NY Foundation for the Arts Fellowships Enable Artists to Keep Working

New York City might be home to the largest population of starving artists who are following their passions, without necessarily reaping the financial rewards. Whether it's for writers, visual artists, musicians, or videographers, the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) has been providing fellowships since 1984 to artists at various stages of their careers. For many fellows, the cash awards enable them to focus on their art. (See New York Foundation for the Arts: Grants for New York City).

In 2012, the foundation awarded 94 fellowships of $7,000 each, providing financial support for artists in a wide variety of disciplines including fiction, film/video, interdisciplinary work, and painting. Last year, the foundation expanded the fellowships to include folk and traditional arts as well.

"There are several great benefits to being awarded a NYFA Fellowship. The benefit of the financial boost is obvious: It buys you time to make work," said 2011 fellow Joseph Burwell in a foundation Q&A.  "The psychological boost is not to be underestimated. The reality of actually being paid to do what you enjoy doing most is the ultimate satisfaction. You immediately feel more confident and energized and this inevitably makes your work better."

Since his fellowship, Burwell has continued his work as a visual artist, and a collection of his work was recently showed at Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery in Chelsea.

The foundation Artists' Fellowships are given to artists working in New York, and they can be used for whatever the artist see fit. Each year, the foundation accepts applications in five categories, which is on a rotating basis, as they consider work in 15 areas. Since 1984, the more than $27 million in grants have been made to over 4,000 artists. Past recipients include acclaimed film director Spike Lee, and 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners Jennifer Egan and Zhou Long.

Earning a fellowship is also an extremely competitive process, as more than 4,000 artists applied and the grants go to only 2% of applicants.

Past fellow Margaret Inga Wiatrowski noted how the award enable her to continue her work as a visual artist. Along with materials and supplies, as well as helping her find studio space, Wiatrowski said the award "also helped bolster the development of my work with an encouraging jolt of self-assurance."

The NYFA was founded in 1971 to empower artists at critical stages in their creative lives. Each year, the foundation provides more than $1 million in cash grants to individuals and small organizations.