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.