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Grant Guidelines

Sue Mark | Advaita Society

The Creative Work Fund invites artists and organizations to create new art works through collaborations. It celebrates the role of artists as problem solvers and making of art as a profound contribution to we-making and artistic innovation that strengthens communities. Artists are encouraged to collaborate with organizations of all kind: nonprofits, fiscally-sponsored collectives, schools, and public agencies.

In June 2024, the Fund will award approximately $775,000 in grants to organizations and collaborating artists. Grants will range from $25,000 to $50,000 and be paid to the nonprofit partner in the collaboration. Grantees receive the maximum amount of funds requested. Projects are expected to be completed within two or three years, but those of longer duration are considered.


Applicants are invited to a one-stage, streamlined application that allows collaborations to describe their idea and answer a few questions, then upload a project budget, lead and collaborating artist resumes, and a work sample.

The applications are reviewed by a group of community readers who forward about 50 of the submissions to a panel for further review and for award recommendations.


  • centers the creation of a new artwork
  • is an active, authentic working partnership between the artist or artists and the organization is central to the work’s development
  • engages the organization’s constituents in the artist’s work
  • centers artists’ creativity and problem-solving abilities in the collaboration
  • demonstrates that the making of art can strengthen a community, draw attention to an important issue, or engage audiences in new ways
  • challenges artistic imagination and organizational thinking
  • is rooted with artists, organizations, and final work in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County
  • pays at least two-thirds of CWF funds to the lead artist and their direct expenses for creating the work


  • is not rooted with artists, organizations, and final work in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma County
  • commissions new works by artists when the applicant organization and artists are not collaboratively engaged in creating those works
  • features a lead artist who is a current paid employee of or board member of the collaborating organization
  • does not feature the artist(s) centrally in the project descriptions and budget allocations
  • is one of multiple proposals for projects featuring the same artist or submitted by the same collaborating organization
  • involves a lead artist or collaborating organization that were awarded Creative Work Fund grants in 2021, 2022, or 2023
  • involves a lead artist or collaborating organization that have not completed Creative Work Fund projects and final reports awarded before 2021


2024 Invitation: All Disciplines


  • 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 application screening and award decisions are based on:



The Fund wants to be enthusiastic about the quality and potential of the artists’ work and encourages artists from all career stages to apply. Reviewers explore work samples, reflect on whether ideas are fresh and interesting, and whether the artist and organization seem well-suited to the project they have described

What is your sense of the project’s overall quality?
Is it an interesting idea?
Are they accomplished partners?
Does it have other distinctive qualities?


Collaboration is a defining theme for Creative Work Fund. Collaborations are realized through many different approaches. The Fund seeks projects in which there is a genuine depth of interaction among the participants. Strong projects generally include a balance of tenacity and flexibility, vision, and open mindedness. Added values may be engaging an organization’s constituents in the artists’ work, reaching new audiences, strengthening a community, or drawing attention to a critical question or need.

Does the project seem to be truly collaborative?
Is the proposed process appropriate and thoughtful?
Does the proposed project connect the artist’s passion and the organization’s work in this moment?
Does the collaboration seek to reach new audiences, strengthen a community, draw attention to a critical question or need?

Project Phase

These grants support the creative process at any stage. If a project is in its later stages, readers should ask themselves whether active, collaborative art making would be continuing after June 2024 when these grants will be awarded.

Is it a new work?
Is there a vision and plan for developing the project?
If it has already been developed, would the artist and organization still be collaborating on its creation if they received a grant in June 2024?
Is there a vision and plan for the presentation of the work at the end of the process of making it?


The project should have a reasonable plan. The Creative Work Fund is flexible about allowing organizations and artists to have as much time as they need to finish the work. The time needed to complete projects has ranged from two months to seven years. Most have been developed over two or three years.

Does the budget seem appropriate to the scale and ambitions of the project?
If other funds are needed, is it reasonable to assume the artist and the organization could raise or earn them?

Organizational Strength

The Fund does not have a rule about the size of organization that may apply, instead focusing on whether organizations are strong partners with collaborating artists. Reviewers gain some information about the history, mission, and goals of the collaborating organizations from the application. Staff research the financial health for the collaborating organizations that readers forward to panel review so reviewers can focus on other indicators of organizational strength.

Does the organization appear to have the capacity to undertake this project?
Is the form and process of the proposed project in alignment with the organization’s mission?
Does the organization’s presence bring insight, expertise, and relationships to the project?
Does the organization’s community/constituents benefit?


In our experience, creative collaborations express their potential in different ways. Both a “polished” and a “rough” proposal can dream big, forge new paths, innovate, and reimagine the current reality in ways that benefit us all. We are on the lookout for potential.

Are collaborators stretching to create something neither of them can create alone?
Are collaborators dreaming big? Being innovative?