Creative Capital was established as a nonprofit 501(c)3 public charity in 1999 after the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) ended the majority of its grants for individual artists. In response, Archibald L. 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 as founding President & Executive Director. Creative Capital was created with the express purpose of funding the creation of innovative new work via direct financial support to individual artists. Gillies believed that fostering individual artists’ freedom of expression was critical to a vibrant democracy.
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 transformative grantmaking model was designed to help artists become self-sufficient in the long-term and to achieve career success on their terms, however they define it.
To date, Creative Capital has awarded more than $50 million to individual artists since our founding more than 20 years ago. Creative Capital has also inspired countless other nonprofit organizations to support individual artists through a transformative grantmaking model that provides artist services along with funding.
The New York Times reports on the launch of Creative Capital with the headline, “Private Grant Money for Spurned Artists,” May 3, 1999.
Each year, Creative Capital receives more than 4,000 exciting project proposals from artists across the country through our national, open call application process. We also provide artist-led workshops and educational programs, which are available gratis to Creative Capital Awardees and for free or at low cost to all artists. Our professional development workshops and programs have served 30,000 artists and growing. Without an endowment, Creative Capital relies entirely on institutional grants and individual donations in order to administer our awards and services to the thousands of worthy artists who benefit from our work.