Creative Capital

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Creative Capital
AbbreviationCreative Capital
TypePhilanthropic nonprofit arts organization
  • New York City
ServicesVisual artists, performing artists, literary artists, and multidisciplinary artists in the United States
MethodsAwards grants up to $50,000 to individual artists and artist services valued at an additional $50,000; provides artist workshops, educational programming, and artist gatherings across the United States
President & Executive Director
Christine Kuan (2021-Present); Suzy Delvalle (2016-2020)
Founding Director
Ruby Lerner (1999-2016)

Creative Capital is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in New York City that supports artists across the United States through funding, counsel, gatherings, and career development services. Since its founding in 1999, Creative Capital has committed over $50 million in project funding and advisory support to 631 projects representing 783 artists and has worked with thousands more artists across the country through workshops and other resources.[1] One of the "most prestigious art grants in the country,"[2] their yearly Creative Capital Awards application is open to artists in over 40 different disciplines spanning the visual arts, performing arts, moving image, literature, technology, and socially-engaged art.

Their stated mission is to “amplify the voices of artists working in all creative disciplines and catalyze connections to help them realize their visions and build sustainable practices.”[3]


During the "culture wars" of the 1990s, the National Endowment for the Arts's (NEA) cut funding for individual artists.[4] In response, Arch Gillies of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts spearheaded the creation of a new organization that would directly fund individual artists. Creative Capital began in 1999 with Ruby Lerner as Founding Director. The announcement of the organization appeared on the front page of The New York Times, noting that Creative Capital would "actively advocate freedom of expression" and "support artists who challenge convention."[5]

In its first year, Creative Capital launched by selecting 75 artists to receive the Creative Capital Award.[6] In 2002, the organization launched their first Artist Retreat at Skowhegan School of Painting. This in-person meeting of artists and professionals became a core part of Creative Capital's model, allowing for an exchange of ideas and as well as a platform to spark new connections within the community.[7][8]

Creative Capital has supported many artists whose projects have become well recognized in their fields and beyond, including Paul Beatty’s The Sellout,[9] Yance Ford’s Strong Island,[10] Bill Morrison’s Decasia,[11][12] Bandaloop's Crossing,[13] Sam Van Aken’s Tree of 40 Fruits,[14] Jae Rhim Lee’s Infinity Burial Project,[15] Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts,[16] as well as early works by artists like Taylor Mac, Sanford Biggers, Laura Poitras, and Jeffrey Gibson.

In 2019, Creative Capital celebrated their 20th anniversary,[17] announcing a yearly award and retreat cycle. In partnership with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Creative Capital invited several writers to examine projects from each award cycle year in the organization's first two decades.[18]

Creative Capital Awards[edit]

Through an open application process, Creative Capital identifies and selects artists from all disciplines to receive the Creative Capital Award. The award gives each project access to $50,000 in direct funding allocated at key intervals in project development, combined with additional mentorship and advisory services.[19]

While there were a total of 12 award cycles from 2000 to 2019, in 2019 for their 20th anniversary, Creative Capital announced a new annual award cycle.[20]

Philanthropic Model and Artist Services[edit]

Creative Capital calls for artists to submit their project ideas through a free and open application for the Creative Capital Awards. After selecting artists for the awards, the organization applies a venture philanthropy model to help those artists develop their projects with funding, professional development, and advisory services, including artist coaching, communications and promotion, strategic planning, and legal and financial counsel.[21] The award gives artists access to a series of gatherings, like the Artist Retreat, designed to connect them with a community of artists and professionals who can help realize and present their work at venues and organizations all over the world.[22]

Creative Capital's approach centers on the idea that time and advisory services are as important to the creative process as money. As awardees' funded projects develop, Creative Capital staff meet with them to set goals and chart progress. Creative Capital provides funding at benchmark moments for each project, including initial funding, support to build the artist's personal and professional capacity, follow-up support for project production, funding for the project's premiere, and support for the project's expansion after its premiere.[23] Of this type of support, Sheryl Oring, a Creative Capital Awardee, has said, "For mid-career artists like me, Creative Capital can help make the difference between whether we keep making art or give up."[24]

Creative Capital Award recipients[edit]

Notable awardees include[edit]

Performing Arts

Performing arts works funded by Creative Capital often blur the genres, including musical performance, theater, comedy, puppetry, dance, jazz, and multimedia installation. Notable projects include James Scruggs's 3/Fifths, Robin Frohardt's The Plastic Bag Store, Kyle Abraham's Dearest Home, Nick Cave's Drop, Taylor Mac's The Lily’s Revenge, and Young Jean Lee's Lear.

Visual Arts

Visual arts projects that have received Creative Capital Awards include installation, painting, sculpture, photography, and public art. Notable funded projects include Abigail DeVille’s The Bronx: History of Now, Richard Pell’s Center for PostNatural History, Jennie C. JonesCounterpoint, Critical Art Ensemble’s GenTerra,[25] and Lead Pencil StudiosMaryhill Double.[26]

Moving Image

Creative Capital Projects in moving image include narrative and documentary film, short, episodic, and experimental film, animation, and video art. Notable projects include Penny Lane's documentary, NUTS!, Barbara Hammer's Resisting Paradise,[27] Sam Green's The Weather Underground,[28] as well as Yance Ford's Strong Island,[29] and Daniel Sousa's Feral, both of which were nominated for Academy Awards.[30]


Creative Capital began funding literature projects in 2005, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and hybrid literary works. Notable projects include Paul Beatty's The Sellout, Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts, and Bernadette Mayer's The Helens of Troy, New York.

