More Than Money Can Buy: What Do Artists Need to Succeed? (Part One)


Ruby Lerner and Sean Elwood in stakeholder meeting with grantee Cory Arcangel (2006 Emerging Fields)
You may think of Creative Capital as an organization that gives grants to artists, but that’s only one part of the picture. We do award grants for artists’ projects, and we are thrilled to be able to provide artists with financial support! On the other hand, money alone doesn’t guarantee success. We’ve learned the importance of services and resources for artists, such as professional advice, contacts, networking and coaching.
Creative Capital’s approach pairs funding with advisory services and other non-monetary support for our grantees, including consultations with our Artist Services staff, access to our network of arts consultants, Artist Retreats, phone-in clinics and promotional activities.
We see ourselves as a “permanent laboratory,” continually experimenting with our programs and services to find what works best. In 2010, during our “Capstone” period between grantmaking years, we began an evaluation of our first decade that asked how we could evolve our array of Artist Services to better serve our grantees in a rapidly changing environment.

In our Capstone survey we asked all 406 artists who have received grants from Creative Capital to evaluate how well the organization has served them, how easy our services are to use, how easy it is to access funds and information, and how they would like to interact with us in the future. We also held focus groups in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles to delve deeper into these questions, and met with a number of grantees individually.
We received encouraging feedback from our grantees regarding the impact of Creative Capital’s support on their careers:
  • 86 percent of respondents regard the organization as “Critically Important” or “Very Important” to their professional lives.
  • 75 percent said that the award has allowed them to benefit from other financial, advisory, production or exhibition support that they may not have otherwise received.

Our internal evaluation confirmed that the fluid trajectory of the creative process means a more extended timeframe working with our grantees than we initially anticipated. Our funding and services may be spread across three to five years or more, so advisory services have an even higher value over this longer-term relationship.
Among the most frequent suggestions from artists for new or expanded services were:

  • Further training in promotion and marketing, fundraising, and estate planning
  • Access to contacts for funding sources, galleries and performance venues
  • Additional opportunities to gather together
  • More programs for “alumni” grantees (whose Creative Capital-supported projects have already premiered)
  • Broader connections to other funding and career opportunities

In response to our findings, in January 2012 Creative Capital will launch an enhanced program of Artist Services that provide more opportunities for artists to interact with each other and other professionals. Look for Part Two of my post “More Than Money Can Buy” for details on new Artist Services that we will roll out for our grantees, including the new 2012 Film/Video and Visual Arts grantees that we will announce later this week!


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