Greg Mason Burns

Fiscal Sponsorship for Artists

Why do we have fiscal sponsorship for artists? Anyone remember Piss Christ by Andres Serrano? Yeah, that one – the one where Serrano received about $20,000 in tax-payer money to create art. In my mind, nothing wrong with that – he’s an artist who had a provocative photograph, and that’s pretty normal in contemporary art – but there were several conservative politicians who did take exception and, as luck would have it, these politicians managed to change how the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) would distribute tax dollars to artists.

Fiscal Sponsorhip for Artists

Immersion (Piss Christ) by Andres Serrano (Image provided by wikipedia)

Before this controversy, the NEA offered grants to individual artists. After, they offered grants to only organizations and institutions as a sort of protective buffer. It would be the organization that would take the blame if anything such as this ever came about again, and not the NEA.

As one might imagine, this caused a problem in the art world. Contemporary art is definitely something worth collecting, but it’s not something that typically hangs on a person’s wall for decoration. It’s an investment, and investments are often saved for the wealthy. If an artist is lucky enough to have wealthy admirers, then there’s no problem with art creation – the lucky artist can find a way to pay the bills and put food on the table. But if that artist doesn’t have the client base? Well, supporting the development of art is expensive and that money has to come from somewhere. Step in fiscal sponsors.

Fiscal sponsors took over the role of artists in the world of granting money to artists. Instead of the money going to the artist, it now had to go to an organization, but why must that organization be a well-known one such as the Warhol Foundation? The answer is that it need not be. Fiscal sponsors simply apply for the grant on behalf of the artist, and then pass on the grant money to the artist after taking a fee (usually 3% to 10%).

Now, don’t get to thinking that the fiscal sponsor will write that grant application for you. They won’t. You need to write it first, they need to approve it, and then you send it on their behalf. They are the ones applying, but you’re doing the work. Often times an artist needs to apply to the fiscal sponsor as well. This is a good thing as it shows some level of standards and quality.

How can you find fiscal sponsors? Well, just about any non-profit arts organization can be one, and it often helps to find one in your state. I recommend an experienced one, though. Mine is Fractured Atlas and I’ve successfully raised over $1,500 dollars for my project there. The good thing, too, is that anyone who donates to me makes a tax-deductible donation, because technically the money initially goes to a non-profit.

Where can you find these fiscal sponsors? I googled and got references, but you can find a listing of ones at these sites:

There are fiscal sponsors for a variety of art specialties. Find the one that best suits you and get after it!