Emerging Fields

Since 2000, Creative Capital has funded projects under a particular discipline they call “emerging fields,” which includes disciplines not typically classified as art. As of 2019, the category has been broken out into more specific categories, such as technology, social practice, software, architecture & design.[31] Some notable artists funded in this category include:

Artist Retreat[edit]

After each new round of awards is announced, Creative Capital hosts a retreat for the artists, as well as people connected to Creative Capital in various ways who act as consultants, workshop leaders or observers.[32] In various workshops and meetings with consultants, artists are advised on how to plan the coming years of their artistic careers as well their personal goals.[33]

Creative Capital hosts a variety of events for awardees to meet each other and others within the artistic community. Critic Paddy Johnson wrote, "These conferences offer grantees an amazing opportunity to connect with other artists and a wide range of curators, distributors, and artistic directors through mixers, meetings with consultants, and artist presentations. They also ask grantees to return to the conference every couple of years, which keeps them in touch with a constantly expanding network of creative art folk."[34]

Awardees are also asked to present their Creative Capital Award project ideas as a work-in-progress to a live audience of curators and presenters.[35] These presentations are uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed by the public.[36]

Workshops and Resources[edit]

In 2003 Creative Capital started producing workshops, offering all artists access to online and in-person workshops to help them with skills such as communication and marketing, strategic planning, self-management, fundraising, and community building. Many of the programs are developed and led by Creative Capital Awardees, using the affordable workshop model to give them a platform to share their expertise. The workshops have been described as a "crash course in self-management, strategic planning, fundraising and promotion."[37]

During the pandemic in 2020, Creative Capital provided online resources including free artist workshops.[38] The organization was also a member of Artist Relief, an emergency coalition of national arts grantmakers to support artists during the COVID-19 crisis.[39]


  1. ^ "About Us". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  2. ^ Vansynghel, Margo. "'A bunch of badasses': Northwest artists win prestigious art grants worth $100K | Crosscut". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  3. ^ "About Us". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  4. ^ "Bohemian Boot Camp for New York Artists -- New York Magazine - Nymag". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  5. ^ Dobrzynski, Judith H. (1999-05-03). "Private Donors Unite to Support Art Spurned by the Government". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  6. ^ "New Fund to Support Emerging Artists Awards 75 Grants Totaling Over $560,000". 27 January 2000. Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  7. ^ Candid. "A Spark for Good Art: Creative Capital Doesn't Just Fund Projects, It Builds Careers". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  8. ^ "How Ruby Lerner's Vision Shaped the Unique Model of Creative Capital". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  9. ^ "Paul Beatty is the first American to win the Man Booker Prize". Los Angeles Times. 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  10. ^ "STRONG ISLAND". STRONG ISLAND. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  11. ^ "Bill Morrison's "Decasia" Added to National Film Registry". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  12. ^ Marfa, The Chinati Foundation PO Box 1135 / 1 Cavalry Row; Foundation, TX 79843 Wed-Sun 9am–5pm map | plan your visit © 2021 The Chinati. "Bill Morrison: Film Screening at the Crowley Theater – The Chinati Foundation". Retrieved 2021-03-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Creative types get a bit of business schooling". Los Angeles Times. 2006-08-20. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  14. ^ "Tree of 40 Fruit". 21c Museum Hotels. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  15. ^ "Infinity Burial Project » Coeio". Coeio. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  16. ^ "Creative Writing Lecture: Maggie Nelson". Columbia - School of the Arts. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  17. ^ "20th Anniversary". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  18. ^ Fateman, Johanna. "Art Matters Now — 12 Writers on 20 Years of Art: Johanna Fateman on the Founding of Creative Capital". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  19. ^ "About the Creative Capital Award". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  20. ^ Candid. "Creative Capital Shifts to Annual Funding Cycle for Artists". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  21. ^ "Creative Capital: Sustaining the Arts ^ 810098". HBR Store. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  22. ^ "Venture Philanthropy for the Arts, for Innovation (SSIR)". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  23. ^ "Our Approach". Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  24. ^ Murphy, Tim. "Bohemian Boot Camp". Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  25. ^ "How Critical Art Ensemble Pioneered Bio Art". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  26. ^ Graves, Jen. "Dust and the Promise of Water". The Stranger. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  27. ^ ""Remembering Barbara Hammer: Artists Discuss Her Legacy, Generosity, and Work." Creative Capital, April 18, 2019". Barbara Hammer. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  28. ^ "The Ripple Effect of History: A Documentary about a Group of Radical Activists Resonates Today". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  29. ^ "Yance Ford on Asking the Right Questions with "Strong Island"". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  30. ^ "'Strong Island' Director Yance Ford Makes Oscars History". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  31. ^ "Awardees". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  32. ^ "Retreat & Gatherings". Creative Capital. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  33. ^ "Bohemian Boot Camp for New York Artists -- New York Magazine - Nymag". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  34. ^ Johnson, Paddy. "Expanding The Creative Capital Network". Art Fag City. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  35. ^ "Venture Philanthropy for the Arts, for Innovation (SSIR)". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  36. ^ "- YouTube". Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  37. ^ Johnson, Annie (3 June 2011). "Workshop brings 'creative capital'". Nashville Business Journal. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  38. ^ Jaime, Angie. "6 Digital Art Museums You Can Visit From Home". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
  39. ^ "About". Artist Relief. Retrieved 2021-03-30.

External links[edit]