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ArtsFund announces $10M in unrestricted grants for Washington arts organizations

caption: Arts Fund Executive Director Michael Greer
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Arts Fund Executive Director Michael Greer
photo @Michael Slobodian 2019

Seattle-based nonprofit ArtsFund recently announced a major new funding program. The Community Accelerator Grant will distribute $10 million to arts organizations statewide, with the hope of providing essential resources in a time of great need.

ArtsFund Executive Director Michael Greer believes that arts are essential to the fabric of communities. By funding these organizations, Greer said, we are also increasing the quality of life of the people creating and experiencing the arts.

“Arts and culture are a tool in a wider basket of goods that are responsible for community health and wellbeing, and I think we need to approach them as that,” Greer said. “That is what this program does. It will set a foundation for communities to use arts and culture along with all the other tools that they have in their toolkit, to create better quality of life for their communities and the people in those communities.”

The Accelerator Grant will distribute awards from $2,500 to $25,000 to arts organizations across the state. These awards will be unrestricted with the goal of providing essential support to arts groups.

“The immediate goal is that we have to put money out into the community,” said Tom Vásquez, Arts Fund's vice president of grant making. “As organizations are continuing to come back from the pandemic, they're starting to reopen, they're starting to see audiences come back, and we want to continue to support that ongoing recovery effort.”

Vásquez also hopes this round of funding will encourage future support from philanthropic peers.

“We're hoping, frankly, it's an influence to other funders who also want to step up in investment in the arts and culture community,” he said.

A key goal for the grant program is to reach as many organizations as possible. Arts Fund anticipates about 600 organizations total will receive funding.

ArtsFund anticipated questions from the community, such as – what will the application process look like? And how can we be sure it will be equitable? During the pandemic, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) were disproportionately impacted. Will BIPOC arts groups have equitable representation in funding?

ArtsFund first addressed these ideals by ensuring diversity in its selection panel. Not only did the group find geographic representation from different regions of the state, but Vasquez explains, “We have a demographic representation that matches, or in fact exceeds, the demographic breakdown of Washington state. We also have voices on the panel from the LGBTQ+ community, we have voices of people with disabilities, and we have voices of people from rural communities.”

The selection panel is also tasked with working with communities around the state and collecting feedback, so the panelists can make recommendations to ArtsFund on guidelines for eligibility requirements and prioritization of funding. But Vasquez says it is likely organizations with 501c3 nonprofit status, fiscal sponsorship, or Indigenous organizations would be eligible as long as they have a mission rooted in arts and culture, with the understanding that arts may look different in different regions and communities.

One local arts and culture organization that has received recent funding from ArtsFund is Red Eagle Soaring, a nonprofit with the mission of serving Native youth through performance art.

“We're not a huge nonprofit," said Russell North, the group's executive director. "We don't have a lot of rich friends in high places. Our work is grassroots. But the awesome thing about ArtsFund is that they have been such a consistent, strong supporter in believing what we do and making sure that our youth and our community stay elevated.”

While some parts of the application and eligibility processes are still in the works, ArtsFund is excited to announce an official date for accepting applications, and a virtual webinar where interested organizations can get information on the process. The Community Accelerator Grant will accept applications Jan. 4-31, 2023.

ArtsFund will host a virtual information session at 11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

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