20 Years of Creative Capital

The origins of Creative Capital date to the late 1990s, after the National Endowment for the Arts ended the majority of its grants for individual artists. In response, Archibald Gillies, then President of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, brought together a group of visionary individuals committed to supporting artists in a new way, with Ruby Lerner at the helm.

Drawing inspiration from the rapid growth of the tech industry, these founding leaders developed a new model for cultural philanthropy that adopted elements of the venture capital ethos, in particular the ways in which entrepreneurs in other sectors were being holistically supported. Bringing together financial project support with workshops, mentorship, and networking opportunities, the model was designed to help artists become self-sufficient in the long term and to achieve success on their terms, however they define it. The organization became Creative Capital.

Creative Capital and Los Angeles Review of Books Look Back on 20 Years of Groundbreaking Art

Creative Capital has invited 12 arts writers to explore key moments in the history of the Creative Capital Award in celebration of our 20th anniversary. The essays include a variety of voices and subjects, looking at many of the projects we have supported that proved groundbreaking and prescient, reflecting and responding to a world in a constant state of flux.

Creative Capital is pleased to partner with Los Angeles Review of Books who will publish these essays once a month. Johanna Fateman, writer and awardee, begins with a look at the year 2000, the significance of the launch of Creative Capital, what it meant for avant-garde artists who were making “unmarketable” work in a country that was hesitant to support them.

Read the essay

Creative Capital Awards Through the Years

The first cycle of the Creative Capital Awards in 2000 was given to 81 artists representing 75 projects, which premiered across the country. Awardees in this class included Xenobia Bailey, Barbara Hammer, Daniel Alexander Jones, Ralph Lemon, and Meredith Monk. Since that first class of artists, there have been eleven more, totaling 561 projects and 700 individual artists to date. These artists have gone on to receive 108 Guggenheim Fellowships, 12 MacArthur Fellowships, 8 Oscar nominations, and 1 Man Booker prize, a testament to the quality of work Creative Capital has helped make possible.

How Maquilápolis Led the Way As Documentaries Became Important Tools for Justice and Change

As Creative Capital celebrates its 20th anniversary, we are looking back at some of the 561 projects supported over the past two decades—including film, visual art, performance, literature, technology, social practice, and everything in between. In each piece, artists reflect on their projects and their insights, struggles, accomplishments, and how Creative Capital helped shape their practice.

Vicky Funari talks about her Creative Capital Project, Maquilápolis, a documentary that uses the medium as a way to galvanize support for a range of issues, from environmental justice to women’s rights.

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How can art change the world today?

Sheryl Oring. Photo by CarlosDavid.

Creative Capital has a long-standing commitment to meet artists where they are, evolving along with changes in the culture, the way that artists function, and economic realities. Most recently, that commitment has manifested as a new, annual award cycle, which Creative Capital announced in tandem with the beginning of its 20th Anniversary celebration year at the 2019 Artist Retreat.

Awardee Sheryl Oring asked people at the 2019 Creative Capital Artist Retreat to discuss what we can accomplish with art, and she recorded their answers and images using her signature typewriter and a polaroid to celebrate Creative Capital’s 20th anniversary. Creative Capital was founded when arts funding in the US was at stake as a result of the culture wars of the 1990s, and 20 years later there’s still a critical need for artist support. So, how would you use art to change the world?