The “F” Word

Yeh. I’m talking about it – funding. Always the elephant in the room no matter what kind of work you are doing. For people working on temporary or ephemeral public art it can be particularly tricky.

Money!, originally uploaded by Tracy O.

Not everyone can be funded be Creative Time or get a Creative Capital grant (as amazing as those two resources are). The work doesn’t fall under the purview of percent for the art and can be tricky to explain to granting organizations- it’s not performance or object oriented, it may have educational components.

So when thinking about funding, we sometimes have to be our most creative.
While the Creative Capital professional development program espouses finding something else you like to do and get paid for it – because you will always be your biggest funder, I prefer to think that you can find ways to “extend” your practice to help fund it.

One thing to really look at when building your budget for a project is to think about the full circle of funding that comes into play. Are you given an opportunity to speak about your project for which you will be paid? Then that’s project income (even if it is after the fact).

Money Grab, originally uploaded by Steve Wampler.

Are people giving you services for discount or free? Are you getting space or other resources at reduced costs or for free? Those go in your budget too – and are the beautiful thing called “in-kind donations.” (I’ve received literally thousands and thousands of dollars worth of in-kind donations).

You also should broaden your search for funding.

Look beyond the arts world for grants – are you doing work that has a social justice aspect? Go after some of that money. Environmental issues? Lots of money for that. Figure out a unique position of your work and find the funding streams that will support it. (More on fiscal sponsorship in another post to come).

I also strongly encourage going after “sponsorship” or corporate funding. Lot’s of different companies are interested in aligning themselves with the arts – particularly attention getting creative arts public projects. Kurt Peschke had his series of Chicago installations of his Red Ball Project sponsored by Target. (That’s pretty brilliant).

Fund public Art, originally uploaded by bourgeoisbee.

Another way to bring in money is to sell peripheral products – think of Christo & Jean Claude’s prints of The Gates with little pieces of cloth stuck to them. That raised the majority of the money for the project.

Finally, ask your audience for private donations (another place where fiscal sponsorship comes in handy). Most donors say that the single biggest reason that they gave money to a cause or project is “because I was asked.” So don’t be shy about asking for donations, most people love to feel like they are part of making a project happen. (I’ll do another post on how to raise money from individuals).

Finally finally (for real this time), consider your own investment in your work. It may be worth it to do the project “independent movie-maker style” – if you can invest in your own work, then you will see returns after the fact – whether in the aforementioned speaking opps, or commissions or getting larger grants for the next project because you have a proven track record.
Hey, be sure and let me know what other topics you would like for me to address or other inside information I can share to help you! (On the list of posts to write: fiscal sponsorship, community boards, budgets, individual donations…)

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