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Behind the Curtain: Arts Innovator Awards

Megan Gallagher

Content Contributor

John Grade, The Elephant Bed, biodegradable dissolving paper, corn-based polymer, 24 ft x 6 ft x 6 ft each, English Channel, UK, 2010.

Each year, the Arts Innovator Awards provide two Washington State artists $25,000 in unrestricted funding. With the exception of the James W. Ray Distinguished Artist award, these are the largest awards Artist Trust oversees, as well as one of the largest grants available to individual artists in Washington State. They’re also one of the few awards dedicated to recognizing artistic innovation and encouraging artists of all disciplines to take risks in their work.

Inspiration and funding for the awards comes from the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation. Dale received grants support early in his career, and the financial flexibility they offered allowed him to push the boundaries of his work and experiment in ways he couldn’t have otherwise. These awards also opened up new opportunities for Dale by allowing him to make connections and lending further credibility to his work. In recognition of the impact these early grants had on his career, the Chihuly Foundation partnered with Artist Trust to create an awards program to encourage and support other innovative artists.

Since 2010, the awards have provided a total of $350,000 to fourteen Washington State artists including visual artist Sheila Klein (2017), performing artist Valerie Curtis-Newton (2017), literary artist Elissa Washuta (2016), media artist Clyde Petersen (2014), visual artist John Grade (2013), and visual artist Leo Berk (2010).

Awards Application Process
The Arts Innovator Awards are open to all Washington State artists who produce experimental or innovative work and have had a professional artistic practice for at least five years. Applications for the awards consist of a biography, impact statement, resume, essay, letter of reference, and collection of up to 20 work samples.

After the application closes, a panel of judges reviews the submissions based on the advancement of the artists’ work, the creative excellence and innovation in the works presented, and the artists’ professional background. The panel also interviews the awards finalists in order to further contextualize their work.

Interested in applying?
Applications for the 2018 Arts Innovator Awards are open until November 13, 2017. Applicants who submit their applications before October 16th are eligible for preliminary review and feedback from Artist Trust’s staff, as well as an opportunity to update their application based on the comments they receive. Award recipients will be announced in February 2018.
More information about the awards as well as sample applications and application guidelines can be found here.

Megan Gallagher is a writer from Redmond, Washington. She’s obsessed with libraries, art and radio, and aspires toward a future career in nonprofit communications and/or arts administration.