Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: The Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation prioritizes American painters over age 45 who are in financial need and whose work has not received adequate recognition.

IP TAKE: This foundation has a very specific grant focus—American painters at least age 45, not yet heralded, and in financial need. It is a very niche funder, but for grant seekers who fit the bill, there is nothing else like it.

PROFILE: The Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation is named for two artists who were active in Provincetown, Cape Cod’s artistic life. Indeed, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum oversees the foundation’s work. It seeks “to promote public awareness of and a commitment to American art, and to encourage interest in artists who lack adequate recognition.” The foundation typically dispenses three to five grants annually, with amounts ranging from $5,000 to $30,000.

The foundation uses a very specific definition of painting and visual arts grant seekers must meet this definition in order to be eligible for funding: “painting is considered the application of various media (oil, acrylic, gouache, ink, tempera, watercolor, egg tempera, casein) on paper, canvas, fabric, or wood.” The foundation further defines what does not qualify: “mixed media, encaustic, collage, pastels, digital paintings, prints, and work in graphite or drawings.” The use of multiple paint mediums is allowed, so long as the work does not integrate any media from the excluded list.

Additionally, grant seekers must be 45 or older.

Less simply defined is what qualifies as “financial need.” The foundation does not delve into it any further, but its open process application requires grant seekers to detail their current finances, including recent art sales, household income, household expenses, and more. It views this financial component as enmeshed with artistic pursuits. As the foundation’s website explains it, Orlowsky in particular “was sensitive to the challenges artists face, especially those working against the mainstream or outside of popular schools of art. Her desire to provide financial support to mature artists... speaks to her passionate commitment to art for art’s sake and art created regardless of the demands and whims of the market place.”

Finally, one last ill-defined funding criteria: What qualifies a potential painter’s work as being “artistically worthy” of this grant? The foundation does not provide an answer; it simply expects the work to show “artistic quality” and “creative ability.”

Applications are judged anonymously, and the selection committee, which the foundation calls its “panel of jurors,” changes each year. For a frame of reference, the 2014 panel consisted of Faye Hirsch, editor at large for Art in America; Marshall Price, a curator for modern and contemporary art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; and Shellburne Thurber, “an internationally known artist, who recently was awarded a fellowship from the Saint Gaudens National Historic Site”.

Understandably, this is a competitive grant (made all the more so because of its open application process). There were almost 500 candidates in 2014, applying from 34 states and four countries (applicants can live abroad but must be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S.). The applicant age range was 45 to 84, and 63 percent of the applicants identified as female.

Who came out on top? Here are the recipients of the 2014 Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation Grant: Daniel Bodner (Provincetown, MA); Changha Hwang (New York, NY); Santiago Hernandez (Medford, MA) and Stephanie London (Glendale, CA). 2016 grantees are here and 2017 grantees are here.

Applications are due at the beginning of April but contact Grace Ryder-O'Malley at gryderomalley@paam.org with questions prior to sending an application.

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