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 grantmaking and its related agendas are subdivided by state, and sometimes also by regions within those states. Of the 44 states where the foundation makes grants, 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 banking and financial services institution seeks to create “long-term, strategic, relationships with nonprofits and other organizations to create innovative, sustainable solutions to meet local needs.” By its own accounting in recent years granted $281 million to 16,300 nonprofits and schools nationwide through its Community Investment program.  

The Community Investment program is a combination of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s grantmaking across 44 states (plus the District of Columbia); thirty-eight of those states give grants in the arts and culture realm. The program’s website provides a helpful map, but in short, the places that do not support arts-giving are 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.

The Well Fargo Foundation website gives each state and region the opportunity to articulate the focus of their 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.” Another popular directive is to support arts and culture initiatives that “enhance a community's quality of life” and those that make “communities strong, diverse, and vibrant.”

Community is important here. 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, 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: $150,000 to the Palm Springs Art Museum (Palm Springs, CA); $75,000 to the Mexican Museum (San Francisco, CA); $30,000 to the San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego, CA); $25,000 to the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA); $25,000 to the Nevada Museum of Art (Reno, NV); $15,000 to the Museum of Latin American Art (Long Beach, CA); $12,500 to the Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, NE); $10,000 to the African American Museum in Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA); $5,000 to the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (Jacksonville, FL); $1,000 to the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho (Idaho Falls, ID).

The majority of Wells Fargo Foundation’s visual arts funding supports museums, but other types of organizations and entities have an opportunity here too. The foundation has also granted: $75,000 Artrain USA (Ann Arbor, MI), which delivers exhibitions and education programs to under-resourced communities throughout the U.S.; $17,500 to the Greenville Arts Festival (Greenville, SC); $5,000 to the Visual Arts Center of Richmond (Richmond, VA); $2,000 to Artes de Mexico en Utah (Salt Lake City, UT), which focuses on an appreciation of Mexican art throughout the state; $1,500 to the Fine Arts Festival Rockingham County (Reidsville, NC).

Well Fargo Foundation also supports city and community arts councils, many of which incorporate visual arts into venues and agendas. Past 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, grant seekers should remember that this is a portion of the foundation's aggregate arts grantmaking. 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 that a paper proposal be submitted to grant seekers’ nearest Wells Fargo location. Each state, and sometimes each region within, has its own program officers. They all also do a good job answering FAQs, dispensing contact information, and sharing their deadlines.

Needless to say, it is important for grant seekers to check out the foundation’s Community Investment search engine for their state. There is certainly grant money to be had here for visual arts; just be sure the application is tailored to the structure articulated by the state/region.


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