Anonymous Was A Woman: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Anonymous Was A Woman provides unrestricted grants to female artists over age 40, in recognition of those artists’ accomplishments, growth, and quality of work.

IP TAKE: Anonymous Was A Woman’s grants are significant at $25,000 for unrestricted funds. They are primarily earmarked for visual art, but also cross over into film and some performing arts. They are also a big deal because nobody knows who funds them, or how the granted artists are selected.

PROFILE: Anonymous Was A Woman's name works on multiple levels. Lifted from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, it provides grants to female artists over the age of 40—an often overlooked and under-supported group of creators. The name also refers to the funder’s complete anonymity, an impressive feat since grants have been dispersed since 1996 and over 220 artists have been supported. Presumably the bankroller is known by Philanthropy Advisors, who administrates the award, very few others seem privy to the information. The New York Times even investigated and concluded only that “those who know the donor would say only that she is a woman who lives in New York and is an artist, though not a famous one. No one knew the source of her fortune or its extent.” 

The foundation offers $25,000 unrestricted grants. The vast majority of previous winners (all of the previous grantees can be found on Anonymous Was A Woman’s website) work in the visual arts, albeit across a wide range of expression, from painting to video installation. A much smaller group work in film or performing arts (namely theater), though those artists’ work tends to be multi-disciplinary in format. The nominators (made up of art historians, curators, writers, and previous winners) are anonymous too. Artist selection has nothing to do with need, but rather is based on an artist’s accomplishments, “artistic growth,” and quality of work.


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