Creative Capital: Grants for Performing Arts

OVERVIEW: Creative Capital is unique in that it was founded in order to "reinvent cultural philanthropy" by applying the principles of venture capital to arts funding. Their arts grants are long-term investments and include ongoing relationships with the projects they support. They take an entrepreneurial long-view of their funding, so their support goes far beyond just handing money out to worthy recipients. 

IP TAKE: Creative Capital is one of the most unique and dynamic grantmaking institutions in the arts today. Securing support from this foundation enables all manner of connections and backing beyond the initial grant, and since Creative Capital issues all of their grants though an open application process, there are fewer barriers to entry than with most grantmakers and anyone who meets the minimum eligibility criteria can apply. The grants are highly competitive, however, and you are invited to reapply the next year if you are not selected.

PROFILE: Creative Capital offers grants of up to $50,000 in five main areas of the arts: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Literature, Film/Video, and "Emerging Fields." Their process of financing projects includes an individualized approach that provides grantees with "sequential financial support and tailored advisory services to enable their project’s success and help them build sustainable careers." Since this process is so uniquely comprehensive, the application cycles for each area are done on a yearly rolling basis, with each grant round opening near the beginning of each February.

Their grantmaking for the performing arts includes dance, music theater, experimental music performance, experimental opera, spoken word, theater/performance art, puppetry and interdisciplinary projects. In their most recent cycle of grants in this area, they received over 1,200 letters of inquiry, of which only about 300 advanced to the application phase and 105 were chosen for the final panel round. Ultimately, 23 projects were awarded grants, which included recipients in "10 different communities throughout the U.S." You can view the full list of grantees here.

Creative Capital holds open calls for their grants and their requirements are fairly minimal. So as long as you are a U.S. citizen and non-student at least 25 years old and a working artist with at least five years of professional experience, you can apply for funding.

Each grant recipient also gets a three- to seven-year commitment that involves a high level of engagement between Creative Capital and the artist for that period and includes things such as advisory services, consultations with Artist Services staff, access to their network of arts consultants, Artist Retreats, phone-in clinics, and various promotional activities. They value these career development services at around $45,000, for a total commitment to each recipient of up to $95,000 per project. The foundation also offers a Professional Development program that helps grantees hone their skills in fundraising, public relations, strategic planning, and marketing.

At each stage, evaluators look for proposals that clearly articulate and demonstrate the following:

  • The artistic strength, vision, originality and potential for impact of the project.
  • The professional capacity of the applicant.
  • The feasibility of the project.
  • The potential benefit of our support, especially the non-monetary aspect of our program. 

They also look for artists who "demonstrate bold, inventive and singular ideas in both form and content; are at a catalytic moment in their creative practices and in their approach to their career;  are deeply engaged with and rigorously committed to their art forms;  have potential for significant artistic and cultural impact;  understand the professional landscape of their field; and are generous and demonstrate a readiness to accept the kinds of assistance [Creative Capital] offers."

Since its inception, Creative Capital has given upwards of $35 million in financial and advisory support to over 400 projects, representing around 600 different artists. And since competition can be so fierce, it can be helpful to read founder Ruby Lerner's blog post on Creative Capital's grantmaking process. More on the selection process can also be seen here.


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