The Creative Capital Award is designed to assist artists who are working at the vanguard of their fields, or who have ideas to propel their artistic practices forward. Artists need partners to make ambitious work, and Creative Capital set out to be just that. The application is a way to help us determine which artists are ready to take the journey. To help us choose these artists, we work with hundreds of outside evaluators in all disciplines of the arts, representing different backgrounds and geographic locations. The information below will help clarify what we ask on the application, why we ask these questions, and how we evaluate the answers we receive.
Beginning in 2020, artists will submit one full application in February with a complete budget and six work samples. This is a shift from previous years in order to make the application process more efficient. The Creative Capital Award application is a highly competitive process, but we have built value into it to make the time the artist spends on the application worthwhile. The application questions are designed to provoke meaningful reflection about a project, why it needs to be made, and for whom. Over the years, we have heard feedback that regardless of the outcome, artists have used these questions as launch pads to think about the bigger picture, and more critically about their projects and their practices.
The application opens on an annual basis every February. So, we encourage artists to review the questions below, and prepare in advance to be ready to apply when we accept project proposals.
The next application for the Creative Capital Awards opens to artists in all disciplines February 1-29, 2020.
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Download a pdf of all the questions as they will appear on the application.
What we ask—Demographic information, location, hometown, citizenship status.
Why we ask it—Creative Capital is a national organization committed to supporting a diversity of voices and backgrounds. We ask our evaluators to think comprehensively about the cohort of artists we are funding to make sure that each awards cycle represents a multitude of voices.
We also ask if your project has any collaborators. Collaborators who have accepted to be part of one project can not submit another proposal, nor will they have to submit their own proposal for the same project. Collaborations should submit one application.
What we ask: choose one or two disciplines under which you categorize your project.
Why we ask it: Creative Capital supports artists in all disciplines. To make sure each project proposal is reviewed by the appropriate evaluator, we ask artists to select one or two disciplines which describe the project. This selection also helps us make sure each award cycle supports a diversity of types of work.
Projected Completion Date
What we ask—an estimation of the day, month, and year that your project will “premiere” or be completed.
Why we ask it—Artists who receive the Creative Capital Award will spend the first year as an awardee going through a comprehensive program involving workshops, one-on-one meetings, and gatherings, including the Artist Retreat. This first year is intended to help the artist expand or hone the project within this collaborative process. That means that works that premiere earlier than a year after receiving the award are not a great fit for Creative Capital. More appropriate are artworks that will premiere 2-5 years (or any time beyond that) after receiving the award, and we are explicit about that when instructing evaluators who review applications.
This date is only an estimation—we understand that project timelines are accelerated due to many factors, as they can be delayed, even years, because of unforeseen circumstances.
What we ask—Is the project in a research and development status, or in production mode?
Why we ask it—The Creative Capital Award is designed for artists in one of these two phases of their project lifespan. We understand if the status straddles one of the two phases, and often we have seen artists in production mode decide they need to do more research.
Research and development means the preliminary research into issues of content or technology necessary to complete the project, working on the ideas behind the project and/or making the blueprint from which the work will be made. For example, for a film or video project, it might mean background research or writing the script. For visual arts, this could include making preliminary sketches, conducting research or visiting a site.
We define “production” as the process of transforming an artistic idea or blueprint into an actual production or work. Some examples include casting, shooting or drawing animation cells for a filmmaker and making objects (photographs, paintings, installation elements) for a visual artist.
What we ask—Share a short description of your project. (50 words)
Why we ask it—We use this short summary as a reference and reminder of the project when we are creating lists and quick views. This is where artists can submit a short description, almost like a summary, or elevator pitch. In addition to telling what the work is about, artists might use this question to describe whether the project is a stand-alone work, like a film, or a specific series of works, like a set of paintings. We have funded works that come in all varieties of packages.
What we ask—Tell us about your project in detail, including the final form that your project will likely take. (250 words)
Why we ask it—Think of this fuller project description as the “blueprint” of the overall work. Descriptions are just a distilled theory of the project, but their goal should be to give the evaluators a vivid sense of the project so they can imagine it existing and “see” it in their mind’s eye. Often, in the excitement of discussing the concepts behind projects, many artists will forget to tell us how the project will ultimately manifest—as in, is it a digital work, a time-based performance, an installation, a documentary film? How will the audience ultimately interact with the work?
We encourage artists to be as specific as possible at this stage in the project’s development. We understand that this may change as the project develops and that the project may have multiple manifestations.
What we ask—Place your work in context so that we may better evaluate it. What are the main influences upon your work as an artist? How does your past work inform your current project? Use concrete examples, which may include other artists’ work, art movements, cultural heritage, research/work from outside your field, etc. (150 words)
Why we ask it—Even if a work is one-of-a-kind, we recognize that all artists work within a context of art and art history, as well as in response to a socio-political context. These questions are a way of helping us understand how artists situate their work in a timeline, how it responds to other work, and whether the artist is conscious and knowledgeable of other work that their project might be responding to. We are looking for artists who can be articulate about their work and have an understanding of the professional landscape. This is an opportunity for artists to explain what the work is about and how it fits into a larger context, be that aesthetic, social, or philosophical.
Innovation and Originality
What we ask—How does your project take an original and imaginative approach to content and form? (100 words)
Why we ask it—Creative Capital has always been committed to supporting pioneering, original, idea-driven work. How is the project pushing boundaries, taking risks, and exploring an idea in a new or different way?
When reviewing work, we instruct the evaluators to ask themselves whether the project is generative or derivative of past work. Projects should challenge the status quo and spark conversations in new and innovative ways. Innovation can occur in a variety of ways, like form, function, content, or technicality. It’s important for us that artists show that they have a deep engagement to the project and represent it with a clear vision.
