Cultural Innovators Rev Your Engines: A Choice Rockefeller Grant Returns


At a time when the inartful phrase “philanthropic cutbacks” is everything but redundant, the Rockefeller Foundation has announced that it will be accepting applications for the 2010 New York Cultural Innovation Fund competition.

According to a press release, the fund, created in 2007, “annually awards $2.5 million in grants — between $50,000 and $250,000 — to spur and support cultural innovation in New York City’s creative sector.”

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In its announcement, the foundation underscored the competition’s importance:

Today’s announcement comes after a difficult economic year for the industry in which 80 percent of NYC’s nonprofit cultural organizations were forced to reduce their budgets and more than half have reduced staff and postponed or canceled programs.

Of course, the real question is what, exactly, does the Rockefeller Foundation consider to be culturally innovative. Once again, quoting from the press release:

“Cultural Innovation Fund award recipients’ projects will employ new strategies for cultural production and to achieve solutions for New York City’s creative sector.”

Projects selected for funding fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Creative engagement with the issues shaping New York City’s future cultural and civic agenda;
  • Programming and premieres of new artistic work that demonstrate fresh perspectives and can activate new directions in the visual, performing and media arts;
  • New partnerships among cultural organizations, community-based institutions, universities and the private sector;
  • Interventions designed to confront longstanding bottlenecks and limitations to the expansion of cultural vitality with fresh approaches and solutions.

The fund, it adds, “is specifically meant to support changes in organizational and/or artistic practice. Many of last year’s winners focused on innovative survival strategies for the arts during difficult economic times, from developing new business models to artist peer loan programs.”

To qualify:

…organizations must be based in one of the five boroughs of New York City. Applications — which must encompass innovative approaches — must be submitted online, through the Rockefeller Foundation’s website,, starting at 12pm on Mon., Jan. 11, 2010 until 11pm on Feb. 8, 2010. Shortly thereafter, applicants will learn if they will be invited to submit full proposals. Winners will be announced later in the year.