Working Artist Grant: Purchase Awards for Emerging and Early Career Artists

Working Artist Org is a privately run and backed charitable project founded in Tacoma Washington in 2008. According to their mission statement, the institution is “devoted to the acknowledgment and promotion of great contemporary art and artists.”

Working Artist Org Purchase Award Overview

Working Artist Org is somewhat unique amongst grant-makers. While they maintain an open submission process through which they provide monetary awards to individual artists, their grants are framed as a purchase award rather than unrestricted grants. Artists who win a Working Artist Org grant receive $1,000 in exchange for providing a piece of artwork to the Working Artist Org art collection.

Working Artist Grant Winner Blake Shirley

Blake Shirley, Afloat, Oil on canvas, 46 x 46 inches, 2018: Working Artist Purchase Award Winner

Their website explains the process in greater detail:

If selected as our winner, we ask that the award recipient be willing to exchange one of their original works or smaller series of original works for inclusion in our collection, in return for our award. Work considered by the artist as of equal value, and available for acquisition can be negotiated upon receipt of the award. We do pay the artist’s shipping costs. Please send us your best work for review.

This is certainly an interesting concept that other institutions should consider adopting.

Notable Working Artist Org Grant Winners

In the roughly 10 years since the inception of Working Artist Org, they have supported a dynamic range of artists, who would primarily be classified as early career emerging. Some notable recipients in art include:

The Working Artist Grant has supported an equally vibrant range of recipients in photography, including:

As always, you should take a hard look at past winners to gauge if this is a potential option for you prior to applying.

Working Artist Org Application Details

Working Artist Org is one of a few institutions to come along in recent years and re-imagine the grant application process. They have truly thrown out the old way of applying for grants. Their application process couldn’t be easier: simply email them your website or 5 images of your work and then submit a $25 fee. There is no application form and statements and CVs are option, you only include them if you feel they will help your application.

An important note here is that the application for artists and photographers uses the same simple process, but they are judged separately. This is good for both sides as it limits the overall competition by separating submissions into two camps which are reviewed independently, thus increasing the likelihood of winning one of these awards.

Who Juries Working Artist Org Purchase Awards?

Similar to the Pollock Krasner Grant, Working Artist Org does not publicize who juries their purchase awards. This somewhat unfortunate because it means you are applying blind in a sense as you do not have the opportunity to research the curatorial perspectives of the jury and you cannot be certain of their status in the larger art world. For this reason, it is especially important to spend time reviewing the work of past recipients (which is fortunately very easy as all past winners are directly linked on Working Artist Org’s homepage).

Applications Accepted on a Rolling Basis

Another fantastic feature of Working Artist Org’s granting model is their quarterly submission deadlines. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis with winners being announced four times per year. This is good news for artists seeking immediate support because the application cycle, from date of submission notification, never exceeds more than three months. Again, this is a refreshing contrast to old-guard institutions like Creative Capital and The Guggenheim Fellowship who force you to spend upwards of a year just to apply for their awards.

If you are looking for your first grant, Working Artist Org can be a good place to start.

Pros

  • Simple application process (no statements, CVs, or paperwork required)
  • Rolling deadlines mean you can apply at any time of the year
  • Quick turnaround from submission date to notification of winners
  • Deep archive of past recipients shows a wide range of perspectives
  • Dedicated awards for artists & photographers

Cons

  • No public jury means you do not know who is seeing your work, limits your visibility with new arts administrators
  • Not an unrestricted award-you must provide them with an artwork in exchange for the grant

Connect with Working Artist Org

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