In 1994, the art world was rocked to its easels when the U.S. government decided to “reel in” funding practices for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in a major way. Long steeped in controversy, the NEA had suffered many blows in congress, the F.C.C. and other organizations who felt that the arts, particularly the visual arts, were either unnecessary, too frivolous, too risque or too well-endowed (in comparison to other facets of society). The move was swift and shattering. The resulting effects included the loss of grants to individual artists as well as significantly reduced budgets across the board. The NEA had been around since 1965 and since 1972 funded individual artists as a part of the organization’s mission to support arts and artists in America.
Since that time many other organizations, grants and philanthropic ventures have emerged in an effort to fill the void left by the NEA’s stifling. Though none have had the range, prestige or nationwide impact of the NEA. And in our current economy, such resources are needed more than ever, but never seem to be quite enough.
So what does one do? How can an artist maintain a lifestyle, be creative and not be evicted at the end of the month. Well the truth is its not easy. Depending on the art market to sustain you can be somewhat naive, especially in our current tumultuous economy. Grants and funding are spread thin and there is a great deal of competition. Neither of these facts should mean one does not continue to work the market to sell work or apply for any funding opportunities that are available. However, grandma always warned us about putting all of our eggs in one basket. A wise artist knows that a financially stable artists figures out ways to diversify his income while also managing to stay on top of his game. Here are a few tips I’d like to offer, they are only guides- but like a good sketch, can provide a foundation for a fiscal masterpiece!
1 Be inventive. Create a path to success where one has not existed before. The “beaten” path is that way for a reason.
2 Make GOOD work. Just because you can color within the lines doesn’t mean your art work deserves a 50k grant. Hone your skills, and be consistent!
3 Do your research. Like grants and funding opportunities for college, there are literally dozens, maybe hundreds of níche grants and fellowships available to artists. Some in your own back yard.
4 Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Say you don’t find a grant pre-packaged to your liking. Write your own and pitch it. That’s right. Like grants, there are also venture capitalists out there who are willing and able to support a well thought out project or idea. Additionally, if played right, there are brands and products that are looking for creative and innovative projects to attach themselves to.
5 Keep trying. I know the costs of stamps are adding up. But its like lotto, you can’t win if you don’t play. So just because you didn’t get the award this year, doesn’t mean you stop trying. Step your game up so the next time they see you, they can’t deny you.
Funding sources in Atlanta: