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AHN NEWS: October & November 2007
by AHN on 

One of the most frequently asked questions we get at the Arts & Healing Network is "How do I fund my healing arts project?"

I begin answering this important question with an article on basic funding ideas and then feature grant advice from healing artist Judith Selby, a book review of Guide to Getting Arts Grants, and links to the Foundation Center and the Arts & Healing Network's Grants Page.

I truly hope this issue may be valuable for you or someone you know who is seeking to start or sustain a great healing arts project. I welcome your feedback – please do send your funding suggestions, stories, and questions to our Web Coordinator, Tristy Taylor at

Wishing you a fabulous fall!

~ Mary Daniel Hobson, Director, Arts & Healing Network


Eleven Tips for Funding Your Healing Arts Project
By Mary Daniel Hobson

For many years, I have been receiving emails from visitors to the Arts & Healing Network, who write to ask for advice about funding their healing arts projects. So today I would like to answer those queries with some basic ideas about how to cultivate funding for a project. Please keep in mind this is intended only as an introduction and is by no means a comprehensive guide. Interwoven, throughout this article are some quotes by healing artists from past issues of the AHN News. I offer these tips with the hope that they will be of help to those of you with a great healing arts project you would like to start or sustain. I wish you luck and much success.

Clarify Your Vision

At the beginning of your funding search, I recommend sitting down with your computer, or pad & paper, and spelling out exactly what your project is. Ideally you would express within a page or two of writing the "what, where, when, why, and how" of your project. In terms of funding, it is very helpful to draft a preliminary budget to see exactly what your funding needs are. The clearer you can be about this, the clearer you can be in communicating the value of what you are doing and the financial support that you need.

Align with your Passion

Let your excitement about the project guide you. Israeli eco-artist Shai Zakai sustains her projects "By hope, by being 'crazy' on the missions we have put upon ourselves, by endless optimism in these hard times in Israel, and by uncompromised belief that eco-art is the right track."

Take the First Steps

After clarifying your vision for your project and cultivating your excitement for it, the next step is to jump in and take whatever steps you can, to get your project off the ground with or without initial funding. As photographer and founder of Foto Kids in Guatemala, Nancy McGirr says "Just go for it. Don’t worry about funding – it will come. But start small. Start the program first, then look for money to support it. Start with five kids. Doors will open. Don't try to fund first. Just go for it. If you put energy out there, eventually energy comes back." This approach also has the added benefit that it is often easier to get funding for a project that has already started and for a project for which you can demonstrate that you have the necessary experience.


Find like-minded individuals and/or organizations to collaborate with you. Your project vision can be magnified and enhance by the participation of others. In addition, if you can find sponsorship by a nonprofit organization, you are eligible to apply for more grants than you could as an individual. Many foundations can only grant funds to nonprofit (501C3) organizations. Please note, if a nonprofit umbrellas your project they will usually take a small percentage of all grant monies received to cover their administrative costs.

As eco-artist Lynne Hull describes, "I would recommend any artist who wants to contribute to social or environmental issues, find a nonprofit organization in line with their personal concerns and interests. Join it as a volunteer, hang out, help with whatever work is needed, and learn the organization’s goals. Slowly develop an awareness of what an artist could contribute creatively to those goals. Go to them with ideas, but try not to ask for money from them – try to find funding elsewhere to add an art component to their expenditures (like matching funds). The artist may not get paid for first efforts, but a track record and a cross-disciplinary partner will help find funding for future projects."

Cultivate Flexibility

As important as it is to clarify your ideal vision for your project, it is also important to understand that things will shift and change over time – funding goes through cycles of expansion and contraction. It is helpful then to have the flexibility built into your project so that it can expand and contract depending on the resources. For example, Kate Strasburg of Healing Environments says, "We prefer to believe in the parable of the loaves and the fishes – that miraculously there will always be enough. As a private operating foundation, we have been blessed with a source of independent funding. As a tax-deductible nonprofit, we have also been blessed by thousands of donations from readers and a few unsolicited grants from foundations. But as our publications have increased in length and cost, we have had to face the limitations of our funding, and sadly tighten our mailing list from twelve thousand to about four thousand faithful readers. The wide enthusiasm for our smaller booklets (hospices and hospitals have been ordering them by the hundreds) have led us to dream of additional funding which would enable us to supply them to more of the country's facilities." One thing Kate makes clear here is that flexibility does not mean contracting forever, but rather as necessary, and then continuing to dream, so that when expansion happens again you can grow into it gracefully.

