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Creative Capital Celebrates Five Years

June 19, 2004

_On its fifth anniversary, the foundation has gone from experiment to mainstay in arts funding_ NEW YORK, NY (June 19, 2004) – After five years, the Creative Capital Foundation has plenty of reason to celebrate: its recent call for submissions turned out almost double the number the organization received in its first grant cycle, and the 158 projects funded to date have achieved numerous successes, including an Oscar nomination, an off-Broadway hit play, and representation in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. Most notably, it received a nine-year pledge of $10 million from one of its major benefactors, a resounding endorsement of the foundation’s innovative funding model. These accolades are why Creative Capital, a national not-for-profit organization that provides both grants and services to individual artists, has earned significant recognition for its work and for its commitment to artists. Catharine R. Stimpson, board chair and dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Science at New York University, said, "Creative Capital has become a national force, perhaps the most important source of support we have for brilliant, inventive, and diverse artists. And Creative Capital is only five years old. Everyone who cares about the arts and creativity should watch the next five years eagerly." The Program From the start, Creative Capital aspired to build an artist-centered, comprehensive program that would integrate financial support with project and career advice. Once their projects are funded, performers, filmmakers, visual artists, and other makers are armed not only with cash grants but with technical and professional assistance; they are then encouraged to develop the projects, as well as their own careers, to their fullest potential. At the end of 2003, when the "experimental" period—five years—was over, the organization found that working in partnership with the artists has proved increasingly successful. Details of Creative Capital's distinct funding model can be found online at the foundation's website, Grants for the Future Creative Capital was founded on principles derived from both the philanthropic and commercial areas, particularly those from the venture capital sector. Its founders envisioned it as a revolving fund, with the grantees themselves, not just the donors, contributing to its growth and sustenance. The hope was that over time the fund and the community that Creative Capital had created could serve as an alternative model of "equity exchange"—a system of support "by" and "for" artists that might have the potential to be at least partially self-sustaining. In this way, artists are seen as cultural entrepreneurs, and are parallel to entrepreneurs in other sectors. To that end, when artists receive their grants, they agree to share with the foundation a small percentage (proportional to the fund’s investment in the project) of income generated by their projects. These proceeds are then applied toward new grants. In early May, film/video grantee Barbara Hammer did just that by making a donation to Creative Capital, based on initial profits from her film Resisting Paradise. Ms. Hammer, the first artist to reach this position said, "I never expected a grant organization to do anything but give you money. Through every step of the way I have felt that Creative Capital is there for me in the background and although the check I presented to them is small, it is a beginning—with more to come." While the notion of "giving back" is not new, board member and noted artist Fred Wilson said, "It can be empowering for artists to do something directly in return for the support they have received, and to do something in dollars is especially gratifying." In fact, Ms. Hammer has also returned support in other ways; as a peer instructor in Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program, she is part of a team that helps fellow artists acquire practical and professional skills in fundraising, public relations, and strategic planning through workshops being held across the country. About the Grantees To date, Creative Capital has awarded in excess of $3 million in grants and supplemental funding to 158 artists’ projects within four disciplines: visual arts, performing arts, film/video, and emerging fields. When reviewing the thousands of applications, the potential for commercial viability is not a factor in the selection process. Creative Capital President Ruby Lerner said, "The organization is open to work that is often characterized as experimental or that positions itself outside of the traditional arts genres in some way." As a result, most projects are not likely to be profitable and other factors, such as the artistic strength and vision of the proposed project and the professional capabilities of the applicant, are among the criteria for selection. National Representation Currently in the midst of its fourth grant cycle, Creative Capital received 3,286 submissions in March in response to the open call for inquiries. That number is a significant leap from the 1,800 the foundation received in the first year when grants were offered in four, not two, disciplines. By December, the foundation will add approximately 40 new projects (an estimated 1.3% of submissions) in the fields of visual arts and film/video to its roster. According to Ms. Lerner, "We would like to find ways to support a greater number of artists—whether through our own grantmaking program or through working with state and local entities who might be interested in adapting our unique approach. The Professional Development Program, which reached more than 350 artists in its pilot year is a start, but we’re ready to do more—we just need the resources." As has been the case in the past, the submissions came from across the country; this year, for the first time, they came from all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Creative Capital maintains a nationwide outreach program and is able to engage artists in all regions through its website. With an application that is available online, 97% of the total proposals in 2004 were transmitted digitally. What’s Next Last year, in recognition of its efforts in the field, Creative Capital received a nine-year matching grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts which provided $1 million for cash reserves, and pledges $1 million per year toward operations for the next nine years. With a core annual budget of $2 million, half of which is allocated in direct support to grantees, the organization must raise an additional $800,000 each year in order to receive the Warhol grant. When Creative Capital launched in 1999, after a truly bleak era for individual artist support, it represented hope for the artist community. Now the organization is poised to start a new chapter and to continue to expand its work on behalf of artists throughout the country. About Creative Capital Founded in 1999, Creative Capital is a national nonprofit organization that supports artists’ projects in the visual arts, performing arts, film/video, and emerging fields. For a complete list of grantees, profiles of funded projects, and information on the current grant cycle, visit the foundation’s website, A copy of the annual report is available upon request.

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