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Celebrating 25 years of supporting artists and nonprofits in creating new artworks collaboratively, the Creative Work Fund is now trying something new. While previous years’ applications have been limited to artists working in two broadly-defined artistic disciplines, this year’s Creative Work Fund grants are open to artists working in any discipline.

We’re inviting letters of inquiry from narrative poets, aerial dancers, electronic music composers, documentary filmmakers, oil painters, hip-hop collectives, and everyone in between.

For our letter of inquiry period, open from September 16  to December 6, 2019, all Bay Area artists and their partnering nonprofit organizations are welcome and encouraged to apply.

Why now?

Last year, the Creative Work Fund hosted a conversation among artists and nonprofit organizations we’d previously funded where we asked whether we should reconsider how we’d been defining artistic genres. Should spoken word artists be considered performing artists or literary artists? Are sound installation artists working in visual, performing, or media arts? How does one classify social practice art — work that centers around human interaction — or should that become a category of its own?

To our surprise, the group suggested we drop the yearly disciplinary restrictions entirely. Many artists work across boundaries of discipline and don’t want to be limited to a single dimension of their work. Additionally, the genre definitions we’d been applying, which often aligned with the structure of academic programs, inadvertently suggested that the Creative Work Fund was only interested in academically trained artists.

Other grantmakers further encouraged us to give artists the flexibility to time their applications in sync with their project schedules. And we realized, in hindsight, that artists applied every time their genre category was invited because they knew the opportunity wouldn’t come again for two or three years.

This pressure and these limitations served no one.

What’s Changing?

We’ve been learning how to design and roll out our new practice from Creative Capital, aligning how we list and define artistic disciplines with them (and adding a few of our own). You can expect to see two high level changes:

  1. Artistic discipline will not completely disappear from the process.
    By asking artists to identify their strongest areas of expertise, we can more easily pair their letters of inquiry with appropriate reviewers. Artists will indicate their “primary” and “secondary” disciplines from a long list of possible arts practices in the online Letter of Inquiry form. For those artists that work in more than two main disciplines, there will be opportunity within the Letter of Inquiry form to convey that.
  2. You can now only submit one application per inquiry period.
    In previous years, artists and nonprofits could submit up to two letters of inquiry to the Creative Work Fund, one for each discipline invited. Now, as the Fund will be open to inquires across all genre categories, both artists and organizations will be limited to submitting a single letter of inquiry per deadline.

What’s Not Changing?

Everything else is staying the same.

The Creative Work Fund is retaining both its focus and its selection criteria. We will continue to support artists creating new works through collaborations with nonprofit organizations and to limit our scope to artists who live, and nonprofits based in the 11 greater Bay Area counties (extending from Napa and Sonoma to Monterey).

While we have optimism about this experiment, we have not yet determined whether these changes will be permanent. After 25 years of grantmaking, we have seen that most projects incorporate media and new technologies in some way; that story gathering is a practice shared across disciplines; and that traditional artists want to simultaneously go deep into their cultural practices and experiment with contemporary forms.

We hope that being open to all disciplines enables artists to present themselves fully and authentically. The Creative Work Fund will be learning from these adjustments to our application criteria over the next year as we receive applications and respond to grantseekers’ questions.

We warmly invite you to be part of this experiment.

Get Ready to Apply

The window for letters of inquiry — for projects across all artistic disciplines — opens on September 16 and closes on December 6. Artists and nonprofit collaborators are encouraged to attend an applicant webinar or seminar to learn about how to apply to our program. Further, all are invited to a special panel discussion, where we’ll hear from previously supported artists and nonprofits:

Mastering Collaboration: Stories & Insights from the Creative Work Fund will take place on Monday, October 21 at 5:30 pm at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco.


Featured image: Installation view from Victor Cartagena’s collaboration with MACLA.