These days there are so many wonderful tools online to research funding opportunities. The Foundation Center is a great place to start. You could also take a class or get a good book on grant writing (see the review of the book Guide to Getting Arts Grants below). Remember to look at what projects each foundation has funded in the past as this will help you see whether your project fits their mission. Remember research can take a lot of time and plan accordingly. As Amy Hill of Silence Speaks says, "The financial aspect is not surprisingly the most difficult. We rely on small foundation grants and individual contributions. Researching and pursuing money takes up an incredible amount of time."

Apply Your Creativity

Supporting your project can mean bringing as much creativity to the challenge of funding as one would bring to the creation of a work art. Some alternatives to the traditional grant writing process, are art sales, auctions, garage sales, and special fundraising events. Also support does not always have to come in dollars. For example, Rachel Goldstein from Artists Helping Children says, "We haven’t received many monetary donations so far. This has put a strain on us financially, but it is worth it when we realize what the outcome is – happier children. We have received huge amounts of supply donations from Liquitex, Golden Artist Colors, and Tara Materials, amongst other great companies. We also have received a large amount of wallpaper murals, art prints, frames, and other art from wonderful artists and companies. We are very thankful for everything that we have received."

Highlight Specific Requests

People like to feel like their dollars are going to something tangible and concrete that they can point to and say "I funded that!" Instead of soliciting funds for general operating expenses, you could offer a list of items needed. For example, say you are starting a hospital art program for kids with cancer – you could ask for a $20 donation to buy art supplies for one child, or $200 to buy a cart that can transport art supplies easily from room to room.

Express Your Gratitude

Remember to make people feel acknowledged and appreciated for having contributed to your project. This can take the form of a phone call, a letter, photographs, or even small art gifts. The more personal you can make the thank you note the more deeply it will be received.

Stay in Touch
Communicate regularly with your support network, and keep telling an inspiring story. The internet has made this so much easier than it used to be. Start a web site, blog, or an e-newsletter. Pictures are also wonderful. Send letters. Use the phone. Whatever means you choose, cultivate a system of regular and inspiring communication about your project.

An example of nice project blog is Urban Sprouts which shares news of the work they are doing using gardening to teach kids about nutrition, sustainability and environmental issues. Their posts include colorful photos of the produce and the kids at work in the garden, as well as sharing relevant news related to their cause. A blog is much easier to set up and maintain than a web site and it is often free if you use services like You can even add sidebar items like "click here to donate now" and have people make donations through PayPal. This has worked well for photographer Gloria Baker Feinstein who recently wrote, "I started a foundation for an AIDS orphanage and found the blog to be such a wonderful way to talk about the work I was doing. So…I just kept going. I find now that I blog just about every day or so. It's been the only way I've spread the word about my foundation, Change the Truth, and has helped me raise close to $35,000 in less than a year!"

Sustain Your Energy
Supporting an arts project, even when you are deeply committed and passionate about it, can be exhausting at times. Remember to take good care of yourself during this work in order to avoid burn out. Many artists I have interviewed claim that maintaining their own art practice is hugely helpful in keeping them balanced. For example, Michele Cassou of the Painting Experience says, "I have so much gratitude for having had this wonderful passion for creativity. It has sustained me during the greatest challenges in my life. At this point it would be much more difficult for me not to paint than to keep painting. The tool of painting has brought me my deepest joy and greatest discoveries… The connection of creativity and spirit is my greatest joy and constantly unfolding. It feeds me and fills me endlessly."


