a slightly different focus, Kress's Digital Resources program supports the integration of “new technologies into the practice of art history and the creation of important online resources in art history, including both textual and visual resources.” The main objective of the program is “to foster new forms of research and collaboration as well as new approaches to teaching and learning,” though a variety of other projects may also receive funding. For example, past grants have connected digital resources such as software and databases with the teaching, publication, research into, accessibility of, and dissemination of information related to European art history.

Another interest of the foundation has been “professional development fellowships” for scholars and librarians. These are extremely competitive, with only a handful coming out of the History of Art, Conservation and Interpretive Fellowships at Art Museums subprograms. As with the foundation’s grants, the largest share of funding among these programs has recently gone to History of Art.

Interested in learning more about Kress's grantees and other award recipients? A “representative sample” of past grants dating back to 2006 can be viewed by year and program, while full listings of previous years' awards are available in the foundation’s annual reports.

Applications for funding are program-specific, and can be downloaded from the foundation’s “how to apply” pages of its grants programs and fellowships programs. For grants, there are two or three application deadlines throughout the year (depending on the program). Fellowship applications have a once-a-year deadline, which also varies by program.

Before applying, be sure to review the fine print at the bottom of each program's landing page, which gives more detail about that initiative's specific objectives and the types of work it supports. It's also important to keep in mind that funds may be open to a wide variety of potential recipients, so your college or university could very well be competing with museums and other institutions for awards. 


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