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.

10 Tips for Performance Artists Working With Museums


“Thompkins Square Crawl” by Pope.L, who spoke with Adrienne Edwards from Performa at Walker Art Center’s “New Circuits” conference

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting with colleagues for New Circuits: Curating Contemporary Performance at Walker Art Center, a convening supported by a curatorial fellowship grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. We came together to discuss new models of performance curating, particular how they are supported within the museum setting. In addition to learning about the incredible work being created across the country by these forward thinking artists and curators, I learned a lot about what artists can do to better advocate for themselves. Here is my Top Ten list, the best things I heard from curators who want to help you help yourselves!

  1. Before accepting a commission, performance or residency, instead of giving the director or curator your proposal, Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA), suggested that artists provide a wish list instead.  That way the curator or director can tell you how they can support your creative process and how they can’t.

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Valuing Artists’ Work: How and When Should Artists Get Paid?

Earlier this month, I was in Minneapolis / St. Paul for Hand-in-Glove 2015, a national convening for the field of alternative art spaces, artist-led projects and artists’ organizations. My session, entitled “Art Works?,” questioned when and how artists should be compensated for their work. Each of the panelists—session host Alison Gerber (artist/sociologist), Wing Young Huie (artist), Lise Soskolne (W.A.G.E.) and myself—began the session with a positioning statement about this question. My statement follows, and a video of the full session is available above. Artists and art workers, let us know what you think about this question by leaving comments below. 

As part of my work for Creative Capital and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, I oversee both award programs, each of which provides funding and services for artists in a variety of disciplines. I am also considering this question from my perspective after 25 years of working in the cultural arena, including the curatorial departments of various museums, the ten years that I worked as a freelance theater, TV and film designer and producer and the four and a half years I owned my own gallery. Continue reading

The Creative Capital Award – Who Helps Us Decide?


Today, we announced the 2015 Creative Capital Artists in Moving Image and Visual Arts. We could not be more excited about the 46 new funded projects—an incredibly diverse group hailing from 13 states plus Puerto Rico and Canada. We’ve arrived at this day thanks in huge part to the work of our valued colleagues who help us select each group of Creative Capital Artists. While we worked with more than 100 consultants during the ten-month process, two consultants advised us during the entire award round, reviewing submissions at every stage. I asked Mike Plante (Programmer at the Sundance Film Festival and our Program Consultant for Moving Image) and Dean Daderko (Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and our Program Consultant for Visual Arts) a few questions about what it was like to work with Creative Capital on the process.

Lisa Dent: What motivated you to work with Creative Capital as a Program Consultant for this award round?

Mike PlanteMike Plante: Everyone wants to help artists and filmmakers make a project but it’s difficult to know how to actually do it. Creative Capital has made the blueprint. It’s rare to give filmmakers and artists money with few strings attached, but that is exactly what CC does. To be part of a process that finds amazing artists across the country, discuss their ideas and the path they are on – and to then give them not only financial help but real-world advice about balancing work and life. It’s really a dream project.

Photo by Matthew Rowe, Houston

Dean Daderko: My motivation is pretty simple: I know of no other funding body that is as forward-thinking, as deeply generous, or as profoundly invested in being responsive to artists’ practices as Creative Capital. They fund the projects other organizations wouldn’t even consider! The end game here isn’t a substantial check—their commitment begins well before artists reach this stage, and continues throughout the life of the project, and beyond! Creative Capital understands fundamentally that by working with artists as partners—and by providing not just money, but thought, time and rich reserves of resources and connections—that they can positively and productively shape the future. Their unconventional and deeply responsible approach gives artists an incredible amount of agency, and they’re invited to bring their creative approaches to innovating and developing a game plan that’s uniquely responsive to the goals and concerns of their projects. The success they’ve had with this artist-centric strategy speaks for itself: so many artists will tell you what a dream it is to work with Creative Capital. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the staff are some of the friendliest, most helpful, and well-connected people around either! Ruby Lerner is my hero! Continue reading

Our Award Selection Process: What Happens Next?

We are so proud of the fact that Creative Capital is one of the only national nonprofit organizations that awards grants to individual artists through an open application process. This means that anyone can apply, as long as you meet our basic eligibility criteria. In February, Creative Capital received more than 3,700 Letters of Inquiry for grants in Visual Arts & Moving Image—our biggest applicant pool to date! The applicants hailed from 49 U.S. states and Puerto Rico (Mississippi artists, we want you!), along with U.S. citizens living in 26 other countries. In January 2015, we’ll announce the 46 funded projects in our next class of awardees. Yes, it really does take almost a year to select the next class of Creative Capital Artists!

