How to Apply for Art Grants and Funding

Young artist in her studio filling out grant application on laptop
10'000 Hours / Getty Images

The arts are notoriously known for always being chronically short of funds. Luckily, there are art grants and funding for fine-art professionals such as artists, curators, and researchers, who can apply for such programs to put on an art exhibition, conduct research, or to create artwork.

However, competition for a limited number of grants is stiff. It is more the norm to receive a rejection letter rather than an acceptance. Still, there are key ways to apply that you can improve your chances of getting art funding or improve your chances for success.

Have a Clear Goal

Identify your objectives and create a budget for completing your grant application. Determine if you need funds to expand your work area or if you need to travel to secure supplies or get ideas. Perhaps you need to research an unusual method of producing a particular type of artwork. Maybe your supplies are expensive and you need assistance to afford them.

Research Funding Sources

Make use of your local library and the internet to research all avenues of funding. The Foundation Center is a great place to start. You may want to approach large foundations such as the John F. Guggenheim Foundation or the Harpo Foundation Grants for Visual Artists. The government is an excellent source for grant funding. Research available funds from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) or the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Each grant will target specific types of art and artist. If you do not meet the requirements, don't waste your time applying. Instead, move on to the next opportunity on your list.

Think Outside the Box

Besides all the common sources of funding, such as state art councils and governmental and institutional grants, think of alternative, unique sources. Some universities and colleges will offer grant opportunities.

Perhaps part of your art exhibition can take place at some local businesses which can provide some financial and logistical support.

Other Grant-Writing Pointers

Attend a grant-writing workshop. Hearing the inside view of the grant application process is immensely helpful. Many of these workshops are free to attend and some will offer contact information to hard to find opportunities. At the very least, you will learn a new skill and meet and grow your network.

Read Application Rules Thoroughly

Be sure to read the grant application rules thoroughly, This is the simplest advice, yet not often heeded by most applicants. Follow the details exactly. Only provide what is requested and in the required format.

When you have a question regarding the application process, it is best to telephone the office staff and develop a personable, yet professional relationship with them. They can advise you on details that otherwise, you may miss. However, don't bother them in place of you doing the required legwork and committing the necessary time.

Write a Winning Proposal

Some ideas are more grant-worthy than others. Often projects that enrich communities or selflessly involve others tend to be more successful than those that seem self-preoccupied and only catering to the ego of the grant applicant. Get your submission postmarked before the deadline or your proposal may be disqualified.

Your written proposal must be free of grammar and spelling errors. It should read as if written by a professional writer. You may wish to have a friend or colleague look over your application for errors. There are also paid services available in most cities.

Make a Powerful Presentation

Your photo documentation must be dazzling and professional. All parts of your submission must look clean, sharp, and orderly. Often, the visual documentation will make or break many a grant decision.

Make a professional appearance. Put CDs in crisp, clean sleeves. Place written texts in clear folders. Once complete, do not fold your proposal. Put it along with all necessary supporting documents into a neat flat parcel envelope and mail or send via a courier service like UPS or Fed-X. Be sure to retain receipts for mail services because it is tax-deductible.