The ArtsFund in Seattle: How Does It Make Grants? And Who Gets Support?



Seattle is a prime place to be for artists and art lovers. There are more art galleries and performance spaces in the city than a visitor would ever hope to see in just one trip, and over a dozen Seattle neighborhoods host monthly gallery walk nights to connect the public to local artists. Therefore, it should come as little surprise that there are some influential arts grantmakers in town that are keeping some of these programs and projects afloat.

One arts-specific funder in Seattle is ArtsFund, which took its current name in 2003, but has a history dating back to 1969 as the United Arts Council of Puget Sound. Here are a few key things nonprofits should know about this local grantmaker.

ArtsFund’s Grantmaking Strategy

A woman named Mari Horita took over ArtsFund as CEO and president in 2012, at which time the organization entered a new strategic planning process. This process reshaped the group’s mission and vision, ultimately doubling the number of partners served in the area.

Over the last couple of years, ArtsFund’s strategy largely focused on three goals: advancing community priorities through the arts, strengthening community impact of arts groups, and increasing and diversifying giving.  However, Horita stepped down from her leadership role in January 2019, and former board chair Sandy D. McDade is currently serving as interim CEO as the board searches for a permanent successor. Stay tuned to learn about potential shifts in strategy as ArtsFund’s future leader takes the reins.

Types of Groups Supported by ArtsFund

ArtsFund takes a fairly broad approach to arts grantmaking and considers supporting dance, film, media, literary arts, music, theater, visual art, and multi-disciplinary arts. It also tends to gravitate toward multicultural arts projects, such as efforts by the Seattle Latino Film Festival and the Chinese Arts and Music Association.

However, ArtsFund does not support children’s museums, arts camps, public broadcasting, short art festivals, or special one-time projects. In a recent year, the funder provided 60 grants to local arts organizations.

Applying for ArtsFund Grants

ArtsFund is a locally focused funder and keeps its attention squarely on Pierce and King counties in Washington. Seattle is the home of the bulk of ArtsFund grantees, but the fund also supports organizations in the suburbs and nearby towns.

ArtsFund’s money largely comes from big corporate donors such as Microsoft and Starbucks, but it also has quite a few private philanthropists on its allocations committee. Applicants must have at least three years of continuous operations under their belts, provide more than half of their services in King and/or Pierce counties, and have an annual operating budget of at least $200,000 in King County or $100,000 in Pierce County. The annual application deadline typically falls in late February, so new local groups will have to wait until the start of the new year to get in on the action.

Check out IP’s full profile of ArtsFund in our Northwest funders section to learn more about what this organizations supports and how to connect with the staff.