Applicants, funders and others in our network often ask us how we go about winnowing thousands of applications down to only 46 funded projects. The short answer: very thoughtfully, and with a lot of help.

Creative Capital actively solicits new applicants through an open call for Letters of Inquiry, using web-based outreach, in-person and online info sessions, and partner organizations to help us spread the word. This year we worked with seven Program Consultants who advised us in our grantmaking process, in addition to 22 colleagues in different parts of the country who suggested artists and artist organizations in their geographic region to notify about the award deadline. Continue reading

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.

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Nick Szuberla Organizes for Criminal Justice Reform

Faces from the Nation Inside video Storybank

Faces from the Nation Inside video Storybank

A few months ago I had the opportunity to talk to Nick Szuberla, a 2006 Emerging Fields grantee, about the development of his Creative Capital project, Thousand Kites, a multimedia, community-based project centered on the criminal justice system in the U.S. Only part of that story made it into my original blog post, so I followed up with him so that we could share the whole, fantastic story.

Lisa Dent: When you first applied for the Creative Capital grant in 2005, what was your most important goal?

Nick Szuberla: When I moved from my hometown of Toledo, OH and into the Appalachian coalfields in 1998, I was interested in learning more about the impact that prisons, as a form of economic development, were having on the Appalachian community. I made contact with local prisoners after I began a weekly radio program, “Holler to the Hood,” that became popular with them.  I was playing hip-hop in a sea of bluegrass. The prisoners I spoke with cued me in to the human rights abuses taking place at two supermax prisons near my home. Among the numerous tragedies I learned about, two ended in the death of an inmate. Continue reading

Shih Chieh Huang Creates New Commissioned Work for Glasstress 2013

Shih Chieh Huang, Seductive Evolution of Animated Illumination, 2013
Shih Chieh Huang, Seductive Evolution of Animated Illumination, 2013

The art world has gotten used to managing their calendars around the Venice Biennale every two years. In 2009, a collateral event was added to the offerings. In an effort to connect the history of Venetian glass production to the slew of contemporary art enthusiasts coming to town, Glasstress was formed. Seeking to illuminate the “…limitless possibilities inherent in glass,” organizers invited leading contemporary artists to collaborate with Murano glass blowers to create new work. Artists in 2009 and 2011 included Mona Hatoum, Chen Zhen, Fred Wilson, Dan Graham, Tony Oursler, Kiki Smith, Vik Muniz and Monica Bonvicini.

The 2013 iteration of Glasstress includes new work by Shih Chieh Huang (2009 Emerging Fields). Huang combined his process of making sculptures with household materials, animated by using original computer algorithims, with the traditional Venetian chandelier. The result connects Huang’s interest in technology and commercial culture with the great history of design from the islands of Murano. Continue reading

The In-Between: Artists Build New Frameworks for Institutions

Campaign for Prison Phone Justice
Nick Szuberla’s Campaign for Prison Phone Justice

Nick Szuberla, after working on his Creative Capital project Thousand Kites for several months, found himself sitting in front of what he described as “an amazing database.” He and his collaborators, Amelia Kirby and Donna Porterfield, had been in contact with hundreds of community members in the Appalachian region, interviewing them about their experiences with two local super-maximum security prisons. The artists intended to compile the material into scripts to read aloud and broadcast over the radio in the communities most affected by the nearby prison complexes. While people had a lot to say about their experiences, to Szuberla’s surprise, the most prevalent concern from family members was the high cost of phone calls to their loved ones behind bars.  Szuberla discovered that under many states current communications systems, phone calls to incarcerated individuals cost up to $3.80 a minute. Some families found themselves paying $20-30,000 a year on phone calls alone.

Szuberla found that many state governments are receiving kickbacks from local phone companies for these calls—up to 60% of the cost. Although there are currently eight states that have banned prison phone kickbacks, Szuberla and grassroots partners felt that more could be done. So they started the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice, an advocacy group committed to changing the price of these phone calls and giving families the opportunity to be connected again.

Over the years Creative Capital has noticed that an increasing number of grantees have decided to start their own organizations. We’re realizing that the financial and advisory services we provide our grantees help them not only complete their artistic projects but also find ways to address other needs in our society. These new institutions have focused on issues of social justice, food, product development and critical thinking skills.  Continue reading