The Contemporary creates a new grant, the Grit Fund, to support artist collaboration

On the heels of last week's Cultural Town Meeting, in which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lauded many of the city's arts-related grant opportunities, The Contemporary recently announced a new grant for that list. The Grit Fund is designed to support collaborative, artist-organized work in Baltimore that isn't eligible for the same funding for which large institutions and nonprofits are eligible.

Starting January 2015, the Grit Fund will award eight to 12 grants between $1,000 and $6,000, totalling $50,000 annually. This funding comes from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts as part of its Regional Regranting Program, which supports non-incorporated, artist-organized projects.

Inspired by Contemporary's CoHosts speaker series, which pairs visiting artists with artist-run galleries for free lectures (such as this Thursday's event with The Guerrilla Girls and Area 405), the Grit Fund will go toward projects and spaces "that generate opportunities and create platforms for artists to connect to each other and with the public." Eligible projects could range in size and scale, from publications to exhibitions to starting a new artist collective.

In keeping with the Contemporary's mission statement, "Artists matter, collaboration is key, and audience is everywhere," the grant encourages projects that are collaborative and that "give a voice to as many people as possible," says Lu Zhang, business manager for the Contemporary. "For CoHosts we needed the cooperation and support of these [artist-run] galleries to even have a speaker series. We also feel like that scene has benefited us, and it's a collaboration on so many different levels."

These organizations and projects are already happening, and have been for years. So, the Contemporary's Director Deana Haggag asks, "How do we formally recognize it and say, 'Great job'?"

Local and national artists and arts professionals will comprise the selection panel; the Contemporary will have no say on which groups are given grants. There are so few funding structures in place for artist-organized spaces that aren't nonprofits, says Haggag, so the Grit Fund is meant to "give everybody a fair shot at this," and reward the artists who are "advancing this the most. Who is taking risks? Large institutions can't take risks. We want to be nimble. We are three people with a wonderful intern staff; we can be nimble."

Cara Ober's recap of last week’s Mayor’s Cultural Town Meeting on BmoreArt reminded us that "If artists are doing their jobs correctly, there will never be enough funding for all of it, and this is an ever-developing problem to solve." At least the funding opportunities are growing.

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