Foundation for Contemporary Arts

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Not to be confused with the Foundation for Contemporary Art, in Ghana.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), originally known as the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, is a nonprofit based foundation in New York City founded by artists Jasper Johns, John Cage, and others in 1963. The FCA offers financial support and recognition to contemporary performing and visual artists through awards for artistic innovation and potential.

The FCA was founded in an effort to support performance artists through grants funded by the sale of donated artworks. The model was "Artists for Artists" as visual artists united to create the first benefit exhibition at the Allan Stone Gallery in support of their performance arts counterparts in 1963. Among early contributors to the Foundation's first benefit exhibition were Marcel Duchamp, Ellsworth Kelly, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Saul Steinberg, and Andy Warhol.[citation needed]

Since its establishment, the FCA has awarded more than 500 non-restrictive grants to individual artists and art organizations through its four grant programs: Grants to Artists, Grants to Organizations, Emergency Grants, and the biennial John Cage Award. The annually-awarded Robert Rauschenberg Award was established in 2013.

The FCA is located at 820 Greenwich Street in the West Village neighborhood of New York City.


In the early 1960s, FCA founders - along with Robert Rauschenberg and other visual artists - assisted Merce Cunningham and his dance company in his plan for a week of dance performances at a Broadway theater. In order to finance the performances, the benefit exhibition, the first of its kind, was organized at the Allan Stone Gallery. Unfortunately, Cunningham's performances were not realized and the funds raised were then used to support the Cunningham company's world tour in 1964. Cunningham supported the notion that other performance artists that were "in the same boat" as he put it would continue to receive grants.[1]

During its first year, the FCA made grants to composers Earle Brown and Morton Feldman and underwrote a concert of their music presented at Town Hall in New York. Additional grants went to Judson Memorial Church, the Paper Bag Players, and choreographer Merle Marsicano. Other early grantees included choreographers Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Meredith Monk, Yvonne Rainer, and Twyla Tharp; and composers Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and La Monte Young.

In 1966 a lecture series given by Norman O. Brown, Peter Yates, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Harold Rosenberg and Marshall McLuhan was held at the 92nd Street Y. A performance series, Nine Evenings: Theater and Engineering based on collaborations between engineers from Bell Telephone Laboratories and performing artists was held at the 69th Regiment Armory with the FCA's support.

In 2015 the FCA converted a 496-square-foot room next to its offices into a project space called the Other Room dedicated exclusively to artist-curated exhibitions.[2]


As of 2015, the foundations’s board of directors includes Brooke Alexander, Anne Dias-Griffin, Robert Gober, Agnes Gund, Jasper Johns, Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, T.J. Wilcox and Cecily Brown.[3]

Grant programs[edit]

The FCA has operated continuously since the 1960s. In 1993, the Directors of the Foundation chose to provide more significant sums to artists by awarding fewer, more substantial grants to individuals and groups by a nomination process only. Since then, the FCA has operated four main programs: Grants to Artists, Emergency Grants, Grants to Organizations and the John Cage Award.

Grants to artists[edit]

As the FCA's core program, Grants to Artists intends to provide recipients with the financial means to engage in whatever artistic endeavors they wish to pursue, to research and develop ideas, embark on projects, and complete projects already underway. Recipients are chosen annually through a confidential nomination and selection process. Once a year, the FCA invites dozens of artists and arts professionals to serve as nominators. Nominators propose one exceptional individual, artist collective or performing group whom they believe deserves and would benefit from a $25,000 award. Nominators are selected by field, but are free to propose artists working in or among any of the five areas supported. They are asked to remain anonymous. A selection panel chooses grantees on the basis of the merit and imaginativeness of their work and the impact such recognition and support might have at this point in their careers. Although most artists who receive support live and work in the United States, Grants to Artists may be awarded internationally. The number of selections made in any of the five fields is determined by the strength of the candidates as well as the FCA’s resources that year. Grants to Artists is an uncommon and significant program that supports the creative process and assists in the realization of many artistic projects throughout the country and abroad[4]

Emergency grants[edit]

Emergency Grants are awarded on an ongoing basis to emerging artists and collectives throughout the country who are in need of timely, urgent support. The only program of its kind, Emergency Grants provides quick, grassroots support to artists who have unexpected expenses when projects are close to completion or sudden opportunities to present work to the public. Emergency Grants are limited in number and modest in amount, typically ranging from $500 to $2,000. Requests are reviewed monthly by a volunteer panel of established artists[5]

Grants to organizations[edit]

Grants to Organizations are awarded to organizations that support or present professional artists making work of a contemporary or experimental nature. Grants of not more than $5,000 are awarded annually and are made for specific projects or general operating support. Grants to Organizations is supported by a major grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This program is also supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, The Louisa Stude Sarofim Charitable Trust and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council[6]

John Cage award[edit]

The biennial John Cage Award honors the late composer and FCA co-founder with a $50,000 grant to an individual who has made outstanding achievements in contemporary performing arts. The recipient is selected by the FCA's Board of Directors from invited nominations. Past recipients include: Paul Kaiser, Charles Atlas, David Behrman, Robert Ashley, Gordon Mumma, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, Takehisa Kosugi, David Tudor, William Anastasi, Pauline Oliveros, and Phil Niblock.[7]

Robert Rauschenberg award[edit]

This endowed award of $25,000 is made annually through Grants to Artists to a visual or performing artist. It was established in 2013 with a gift from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Rauschenberg was one of the FCA’s original contributing artists and was generous to FCA throughout his life. Recent recipients include Trisha Brown and Elodie Lauten.[8]


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