In Funding Individual Artists, The Risk is the Reward

A GIA blog post by Tony Grant, co-director of Sustainable Arts Foundation

For decades, GIA and its members have been at the forefront of providing support for individual artists. While all forms of arts grantmaking are vital, the direct support of individual artists is, to co-opt an expression, where the paint meets the canvas.

A timeline, produced out of the 2013 GIA conference in Philadelphia, chronicles the deep roots of this support, and a formal case statement published in the Winter 2012 GIA Reader helps define clearly just how much individual artists are at the core of what we do. GIA's Support for Individual Artists Committee convenes regularly to discuss and share techniques and goals for supporting artists.

Individual artist support has always been a focal point at our annual conference, and a preconference focused on artists has been a sold-out staple for a decade.

The support we offer is a two-way street. Artists obviously benefit from the financial assistance of grants, awards, and fellowships, from residencies and educational opportunities, and from the professional development training that helps sustain their careers. But funders benefit as well, as the direct engagement of artists through this wide spectrum is a dialogue. Only through this engagement can we learn what it is that artists truly need, so we can tailor our programs to better support them.

Justification for any funding often entails a debate of risk vs. reward. In supporting individual artists, the risk is the reward. Artists are at the forefront of change: visualizing and realizing the hopes, pain, and concerns of our communities long before they are formally recognized by others.

GIA continues the exploration next month with a new series of webinars addressing the particular needs of individual artists and the organizations that sustain them. This series will discuss (and dispel) the myths that surround individual artist support, explore multiple approaches to offering grants and awards, and show how data and feedback can tighten the loop through which we shape our support.

We hope you’ll join the conversation!

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