News / Blog

Artist Trust’s Fellowship Program Now Open to Artists of All Disciplines

Brian McGuigan

Program Director

The guidelines for this year’s Fellowship Awards, Artist Trust’s longest-running grant program, are now available, and applications will be accepted beginning on February 5 through March 5, 2018.

Based on feedback from Washington State artists, we made a few changes to the grant program which include:
• Opening up the awards to artists of all disciplines;
• Simplifying the application and selection process;
• Replacing the two Millay Colony for the Arts residencies with additional cash awards. 

We understand the impact unrestricted support can have on an artist’s career and want to be more responsive to those needs by allowing artists of all disciplines to be eligible to apply for the award every year. In the past, the eligible disciplinary categories rotated with literary, craft, media, and music artists eligible in even-numbered years, and visual, traditional / folk, performing, and emerging fields / cross-disciplinary eligible in odd-numbered years. Through feedback from grant recipients, informal conversations with artists, and post-application surveys, we found that artists want support when they need it most, not only when the awards are open to their discipline. Starting in 2018, artists of all disciplines can apply for Fellowship annually.

With this shift in eligibility, the Fellowship application will also change. For the first time with this award, we’ll move away from disciplinary categories entirely. Instead of asking artists to choose one disciplinary category under which their work will be reviewed, artists will self-define their work in a discipline statement.

We first experimented with discipline statements in the Artists Up Grant Lab last year, a program presented in collaboration with 4Culture and the Office of Arts & Culture, and artists responded very positively. Since then, we have included discipline statements in the recent applications for the James W. Ray and Arts Innovator Awards. Our intent is to give artists the freedom to define their own work and practice and to be more inclusive of artists working in multiple disciplines or whose work doesn’t fit neatly within a checkbox, such as social practice artists, interdisciplinary artists, and culture bearers.

In turn, the Fellowship selection process will become multidisciplinary. Prior to this year, four different disciplinary panels selected Fellowship recipients with a set number of awards to give out based on the number of applicants in each disciplinary category. For 2018, a single selection committee including artists and arts professionals working in different disciplines will select all award recipients, similar to the selection process of the James W. Ray and Arts Innovator Awards. A multidisciplinary panel will lead to a more equitable distribution of awards across all disciplines.

In addition to opening up Fellowship to artists of all disciplines each year and revising our selection process, we replaced the two residencies offered through the program with cash awards. We greatly appreciate our partnership with the Millay Colony for the Arts; however, artists shared that they value the cash awards over the Upstate New York-based residency and would prefer the flexibility to choose a residency program that best fits their work and their lives. Fellowship funding can still be applied to residency opportunities but now award recipients can choose for themselves which one to attend.

As with the changes we announced to our grantmaking programs last year, the changes to Fellowship are driven by our strategic plan and organizational values and our commitment to racial equity. This forward-thinking approach to discipline and the application and selection processes is intended to be more inclusive of all artists. However, this work will evolve as we grow our programs and processes.

If you have feedback or questions, please reach out to us. We’re excited about these changes and look forward to supporting more artists across Washington State.

The guidelines for Artist Trust’s 2018 Fellowship Awards are available for viewing here, and the online application opens on February 5.