How To Get Art Grants, Loans & Residencies

Are you a creative professional seeking time and money to pursue your projects? Art grants, loans, and residencies might be the tools you’ve been searching for to help you reach your goals. You’re in luck — I put together a blog post to give you some tips on how to get art grants, loans, and residencies.

Let’s get started by demystifying the process of how to apply for opportunities and review strategies for preparing winning applications.


Step 1: Get your paperwork together.

While the specific documents will vary by application, it’s good to gather everything from the get-go, so you’re not scrambling to find that last puzzle piece 15 minutes before the deadline.

The most common paperwork you’ll need for grants, loans and residencies are:

  • Employment resume or CV
  • 3 References who know you and your creative work well. These folks may include curators, collaborators, artistic peers or former professors (make sure it includes their names, addresses, phone numbers and emails)
  • An artistic resume that lists your shows, performances, or places you have been published. Visual artists should include high-quality images of their varying artwork. Performing & video artists should have a video reel that shows a sample of their best work. Writers…(you get the idea).
  • If you are applying for a cash grant, you will need to include a project budget. Be sure to pay yourself through the artistic salaries line.
  • Also, some applications require the first page of a current tax return (only some applications)

Extras for those applying for a loan:

  • Be prepared to show at least 12-24 months of income and expense statements for your creative business.
  • Have a healthy credit report and FICO score. You can check your credit report at FreeCreditReport.com before you apply for a loan so you don’t have any surprises.

All documents should be converted to PDFs if you’re submitting online applications.


Step 2: Make sure your application is polished and ready for its close up.

A review committee can only spend a few minutes looking at your application, so you want to make sure it makes a great first impression.

Tips to help you have a visually appealing application:

  • For your employment resumes, CVs & artistic resumes, choose a consistent font. Make your documents look attractive. Even if you’re not a graphic designer, you can get a free or low-cost format online. Resume Now is a newer tool that can help: https://www.resume-now.com
  • Visual and performing artists, don’t skimp on the quality of your photos and video. Pay a professional to give you high-quality files. It’s worth it.
  • Make sure that your online presence is current. Keep your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium—whatever you are using—up to date with your latest creative projects.

Step 3: Okay, you’re ready. Where do you go to get that money?

The best place for creators to get grant money is from the government.

  • Start by looking at your city, county, and state arts councils. Do an online search for “YourCityName+ArtsCouncil” “YourCountyName+ArtsCouncil” and “YourStateName+ArtsCouncil.” Also, check out the regional arts council that includes your state to find other opportunities.Pro-Tip: Sometimes programs are called “cultural funding programs” or “cultural grant programs,” so search with those words, too.
  • At a federal level, the National Endowment for the Arts offers some artists residencies in partnership with nonprofits.
  • The Foundation Center, has an affordable online directory of grants available to individuals: http://gtionline.foundationcenter.org

The four most common types of loans you can apply for are: working capital, housing, vehicle and workspace (studio or retail). The best sources for these loans are:

Creative professionals often have great success with credit unions and/or banks that are federally certified as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). CDFI’s have a mission of serving their communities and helping local businesses gain access to loans.


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Step 4: Perhaps a residency is more your speed? Time for a little more research…

A residency is a place that offers time and space away from day-to-day obligations so that artists and writers can create. Typical residencies are 1-4 weeks in length and many are often set in lovely locations. They can take shape as solo time for you to work or time for you to study with a respected artist in your discipline.

Facts about residencies:

  • Some residencies offer a cash award. Some are fully supported and some offer discounts off admission. In that case, the balance will be self-funded by you.
  • A number of residencies allow you to apply and attend in a group to make collaborative work.
  • While some applications require a small processing fee (usually no more than $50), others are totally free to apply.
  • Some of the most popular online application tools are Café, (https://www.callforentry.org) SlideRoom (http://www.slideroom.com) and Submittable (https://www.submittable.com).

A lot of residencies will be specific to a certain art form, but many are open to all disciplines. Here are some of the best places to start your search:


Step 5: APPLY!

The first application you do will be the most time-consuming. However, once you have all of your materials prepared, the process will go much more smoothly.

To really take your funding success to the next level, there are a number of strategies you can use to write winning grant, loan and residency applications:

  • Make a calendar filled with important deadlines and apply for a number of opportunities throughout the year.
  • Follow the application instructions to the letter.
    • Use the font, font size and margins that are specified.
    • Be strict with the word/character counts for online applications.
  • Write your documents in WORD first, then cut and paste them into the online form after you spell check and when you are sure you are below the word or character count.
  • Say everything you can to describe yourself when applying for grants and residencies.
    • Age, race, ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ, geography—say as much as possible about who you are.
    • Specify your type of creative work upfront: glass, ceramics, paint, new media, fiction, nonfiction poetry, mixed media, video, music (composition and instruments), etc.
    • Donors give to all categories and in some cases, highly specific categories of people, locations, and/or art forms.
  • For loan applications, include a 1-page “Notes to the Budget” document and “Notes to the Financial Statements” document.
    • Spell out any items—such as artistic materials or instruments a banker may not be familiar with
    • Highlight any ups or downs in your income and share why. Many creative businesses have seasonal highs and lows. Point those out and stress your strengths as a creative professional who can manage your cash flow.
  • When applying online, submit your applications at least a day or two before the deadline. That way, you are not worried about time changes or technology glitches on deadline day.

Step 6: Stay positive.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Anyone successful and honest will tell you that. Oftentimes, artists will apply for the same grant or residency at least 3 times before getting it. At times it’ll be tough to keep trucking along, but know that every artist has been in your position before.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • The best way to get over rejection is to keep applying!
  • Participate in a community of creative professionals.
  • Make friends with artists in your home community who are also pursuing grants, loans, and residencies to broaden their income profiles.
  • Use positive affirmations. Get free “Notes from the Universe” every day: http://www.tut.com/Inspiration/nftu

Step 7: WOOHOO! Time to Celebrate!

Congratulations on getting the grant, loan and/or residency you wanted! Use the wins to garner other opportunities.

  • Build relationships by adding the people you met throughout the process to your mailing list so they can follow your career growth. Patronize programs. Got an arts council grant? Go to a workshop the council is sponsoring and meet the staff in person.
  • Give back. Did you get a residency at a nonprofit? Include the organization in your end-of-year charitable giving. Volunteer on a committee or at an event.
  • Handwrite thank you letters or cards to key staff at places where you get grants, loans or residencies. “Snail mail” is still greatly appreciated and sets you apart from the crowd.

Though the process requires tenacity, it’s ultimately rewarding in more ways than one. Grants, loans, and residencies can provide you with much-needed space and time to fund your creative work while you build a broader network of institutions that are invested in your long-term success.


About the Author: My name is Cheryl Derricotte and I’m am a visual artist — my primary medium is glass. I have received numerous grants and fellowships including the Gardarev Center Residency (2016); Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant for Emerging Artists (2015); Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass Scholarship (2015); and a Creative Capacity Fund grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (both in 2014); I was the recipient of a D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities/National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowship grant (2005).

In addition to my own art practice, I have built numerous community development projects including art facilities and studios using a host of government and private grants and loans. I never met a warehouse I didn’t like, so it is no surprise that my “day job” is the Facilities Manager at Patreon.