Our updated, new grant process provides more accessibility, inclusiveness, equity, transparency

With a newly updated strategic plan that included a revamped vision, mission and values for the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA), the staff, Governor-appointed Arts Council leadership, and members of the arts and culture community joined together to restructure the current grant programs to better reflect us. In keeping with the call to action from the new Strategic Plan, the undertaking with the community involved creating new granting programs that were transformative, relevant, inclusive, open, transparent, and most importantly equitable and accessible.
With these lofty goals and objectives in mind, the staff convened three diverse working groups to jointly create new grant programs and application processes.

The first newly reworked grant programs, geared for arts and culture organizations and individual arts, launched in February. Later in 2022, RISCA staff will lead community working groups to reassess grants in education and healthcare. In addition the apprenticeships and fellowships programs will be updated.

New granting programs for organizations

General Operating Support for Organizations (GOS-O), which has a deadline of April 1 and opens Feb. 15, was restructured with a 36-member working group representing 22 arts and culture organizations throughout Rhode Island. Participating organizations varied in size, communities engaged, and artistic discipline/cultural tradition. They were, AS220, Arts Equity RI (formerly VSA Arts), Chorus of Westerly, City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, Community MusicWorks, Eastern Medicine Singers, Hera Gallery, India Association of Rhode Island, Island Moving Company, Kingston Chamber Music Festival, Manton Avenue Project, New Urban Arts, newportFILM, Oasis International, Providence CityArts for Youth, Rhode Island Black Storytellers, Rhode Island Latino Arts, RI Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School, Riverzedge Arts, Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, Teatro ECAS, and Trinity Repertory Company.

Some of the main features of the newly implemented GOS-O program sets explicit goals for recruitment of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) organizations and organizations based in unrepresented cities and towns. It will have a three-year grant cycle and organizations will be evaluated by budget size. Applications will now be tiered in relationship to budget size. In addition, there’s new eligibility for fiscally sponsored organizations with budgets under $50,000.

Changes have been made to RISCA’s panel diversity requirements, including explicit BIPOC representation requirements. New evaluation criteria include artistic vibrancy and relevancy, organizational capacity and ingenuity, and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and access. Organizations that represent historically marginalized communities or constituencies in their mission, programming, staff leadership and board such as BIPOC-centered organizations, organizations that are led by and engage people with disabilities are automatically considered for grant awards 1.5 times higher than their budget cohort.

Previously awards were based on historic funding without a consistent scheme and ranged from approximately $1,500 – $91,000 per year. For the new funding formula, Awards will now be between $3,000 – $40,000 yearly.

Project Grants for Organizations (PGO) is similar in character to its prior iteration, Arts Access. PGO provides grants of up to $3,000 in support of arts and culture projects that are relevant and meaningful to a Rhode Island community or communities. The new features of PGO are the application and budget documents, as well as waiving of the cash match requirement in this grant program for at least the next three fiscal years.

To develop the new application, RISCA assembled a 10 person BIPOC majority Working Group comprised of individuals working or volunteering at arts and culture organizations throughout Rhode Island. Seven of the 10 Working Group members came from organizations with annual budgets under $100,000, including: Arte Latino de Rhode Island, Arts Equity RI, Choral Collective of Newport County, Chorus of Westerly, Esperanza-Hope, Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading, Providence CityArts for Youth, RI Cape Verdean Heritage Subcommittee, The Collaborative, and the Tomaquag Museum.

In addition to the new application, the PGO Working Group advised RISCA to reframe PGO as the entry-level grant program for organizations, recognizing that for many applicants, a PGO is their first time writing a grant or might be the only grant opportunity they regularly apply to. For that reason, they suggest RISCA provide robust application support both within the application itself, as well as through newly formatted grant workshops, and the continuation of RISCA’s practice of providing one-on-one meetings and drop-in office hours. In partnership with the Individual Artist Program, other new materials including how-to videos and a comic book will be developed over the course of the next year.

New Individual Artist Grant Programs

A working group of 10 artists from around the state, facilitated by Mollie, created four new grant programs for individuals. These four grant programs replace Project Grants for Individuals and the Fellowships — those programs will no longer be offered. These grant programs are focused on supporting artists at multiple stages of their career, and lowering barriers to application. Major changes include the elimination of partial funding; a shortened and streamlined application; and a focus on artist defined success and goals. For all of these grants, an individual must be the applicant, and the projects supported must be artist instigated and organized outside of institutional support and structures.

The Community Engaged Project Grants (CEPG) program provides funding of up to $3,000 for artists or groups of artists to create arts and culture projects that are directly and actively engaged with Rhode Island residents. This grant has its first deadline on April 1, and applications are open now.

The Make Art Grant program provides grants of up to $3,000 for artists to create or continue specific artwork in any discipline. Projects must have specific goals, though completion and public showing of the art is not required. This grant has its first deadline on April 1, and applications are open now.

The Opportunity Grant program provides Rhode Island artists funding of up to $1,000 for concrete opportunities that will support professional growth. This grant will be reviewed monthly, and will open on June 15.

The General Operating Support for Artists (GOSA) program provides grants of $6,000 for each of three consecutive years (total of $18,000) for artists to work towards large, specific, self-identified goals in their art practice. This grant has its first deadline on July 1, and applications will open May 1.