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Grant Guidelines

Jenny Bawer Young | Manilatown Heritage Foundation Photo: Caroline Cabading

The Creative Work Fund invites artists and nonprofit organizations to create new art works through collaborations. It celebrates the role of artists as problem solvers and the making of art as a profound contribution to intellectual inquiry and to the strengthening of communities.  Artists are encouraged to collaborate with nonprofit organizations of all kinds, stretching boundaries and forging new partnerships.

In August 2018, the Fund will award approximately $600,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and collaborating literary or traditional artists. Grants will range from $10,000 to $40,000. Projects are expected to be completed within two or three years, but those of longer duration will be considered.

The Fund seeks

  • Projects in which the creation of an artwork is central
  • Projects in which the artist functions primarily as an artist, not as a teacher, an art therapist, or in another capacity
  • Projects in which an active, authentic working partnership between the artist or artists and the organization is central to the work’s development
  • Projects that engage the organization’s constituents in the artist’s work
  • Projects that draw upon artists’ creativity and problem-solving abilities
  • Projects through which the making of art can strengthen a community, draw attention to an important issue, or engage audiences in new ways
  • Projects that challenge artistic imagination and organizational thinking
  • Projects that will be presented in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County
  • Projects that designate at least two-thirds of the grant funds to the principal artists and their direct expenses for creating the work.

2017-18 Invitation:
Media & Performing Arts

The Creative Work Fund invites letters of inquiry from nonprofit organizations and collaborating media or performing artists. A media or performing arts project may culminate in any form, but it must feature a lead artist with a strong track record as a media or performing artist. The Creative Work Fund uses the following definitions for these eligible artists:

  • Media artists create narrative, documentary, animated, or experimental time-based works using audio, digital, film, and video media. Computer arts also are included in this category. (Please note that this category does not include journalism, and the Fund considers still photography in its visual arts category.)
    Examples of recently funded media arts projects
    • Sound artist Julie Caine collaborated with KALW Radio to create “Audiograph,” sound portraits of Bay Area neighborhoods developed through sound clips contributed by radio listeners that were collected and edited by the lead artist.
    • Filmmaker Laurie Coyle collaborated with the Chicana/Latina Foundation to create Adios Amor, the Search for Maria Moreno, a film that reveals the story of a long-forgotten leader and activist in the migrant farmworkers movement in California in the 1950s. Young scholars at the Chicana/Latina Foundation assisted Coyle with research for the film.  
    • Filmmaker and visual artist Sergio de la Torre and Vicky Funari collaborated with Global Exchange and Grupo Factor X to create Maquilapolis, a film revealing stories of Tijuana factory workers.
    • Digital media artist Erin McElroy and others from the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project collaborated with Tenants Together, to create digital maps and short films documenting stories of evictions in three Alameda County cities.
    • Brontez Purnell collaborated with The Lab to create Unstoppable Feat: The Dances of Ed Mock, a film about an iconic Bay Area dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor.
  • Performing artists create or execute work in dance, opera, performance art, theater, and vocal and instrumental music. (Spoken word artists should apply as literary artists in a future year.)
    Examples of recently funded performing arts projects
    • Seth Eisen is collaborating with Shaping San Francisco to create OUT of Site, a series of site-specific performances at LGBTQ historical sites in San Francisco. These will be presented through neighborhood walking tours.
    • Choreographer Erika Chong Shuch is collaborating with Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble to develop a new multi-disciplinary work, The Iron Shoes, based on an Eastern European folktale.
    • Playwright Sean San Jose collaborated with The Cutting Ball to develop and present Superheroes, a play about the crack cocaine epidemic, incorporating material from journalist Gary Webb’s investigation of links between the CIA and Nicaraguan drug smugglers.
    • Niloufar Talebi is collaborating with Merola Opera Program to create Abraham in Flames, a new opera inspired by the Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlou, conceived and with a libretto written by Talebi.
    • Ian Winters is collaborating with Wholly H2O to create Watershed Moments, a suite of new works integrating live media, new music composition, and scientific data collected within the project, focusing on the theme of water resources in today’s world.

In either category, artists and organizations should plan projects and prepare and authorize their letters of inquiry together. If a project will use a fiscal sponsor, that sponsor also must review and sign off on the letter.

Review Criteria

In the invited categories, the letter of inquiry screening and proposal award decisions will be based on:

  • Evidence of the range and quality of the artist’s work
  • Evidence that the project is an authentic collaboration between the artist and the organization
  • Evidence that the project stretches organizational thinking and artistic imagination
  • Demonstrated capability of the organization in its field
  • Evidence of fiscal responsibility and sound organizational management


Who Can Apply?
Creative Work Fund projects feature one or more artists collaborating with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Fiscal sponsors are allowed. The Fund encourages the artists and organizations to “come together” for the sake of this collaboration:  An artist should not submit a request to collaborate with an organization if he or she serves on its staff or board of directors.
Residency Requirements
The principal collaborating artists must live in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County and have lived there for at least two years prior to submitting a letter of inquiry.  Collaborating organizations also must be based in one of the 11 counties.
Limits on Submissions
Artists and organizations may submit one proposal per category per deadline and may receive no more than one Creative Work Fund grant every three years. For 2017-18 consideration, artists and organizations that received Creative Work Fund grants in August 2015, October 2016, and August 2017 are ineligible.


Past Creative Work Fund grant recipients also must have finished their projects and had their final reports approved before submitting new letters of inquiry.

The Fund will not consider

  • Commissions of new works by artists in which the applicant organization and artists are not collaboratively engaged in the making of those works
  • Projects in which the lead artists and collaborating organization are not based in the eligible counties or those with multiple artists, most of whom are based outside of the 11 counties
  • Projects that do not feature the artist(s) centrally as demonstrated by the project descriptions and budget allocations
  • Projects from lead artists or organizations that were awarded Creative Work Fund grants in 2015, 2016, or 2017
  • Projects from artists or organizations that have not completed projects and final reports for previously awarded Creative Work Fund projects.
Further consideration
Applicants receiving significant grants for the same project from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, or The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Special Awards in the Arts Program are less likely to be supported.
How to apply
Click here to learn how to apply.
The deadline for letters of inquiry was December 1, 2017 at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.