Wells Fargo Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: Wells Fargo Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the banking and financial services company. The foundation supports a wide range of needs, including education, housing, community development, the environment, and arts and culture. Specific focuses and agendas vary by state and region.

IP TAKE: Functionally speaking, Wells Fargo Foundation’s giving and its related agendas are subdivided by state, and sometimes also by regions within those states. Of the 44 states where the foundation gives, the vast majority of them place arts and culture giving squarely on the agenda. Support for visual arts (particularly museums) is a big priority within this realm.

PROFILE: Wells Fargo Foundation, the philanthropic offshoot of the big banking and financial services institution, recently granted $281.3 million to 16,300 nonprofits and schools nationwide.

When Wells Fargo Foundation is giving you that number, what it’s really doing is adding up the giving across the 44 states plus the District of Columbia included in its Community Investment program. Thirty-eight of those states give grants in the arts and culture realm.

At this point, you’ll want to know if your state is among those 38. There’s a map on the program’s website that will help you find out, but here are the places that don’t make the arts-giving cut: Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. And the states where Wells Fargo gives nothing at all: Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

On the Wells Fargo Foundation website, each state and region is given the opportunity to articulate the focus of its arts and culture giving. The most popular directive is that arts organizations work to enhance “community diversity” by creating work that reflects its specific community’s diversity, and by providing access and participation for “low- and moderate-income individuals.”

The other popular directives amongst the states is to support arts and culture initiatives that “enhance a community's quality of life” and those that make “communities strong, diverse, and vibrant.”

If the key word isn’t obvious to you yet, it’s "community." Create to reflect it and create for it. Unlike many other corporate-based funders, Wells Fargo Foundation is far more likely to support a city or town’s regional or community visual arts program than one that’s in the national spotlight, though a recent exception to this is the foundation's recent $150,000 grant to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, CA.

As is the case with many corporate funders of dance, museums are big recipient of Wells Fargo Foundation's visual arts granting. In addition to its big grant to the Museum of Contemporary Art, other museums who recently received funding from the foundation include:

The majority of Wells Fargo Foundation’s visual arts giving goes directly to museums, but other types of organizations and entities have an opportunity here too. The foundation has recently granted:

Well Fargo Foundation also likes giving to city and community arts councils, many of which incorporate visual arts into venues and agendas. Recent giving examples here include $105,000 to The Arts Council of Winston Salem and Forsyth County (Winston-Salem, NC); $10,000 to the Arts Council of Princeton (Princeton, NJ); and $2,500 to the Snohomish County Arts Commission (Everett, WA).

Again, remember that this is a snapshot of the foundation's aggregate visual arts giving. Each state/region makes its own grant selections.

Just as grant selections are determined by state and the regions within, so too is the application process. Most are executed online, but some states require a paper proposal that you deliver to your nearest Wells Fargo location. Each state, and sometimes each region within, has its own program officers. They also do a good job answering FAQs, dispensing contact information, and sharing their deadlines.

Needless to say, checking out the foundation’s Community Investment search engine for your state is a necessity. There is certainly grant money to be had here for visual arts; just be sure to tailor you application to the structure articulated by your state/region.


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