What we ask—What kind of impact—artistic, intellectual, communal, civic, social, etc—do you hope your project will have? What strategies will you employ to achieve the desired impact? (100 words)
Why we ask it—Beyond actually making the work, it is important that artists understand what they wish to accomplish with their work. That doesn’t mean we are only looking for projects intended to have a big impact. It’s possible that the artist is looking to make work that impacts a particular issue engaging with a small, niche audience. Other projects are designed to speak to a wide variety of people across the country to change the conversation around a problem. In any case, we want to be sure that the artist is clear about what they want to accomplish with their project.
We seek to support ambitious artists striving to contribute to and expand creative, intellectual, civic and/or social dialogue using artistic means—this is a chance to explain how the project does this.
What we ask—Who are the specific audiences, and communities that you hope to engage through this project? Think beyond the broad art community. How are you hoping to reach them? (100 words)
Why we ask it—We encourage artists to begin thinking, at the earliest possible phase of their project, about whom they hope to reach. Additionally, we hope artists think about audiences outside a community like “theater-lovers” or “readers.”
This field allows us to see what kind of individuals, communities, or organizations would be most responsive to and appreciative of this project.
What we ask—How might your proposed project act as a catalyst for your artistic and professional growth? In what ways is it a pivotal moment in your practice? (100 words)
Why we ask it—The support an artist receives from the Creative Capital Award will reach well beyond making a project become a reality. The trajectory we hope to set artists on will help them create a sustainable creative life that only starts with the project, and extends to long-term career goals. A successful project is just one milestone in an artist’s career, so we hope that the artist understands how this fits into a longer narrative arc in professional momentum.
We want to know how artists envision their work changing in the next few years, and what part this proposed project will play in those goals. These responses provide us with a sense of the artistic ambition and the level of engagement in the artist’s professional development.
What we ask—Given Creative Capital’s comprehensive system of support, how would you envision our nonmonetary services and resources helping you realize your goals for this project as well as those for your long term artistic and professional growth? (100 words)
Why we ask it—The Creative Capital Award is more than $50,000 in direct project funding, and an additional set of services worth over $50,000 that include legal and financial counsel, community-building, networking, and promotional help. Most artists tell us that this part of the award is actually more valuable to them than the actual financial support, and we are looking for artists who are aware of what kind of help they need outside of money.
We work closely with artists to help them fulfill their project goals, and we remain engaged with funded projects beyond the initial award.
What we ask—Please upload work samples. Each work sample should include a caption for the work, including title, materials used, year completed, a short description, and contextual information.
Why we ask it—Work samples are a critical element of the proposal. Make sure you are intentional about the order of work samples. For quick views and reminders the first two samples are typically used as references. In addition, take us into the action right away. Remove any introductory text. Finally, only use passwords when absolutely necessary. We see a high number of samples with wrong passwords, and we’re not able to view a sample. Whether or not they are samples of the project the artist is proposing—and we understand artists may not have a work sample ready yet—the sample should help evaluators build a clear vision of the proposed project. Sign up for an online workshop on the essentials of work samples.
What we ask—A total itemized budget for your project proposal.
Why we ask it—This gives us an honest sense of how much it will take to make the project happen, including reasonable fees for the artists involved. It is also a window into the scale of the project and if you have a reasonable understanding of what it will take to execute it. Think of this as another way to tell the story of the proposed project. It’s important to understand that this is just an estimate, and that the budget is subject to change. We also recognize that this budget may well exceed what the Creative Capital Award is worth. Make sure to always pay yourself and active partners!
What we ask—Total amount raised so far from confirmed sources.
Why we ask it—This question is merely another way of determining where the artist is in their timeline of the project, providing a snapshot in time of where the artist is in making the project a reality. Since we expect to come in early during most projects’ timelines, proposals will not be penalized if no funding has been confirmed.
What we ask—Please attach a resume focusing on the last five years of work.
Why we ask it—The resume is another way to help us determine where the artist is in their career. Resumes are like an artist CV, featuring exhibitions, a list of publications or articles, and a list of awards. We call them resumes instead of CVs because we want them to showcase the projects completed so far, such as films, installations, sculptures, or whichever discipline the artist works in.
We understand that not everyone is formally trained, and may not have a typical resume. However, we are curious about where the creative work has taken artists—the resume tells a story about how a career has unfolded so far, even if it’s not traditional. A resume is only one window into the path the artist has taken. It’s also important to note that the Creative Capital Award is not a lifetime achievement award—it is project-based. Ultimately, we are concerned with the artist’s big idea.
What we ask—Contact information for one or more of the artist’s references, including name, phone number, email, institution, and relation.
Why we ask it—We don’t typically call on references, but since this is a long-term contractual partnership that we are entering with an artist, we do like to have them on hand if needed.
Your professional reference should be someone who can provide a knowledgeable evaluation of how you and your creative practice might benefit from receiving support from Creative Capital. This is meant to be a professional reference, not a personal character reference.
Institutional or Community Partners
What we ask—this is an optional question where artists can provide their institutional or community partners, including the same information as the reference.
Why we ask it—For some artists, the project truly depends on a particular partnership with an institution or a community—for example, in socially-engaged works, or public art installations intended for a specific venue. The artist may have made those partnerships already, so this field is a place to add this, and listing the partner will help us determine the level of commitment, sensitivity and community involvement that the artist has designed into the project.
The artist may have no need to form a partnership for their project—that’s why this is an optional response. Or, if a partnership is necessary, that is ok too: a big part of the Creative Capital Award is connecting artists with partners like these.
More questions? Artists can attend one of many info sessions happening around the country and online, and ask our staff in person questions they have about the application. View a past online info session. Download a pdf of all the questions as they will appear on the application.