The Creative Capital Award: What is the application process like?

2005 Visual Arts Awardee Pablo Helguera recording "Parallel Lives" at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

2005 Visual Arts Awardee Pablo Helguera recording “Parallel Lives” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Please note: this blog entry was written in 2014 and reflects 2014 dates. Please see for the 2015 calendar.

What does applying to Creative Capital really mean? What do you have to do to make it happen?

Creative Capital is one of the only national nonprofit organizations that offers awards to individual artists through an open application process. This means that anyone can apply, as long as you meet our basic eligibility criteria.  In the past, Creative Capital has received 2,700 to 3,200 Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) in each award round. We work all year with arts professionals throughout the country to review your proposals before announcing the 46 funded projects.

On February 3rd, our application website will open to accept your LOI, with a submission deadline of February 28. The LOI is just a written proposal with no work samples. Once you fill out your contact information, education, professional accomplishments, and the name and email of one reference, you can begin to fill out your project proposal.

Along with the title, a short (50 word) description and a longer (250 word) description of your project, you are asked to respond to the following questions:

1) Please place your work in context so that we may better evaluate it. What are the main influences upon your work as an artist? How does your past work inform your current project? Please use concrete examples, which may include other artists’ work, art movements, cultural heritage, research/work from outside your field, etc. (150 words)

2) How does your project take an original and imaginative approach to content and form? Please be as specific as possible. (100 words)

3) What kind of impact—artistic, intellectual, communal, civic, social, etc.—do you hope your project will have? What strategies will you employ to achieve the desired impact? (100 words)

4) Who are the specific audiences/communities that you hope to engage through this project? Please think beyond the broad art community where possible. How are you hoping to reach them? (100 words)

5) How might your proposed project act as a catalyst for your artistic and professional growth? In what ways is it a pivotal moment in your practice? (100 words)

6) Given Creative Capital’s comprehensive system of support, how would you envision our non-monetary services and resources helping you realize your goals for this project as well as those for your long-term artistic and professional growth? (100 words)

Still from 2008 Film/Video Awardee Daniel Sousa's animted short, "Feral"

Still from 2008 Film/Video Awardee Daniel Sousa’s animted short, “Feral”

Now you may be asking, what are those non-monetary services? Creative Capital believes that access to advice and consultation during the creation of your project is as important to your success as the money. Artists receive a $10,000 initial award soon after the winners are announced, and they can receive up to $40,000 more towards their project, but we also provide our artists with a wealth of resources that help them complete their projects. The awardees become a community of support for each other by creating environments where they interact with each other and arts professionals who are at the frontlines of their fields. These resource people join to comprise a supportive team around each individual project.

The services provided include consultations with Artist Services staff; Artist Retreats and Regional Gatherings; annual meetings with legal, financial, marketing, PR, and web consultants; and ten meetings with a strategic planning coach. We want to know why you think all of these resources are important to you and how you think you will use of them.

You might also be wondering, what do we mean by impact? We understand that this is a tough question. Do your best to convey to us your dream for the kind of impact your project will have. Whether it is inspiring others to reconsider materials of the past or a wish to invoke societal changes for the future, we want to know how you hope to influence others.

We also want to know how this project is a catalyst for your artistic and professional growth. How will this award make a difference in your life? Why us? Why now? The age range of our awardees is wide, between 28 and 80. This is not an award only for emerging artists or for lifetime achievement. Let us know why this project will help you continue to engage in your work in the way that you need to at this stage of your life.

2000 Visual Arts Awardee Zoe Leonard's "Joy"

2000 Visual Arts Awardee Zoe Leonard’s “Joy”

Many potential applicants ask about collaborators. Creative Capital defines a “collaborator” as someone who is considered to be an artistic co-owner of the project, not someone who provides services on a “work for hire” basis. All collaborators must meet the basic eligibility requirements, provide their name, role and biography in the LOI and can only apply with one project in any single award year.

We allow two types of collaborations:

  • Ongoing Team or Collective Collaborations: Two to five people who have an established history of collaboration, sometimes organized under a group name, all of whom are committed to the completion of the proposed project.
  • One-Time Collaborations: A working arrangement between two to five people who have agreed to stay in partnership while completing the proposed project.

One-time collaborators will need to make a very strong case regarding their commitment to work together for the entire length of the project in order to be competitive. If granted an award, all parties in the collaboration will be required to sign a letter of agreement stating their intention to finish the project together.

