Finding Funding: Grants and Fundraising

Funding Basics

Ever wonder how successful artists fund their careers? This Resource Topic will explore that golden question and more.

There are a number of ways for artists to supplement their income and ease the financial burden that comes with being a working artist:

According to there are about 1.4 million working artists in the U.S. — defined as people whose primary earnings come from their art. (There’s no reliable way to track practicing artists who do not make their primary earnings in the arts.) Their median earnings in 2012 were around $30,000 a year, $36,000 with a bachelor’s degree.

Grants or fellowships provide funds that can be used to pay the rent and other expenses, allowing the artist to work full-time at being creative. Grants are very competitive and the amount awarded, stipulations, and application procedures for each vary widely. Some are given to allow an artist to complete a specifically proposed project; others are unrestricted. Some are awarded strictly based on need, others as a prize given out as part of a competition. Some are open to application, others only by nomination.

Then there are artist residencies, which typically require an artist to spend time away from their usual environment and obligations. Residencies will often provide studio space, meals, housing, and travel and living stipends.

Another way for artists to gain funding is to contact a nonprofit with a related mission that will serve as their fiscal sponsor. This allows artists to apply for grants and solicit tax-deductible charitable contributions under the sponsor’s exempt status.