Samuel H. Kress Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Samuel H. Kress Foundation doesn’t have a massive endowment, but it does support scholarly work in the fields of art history, conservation, and digital resources, with a particular emphasis on European art. The foundation has generally provided a few million dollars annually in the form of dozens of grants and fellowships.

IP TAKE: Applying for Kress funding is well worth the time, but it’s best to reach out to program staff before delving into its intensive application process. Also check your area of interest for program-specifc application deadlines.

PROFILE: Founded in 1929, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation is a small but important funder in the field of art history. The foundation describes its strategy as one that provides “support [for] the work of individuals and institutions engaged with the appreciation, interpretation, preservation, study and teaching of the history of European art and architecture from antiquity to the dawn of the modern era.”

Each year, the foundation invests a few million dollars in museums, post-secondary institutions and a few libraries, but the grant dollars go around. Grants average from $5,000 to $45,000, with a select few going over that limit. 

The foundation’s grants come out of its three programs, all of which are competitive and offer awards to institutions that include colleges and universities. 

The History of Art program supports “scholarly projects that will enhance the understanding and appreciation of European art and architecture.” Projects receiving past support include museum exhibitions, and technical and scientific studies. This leaves a wide range of options for art historians looking for funding.

Conservation Fellowships support the “professional practice of art conservation, including conservation research, scholarly publications, international conferences and symposia.” In the past, colleges and universities have received grants in all of these areas, though in recent years fewer grants have been awarded from this program. 

The Digital Resources program supports the integration of “new technologies into the practice of art history and the creation of important online resources in art history, including both textual and visual resources.” The main objective of the program is “to foster new forms of research and collaboration as well as new approaches to teaching and learning,” although a variety of other projects may also receive funding.

The largest share of grants in recent years has come from the foundation’s History of Art program, with smaller amounts going through the other two programs. A representative sample of past grants dating back to 2006 can be viewed by year and program, while full listings of previous years' awards are available in the foundation’s annual reports.

Another focus of the foundation is “professional development fellowships” for scholars and librarians. These are extremely competitive, with only a handful awarded through a few subprograms. The three fellowship grants come out of the History of Art, Conservation and Interpretive Fellowships at Art Museums subprograms. As with the foundation’s grants for organizations, the largest amount of funding among these programs has recently gone to History of Art.

Applications for funding are program specific, and can be downloaded from the foundation’s “how to apply” pages of its grants programs and fellowships programs. For grants, there are two or three application deadlines throughout the year (depending on the program). Fellowship applications each have a once-a-year deadline, which also varies by program. Before applying, be sure to review the bottom of each program's landing page, which gives more detail about that initiative's specific objectives and the types of work it supports.

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