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Grant Guidelines

Sue Mark | Advaita Society

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 October 2023, the Fund will award approximately $650,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and collaborating artists. Grants will range from $20,000 to $50,000. Projects are expected to be completed within two or three years, but those of longer duration will be considered.


  • the creation of an artwork is central
  • the artist functions primarily as an artist, not as a teacher, an art therapist, or in another capacity
  • an active, authentic working partnership between the artist or artists and the organization is central to the work’s development
  • the organization’s constituents are engaged in the artist’s work
  • artists’ creativity and problem-solving abilities are central to the collaboration
  • the making of art can strengthen a community, draw attention to an important issue, or engage audiences in new ways
  • artistic imagination and organizational thinking are challenged
  • final presentations take place in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County
  • at least two-thirds of the grant funds are paid to the principal artists and their direct expenses for creating the work


  • commissions of new works by artists in which the applicant organization and artists are not collaboratively engaged in creating those works
  • projects in which the specified lead artist is an employee of or board member for the applying nonprofit organization (artists who were previously commissioned or contracted by an organization may still apply)
  • multiple letters of inquiry for projects featuring the same artist or submitted by the same collaborating organization
  • projects in which the lead artists and collaborating organizations are not based in the eligible counties or those with multiple artists, most of whom are based outside of the 10 counties
  • projects that do not feature the artist(s) centrally in the project descriptions and budget allocations
  • projects from lead artists or organizations that were awarded Creative Work Fund grants in 2020, 2021, or 2022
  • projects from artists or organizations that have not completed projects and final reports for previously awarded Creative Work Fund grants



2023 Invitation: All Disciplines

Artists from all artistic disciplines are welcome to apply in collaboration with a nonprofit organization (or an organization fiscally sponsored by a nonprofit). Lead artists will be asked to identify primary and secondary artistic disciplines in which they have strong track records of accomplishment.

Projects may culminate in any form. 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.

  • AnimationA dynamic visual project that creates the illusion of movement through a series of photographed frames or the use of computer software.
  • Architecture & DesignThe use of design for practical constructions including buildings, public spaces, interiors, furniture, clothing, typography, and graphics.
  • Artistic ActivismPractices that seek tangible change in social, political, environmental, or economic conditions.
  • Augmented RealityAn artwork that uses responsive technology to integrate images into the user’s real-world view.
  • Bio ArtWork involving living organisms and life processes.
  • Circus ArtsClowning, acrobatics, stunts, trapeze and balancing feats, juggling, magic, and other object-manipulation.
  • ComedyPractices that use humor to consider social norms and challenging topics.
  • CraftArtwork created by hand with a skillful technique or methodology.
  • Cultural OrganizingPractices that mobilize community members and reflect their cultural expressions.
  • DanceA live performance following the movement of one or more bodies.
  • Dance FilmAn artwork capturing movement that is staged and performed for camera.
  • Data VisualizationA graphic interpretation of facts or statistics that presents new ways of understanding information.
  • Digital MediaA blend of technology and content that is often responsive, and delivered on an electronic device.
  • Documentary FilmCreative nonfiction that uses moving images to question or expand the notion of truth of an actual event, era, or life story.
  • Drawing & IllustrationVisual art that uses line to create an image with dry or digital media.
  • Ecological ArtA practice that directly engages natural ecosystems and processes, often to interrogate relationships between the environment and its inhabitants.
  • Experimental FilmA film project that re-evaluates cinematic conventions and explores alternatives to traditional narratives or methods of working.
  • GamesA digital or analog activity with an established set of rules involving skill, chance, or endurance.
  • Graphic NovelA text that uses images to advance its narrative structure.
  • HardwareA project creating the mechanical equipment necessary for conducting an activity, distinguished from the theory or software that make the activity possible.
  • Hip HopUrban cultural practices encompassing rapping, DJing, b-boying/b-girling, beatboxing, and graffiti.
  • InstallationAn artwork comprised of multiple parts that create or alter a physical environment.
  • Internet ArtArtwork that uses the internet as a medium and distribution platform.
  • Literary FictionWorks of imaginative prose such as novels, story collections, or those cast in hybrid forms.
  • Literary NonfictionProse works that include narrative nonfiction, cultural criticism, essay, memoir, and work cast in hybrid forms.
  • MultimediaArtwork that blends multiple interfaces such as video, sound, text, or interactive content.
  • Multimedia PerformanceA live performance created with multiple interfaces such as video, installation, and interactive or immersive elements.
  • Music CompositionThe writing and production of an original song or instrumental music piece.
  • Music PerformanceA live performance of an original score.
  • Musical Theater>A staged performance that expresses ideas and emotions through the integration of theater and vocal performance.
  • Narrative FilmA film that tells uses characters and a plot to tell a story.
  • OperaAn extended dramatic composition in which all parts are sung with instrumental accompaniment and typically include arias, choruses, and recitatives.
  • PaintingA primarily flat object covered with pigmented media or other tactile materials.
  • Performance ArtA performance that integrates various live and static arts including acting, poetry, music, dance, painting, video, and sculpture.
  • PhotographyImages created using lens-based technologies.
  • PoetryWritten or spoken literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language to engage meaning.
  • Public ArtA project in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being publicly accessible.
  • PuppetryAn inanimate figure in movement manipulated by human control.
  • SculptureA work of art that operates in three dimensions.
  • Social PracticeA genre of participatory art which often focuses on the engagement of individuals, communities, institutions, or a combination of these.
  • SoftwarePrograms used to direct the operation of a device for storing, processing, transmitting, and displaying data.
  • Sound ArtAudible work that does not follow the conventions of music or voice recording.
  • Spoken WordPoetry with roots in oral traditions and performance, characterized by rhyme, repetition, and word play.
  • TheaterA project that is presented through a live, dramatic performance.
  • Traditional ArtsBased in the cultural life of a group sharing an ethnic heritage, language, religion, occupation, or region; often learned orally or by emulation.
  • Video ArtA moving image created independent of cinematic and theatrical conventions and often shown in a visual arts context.
  • Virtual RealityVisual technologies that immerse the user to alter their senses and perceptions.

Review Criteria

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

Reviewers focus on quality, collaboration, project phase, feasibility, organizational strength, and possibility, which we define as an expression of potential, either by dreaming big, forging new paths, innovating, or reimagining the current reality in ways that benefit us all.

All of these terms are fully defined in the downloadable guidelines and sample letter of inquiry document.

Who can apply?

Creative Work Fund projects feature one or more artists collaborating with 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and unincorporated collectives using a nonprofit fiscal sponsor. Artists and organizations come together for the sake of this collaboration, and may not have a deep history of previous collaboration. An artist should not submit a request to collaborate with an organization while serving on the organization’s staff or board of directors.

Residency Requirements

The principal collaborating artists must live in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, 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 10 counties.

Temporarily Relocated due to COVID-19?

If the principal collaborating artist is a resident in one of the 10 counties, but has temporarily relocated due to COVID-19, the artist may still be eligible. Simply indicate relocated status when registering for a grantseeker account and the CWF will follow up with the artist directly.

Limits on Submissions

Artists and organizations may submit one proposal per deadline and may receive no more than one Creative Work Fund grant every three years. For 2023 consideration, artists and organizations that received Creative Work Fund grants in September 2020, October 2021, and November 2022 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 10 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 2020, 2021, or 2022
  • Projects from artists or organizations that have not completed projects and final reports for previously awarded Creative Work Fund projects.
Further considerations

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 unlikely to be supported.

Have more questions?

Check our FAQ page.