Arts Council England (ACE) has launched a £14.4m fund for individual artists and creative practitioners in the early- and mid-stages of their creative careers.
Developing Your Creative Practice aims to give creatives, including producers and curators, “time to think, time to learn and time to experiment (and possibly fail)”.
Grants of between £2k and £10k will be available to individual creatives, or small groups of collaborators, to support research, the creation of new work or development of future ideas, training, networking or mentoring, or travel.
“The programme is unlike any other current Arts Council fund, because it will give practitioners time to work on ambitious and innovative projects, without the immediate pressure of showing their work publicly,” an ACE spokesperson said.
Comparison with project funding
The new fund differs from the National Lottery Project Grants – the new name for Grants for the Arts – in that applicants do not need to secure match funding or deliver public engagement outcomes.
The new grants support activities up to one year in length, compared with up to three years for Project Grants, and grants are capped at £10k, compared with £100k for Project Grants.
£3.6m will be available annually over the next four years and funding will be awarded quarterly. Applicants need at least three years’ creative practice experience outside of formal education.
ACE has promised the application process will be “simple”, recognising that artists “can often be short on time and resources”. But it will be operated through the controversial funding portal Grantium, which has been criticised for being unclear and inaccessible.
Speaking about the fund, ACE Chair Sir Nicholas Serota said: “We want all our arts organisations to continue to commission and present new work from a diverse range of artists but we also need to invest in the future.
“Nurturing talent and supporting careers at a critical moment is a small investment that will help sustain our world-class cultural sector for years to come.”
Better for artists
Susan Jones, researcher and a former Director of a-n The Artists Information Company, welcomed the new fund, pointing out that Grants for the Arts “wasn’t very good for artists”.
“I’m very happy to see ACE launch a new Lottery-criteria-free funding strand for individuals,” she told AP.
“In recent years, artists began to publicly express their frustration with the [Grants for the Arts] application process – finding not just the mechanics of Grantium difficult but also the need to read ‘between the lines’ when responding to the questions posed.”
She continued: “ACE’s expectation that individuals applying for GFTA could actually find the 20-25% of ‘match’ funding was perhaps a reflection of how of marginal artists had become to their thinking.”
But she questioned whether the £3.6m per annum allocated to Developing Your Creative Practice is too small, given its wide agenda and the fact a higher amount has typically been granted to individual artists through Grants for the Arts.
The first of the four quarterly rounds will open on 12 April 2018.