Ok, so you’ve looked at the numbers, and you’ve seen the questions.  You may now be asking yourself, why should I apply?  Yes, we understand it is a very competitive process.  Here are a few reasons why we think you should:

We have tried to build value into the entire process, even if you don’t get a Creative Capital award.

The application form itself has been designed to help you better articulate your project and your goals for it, and to position yourself in your field. Many people have told us that the application itself taught them a lot about their project and their life goals.

In the first round, two people from your field will read about your project, and one of those will likely be from your region.

If you make it to the second round, four people from your field will have read about your project, AND you can elect to post on On Our Radar, a searchable database featuring more than 300 projects that advanced to the second or third round.  We promote On Our Radar to our email list of more than 30,000 people.

If you make it to the panel (but don’t end up getting the award), 5-7 more people will know about your project, so a total of 9-11 people in your field will have been informed about your project.  Also, we will provide feedback on your proposal, if you want it, if you make it to the panel.

Think about all of this when you are deciding if you want to apply.  We look forward to reading your proposals!

Learn more about Creative Capital’s awards program and apply online from February 3-28, 2014 at

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This entry was posted in TIPS & TOOLS: Resources for Artists and tagged , , , by Lisa Dent. Bookmark the permalink.
Lisa Dent

About Lisa Dent

Lisa Dent is Creative Capital's Director of Resources & Award Programs and Interim Director of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards. Before joining Creative Capital, she served as the Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. Dent previously held curatorial staff positions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and was a director at Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York. In addition, Dent has worked in film and the performing arts as a scenic designer, art director and producer on numerous projects. From 2004-08, Dent owned and managed Lisa Dent Gallery in San Francisco, where she presented the work of emerging and mid-career international artists. She has taught courses in art history and design at Cooper Union, University of California, Davis, Columbus College of Art and Design, and The Ohio State University. Dent received her BFA from Howard University, her MFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in curatorial studies.

15 thoughts on “The Creative Capital Award: What is the application process like?

  1. I am excited about the opportunity to show my musical talent and skills! Receiving a chance to show my creativity means means more than words can express. I am honored to give this my best shot. Not too many opportunities come along in a lifetime.

    Thanks for reading my comments,
    R. Jackson

  2. I am concerned about charges of agism I am hearing about Creative Capital. What is the policy ?
    What age group do you actually fund ? I don’t notice many faces looking over 25 years old.

    • Hello Rolf, and thanks for your note. In fact, artists must be over 25 to apply for the Creative Capital Award, but beyond that we have no age restrictions. Our last round of artists who received funding ranged in age from 28 to 80 years years old. All the best!

  3. I have been a nurse for the past 15 years and I have a passionate commitment to my organization
    The Foundation for the advancement of Nurses. I have created a half hour public television talk show, Reel Nurses, where I interview actual nurses regarding the issues they face and why they love their jobs. This show currently airs in Portland Oregon only and my vision is to see it in every major city. I greatly appreciate your organization and what you are committed to. I will send in my inquiry for your current grant process. Thank you

  4. Hello! I am an improvising musician (piano) that has come out of “retirement” after many years, due to the prodding of a friend and fellow musician. I have performed frequently at the Tavern of Fine Arts ( and I am hosting a session there March 5th, 2015. The group is called “The Perihelion Ensemble” also featuring St. Louis Poet Laureate Dr. Michael Castro. Currently I am recording a CD with Tracy Andreotti of cello & piano duets. During this creative output I have thought of at least 6 other recording projects involving the best local “free improvisers”. Michael Hunt, who has come to several of our performances, e-mailed this grant proposal to me, as well as my friend & fellow pianist David Parker. This particular art form needs to be funded in order to release many projects that will hopefully inspire the next wave of artists. I will be applying to your grant proposal officially during the next week or two. Please check my recordings out on Thank you,
    Greg W. Mills

  5. Your LOI process has finished correct? The next time I can send a letter is next February? Just checking, sometimes the websites aren’t updated. Many thanks.

  6. I’ve got a book project and notice most of your coverage shows visual artists. How important are writers to Creative Capital, and is there anywhere on your site or elsewhere to get more information about projects you’ve supported in the past?

  7. I would like to paint murals for private or public schools where children get involved and the theme will be teaching respect and consideration ,honoring the ethnical differences-cultural and religious of different nationalities.I hope to decrease violence and make children to be friendly and good team players with their colleagues.

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