Funder FAQ: Creative Capital Foundation

What is the Creative Capital Foundation?
Creative Capital is a new national organization that will manage a revolving tax-exempt fund designed to support artists who are pursuing innovative, experimental approaches to form and/or content in the visual, performing, and media arts.

How, when, and why did Creative Capital come into being?
All kinds of developments in the 1990s—good and bad—made it clear to a wide variety of people that a healthy society had to support freedom and continual creativity. Artists, entrepreneurs, and arts funders talked together in 1997 and 1998 and initiated Creative Capital. It began operations on January 4th, 1999.

What is your relationship to the Warhol Foundation?
Archibald Gillies, president of the Warhol Foundation, has taken the leadership role in developing the Creative Capital idea and by January 1999 had enlisted 14 other foundations and individuals to support the effort. The foundation is providing us with office space and some in-kind support. We are, however, a separately incorporated 501(c)(3) organization and have no legal affiliation with the Warhol Foundation.

What is your relationship to AIVF?
My six years as executive director of AIVF taught me that, as hard as it is for producers to find money to produce work, it’s even harder to get media work out into the world. This seems to be the more difficult part of the equation, and it’s what we’re going to focus on at Creative Capital.

The driving philosophy behind Creative Capital is…?
In contrast to traditional charitable grants programs in the arts, which usually provide only one-time financial assistance to an artist, Creative Capital will work closely with the artists it supports to help ensure the success of their projects by providing other non-artistic assistance (for example, marketing campaign approaches, researching distributors, etc). Creative Capital will help each project maximize its audience potential by providing resources it needs in order to succeed.

In return for Creative Capital’s financial and managerial support, artists selected will share a portion of the proceeds generated by their projects with Creative Capital’s fund. These proceeds will be used to replenish the fund and will enable Creative Capital to support more artists in the future.

The Creative Capital concept will not be right for all artists or projects, however. While we are providing a valuable service we will, unfortunately, not be the sole solution to the serious funding problems facing individual artists.

What is the total amount of funding that you will have for grants?
We hope to have at least one million dollars a year for project support. We will grant out about $700,000, holding the remaining $300,000 in reserve for further promotional and exhibition support for funded projects.

What percentage of your overall funding will go towards film or video projects?
Approximately 25%.

How many media awards are given out per year? For other disciplines?
We hope to award approximately 20 grants in each discipline area each year: 20 in media, 20 in performing arts, 20 in visual arts, and 20 in new media/interdisciplinary arts.

What will the average grant sizes be?
Most initial grants (about 15 in each discipline) will be in the $5,000 range, with a few (about five) in the $15-20,000 range for projects further along in their development.

What are the requirements for media applicants? Are there geographic limitations?
We are in the process of creating guidelines now. We will be providing support to artists working in the United States who are over 18 years of age. We are a national fund, but some money has been earmarked by funders for specific regions, including New York, California, Minnesota, and Hawaii.

Do you fund projects at various stages of production (e.g., script, development, production, distribution, etc.)?
We haven’t made this decision yet, but given our limited resources, we will probably have some restrictions.

Explain your funding cycle and deadlines:
For this year, our open submission period will be July 1 to August 15. There will be a preliminary proposal round which will require applicants to submit a one-page proposal and a resumé. Successful candidates will then be asked to submit a more detailed project and budget which will be reviewed by a panel. We hope to notify these candidates before the Christmas holidays.

Who makes up the staff of the Creative Capital Foundation?
Ruby Lerner, executive director; Leslie Singer, director of administration; Ken Chu, visual arts program officer; Esther Robinson, media/performing arts program officer; Eugene Hernandez, web consultant; and Jodi Magee, development consultant.

Who makes the awards decisions?
We will work with independent panels of five to seven people from the field who will make funding recommendations. The panel decisions will go to the board for final approval.

What advice do you have for media artists in putting forth a strong application?
There are so many projects that are worthy of support, and we’ll only be able to fund a small number. It will be critical to communicate what is unique about your project, what makes your project a bold and innovative one. We are also very interested in helping artists reach audiences, so people who have thought about who the audiences are for their work will probably make a stronger impression.

In your experience with funding panels and organizations, what are common mistakes that applicants make?
A lack of clarity in communicating the core ideas in their work and poor work samples.

What would people most be surprised to learn about this new foundation?
That it is not an endowed foundation and will have to fund raise and earn its annual budget each year, just like any other arts organization.

Other foundations or grantmaking organizations you admire and why:
The Warhol Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Texas Filmmaker Fund, and Jim McKay and Michael Stipe’s C-100 efforts. They are all creative funders willing to take risks, and all have taken leadership roles within the arts field.

Famous last words:
Be bold!

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