Grants: A Healing Artist’s Perspective
By Judith Selby Lang

Because my projects are public, community-based endeavors, they are not geared towards the commercial gallery art world. I have had to find other ways to present my work in the public arena in non-profit art venues and alternative art spaces. Through the years I have written many grants for individual projects and community art projects. I have been both a grant recipient and a grant rejectee. Whether I receive the grant or not, I always feel that the arduous task of writing the grant is well worth the time spent.

I use the application procedure as a way of clarifying my ideas, of setting to paper my widest imaginings. Writing a grant can be a daunting experience with the exhausting application forms, the exacting requirements. But, bringing that rigor to the early planning stages of a far-flung idea can help to bring it into reality. I never regret the grant writing effort. In and of itself it is a valuable exercise and sometimes I actually receive a grant!

For example, from April 14-24, 2007, my project, Recycle Ryoanji, commanded a prominent location in front of San Francisco’s City Hall. It was an amazing ten days of exhibition. So much transpired in the plaza: rallies, parades and passersby. Hundreds and hundreds of people looked and wondered and contemplated the garden. Some discovered it by accident, some by intention…all were impacted by its presence. Without the New Work Fellowship in the Visual Arts Grant from the Marin Arts Council and the Bay Area Fund for Artists Initiative, the accomplishment of this project would not have been possible. The grant provided the funding for public workshops, permits, and the many installation expenses.

The money afforded me the opportunity to think big. Plus, the grant made the big vision of a big garden in a big place attainable. I envisioned a garden, 18’ x 44’, a 3/4 scale replica of the actual garden in Kyoto, installed in the preeminent Civic Center Plaza of San Francisco. As I made my way through the permit process, the numerous legal details, securing insurance and talking with government officials about the use of the plaza, the grant strengthened my resolve and sense of responsibility, and the grant emboldened me. As I faced obstacles, when I wavered, I would remind myself that I WAS A GRANT RECIPIENT. The Marin Arts Council believed in my project so, I should too!

Although "Recycle Ryoanji" was a temporal installation, thanks to the generosity of, it lives on in my blog.


Guide to Getting Arts Grants

by Ellen Liberatori

Reviewed by Mary Daniel Hobson

This is an immensely helpful guide for grant seekers in the arts. The book is primarily targeted toward individual artists, but would also be useful to organizations as well. The author begins with a look at the philanthropy world and demystifies how foundations are set up and run. Next she discusses how to cultivate a career as an artist and offers three tools for goal setting. Then she articulates much valuable and detailed information about preparing a portfolio, the difference between types of grants (public vs. private), writing statements and budgets, presentation guidelines, and more tips. She includes a lot of specific information about the kind of writing that can be most effective for grants – such as offering several tips to trim text when there are space constraints in an application. Overall this book functions as both a guide and a workbook, preparing the artist with a game plan and communication tools to write the best proposal possible.

Published by Allworth Press, you can purchase this book on online.


The Foundation Center

The Foundation Center is a fabulous place to research grant opportunities. They have offices in New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Cleveland, and San Francisco, in the United States. However, if you cannot make it to one of their physical locations, they have a wonderful online site that includes all kinds of great tools for grant seekers. They offer online trainings and tutorials ("webinars") on topics like "Grantseeking Basics for Individuals." They also offer (for a small fee), access to their online database of more than 6,200 foundations and public charities that fund students, artists, teachers, and other individual grant seekers. They even offer special reference guides based on different types of individuals/artists. In general, the site offers a wealth of information for the grant seeker. It is massive, but well-organized and the information they have is invaluable.


Arts & Healing Grants Page

The Arts & Healing Grants Page includes over 70 listings of funders in the arts and related fields. Each entry offers contact information so that you can learn more about each opportunity. Please do note, some are open calls while some have specific deadlines, so it is important to contact each funder for more details. This list is a great place to start researching grant opportunities. We welcome suggestions of other funders to add to this page. Please send suggestions to


Did you enjoy this issue? Do you have a story or resources you'd like to share on this topic? Please share your thoughts and feedback by leaving a comment. Just click on the blue "comment" link below on the right.

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