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Juxtaposition Arts hosts a community event | Photo Credit: Nancy Musinguzi

Our Approach

Ensuring that Minnesota is a place where artists choose to live and work strengthens our communities, our cultures, and our economies. The McKnight Foundation’s arts grantmaking is focused on working artists and the organizations that help them advance artistically and professionally.

Support for working artists has been a mainstay of the Arts program since it began. In 2010, after a comprehensive evaluation, McKnight’s board of directors decided to focus on impact at the source: the artists.

McKnight’s arts grantees are organizations that do the following:

  • prioritize compensation to artists
  • enable unique artistic opportunities
  • facilitate meaningful relationships between artists and their communities
  • demonstrate a deep understanding of their field
  • respond to broad trends
  • work to eliminate deep and persistent cultural, economic, and racial barriers

McKnight’s Arts program funds arts organizations across many disciplines that offer support structures for working artists. It also provides fellowships and other re-granting to working artists through key partners.

Our Strategies
two African Americans who are siting on a chair

Fuel exceptional and diverse artistic practice

We fund organizations, programs, and projects that provide support structures for working artists to develop and share their work.

For example, here are some ways that grantees advance this strategy:

  • develop, exhibit, publish, produce, or promote new work or compelling interpretations of existing work, and facilitate community-embedded arts practices
  • connect artists to funding, physical space, networking, and other opportunities
  • provide funding and other material support to artists for professional development and technical assistance
  • facilitate experimentation and collaboration
“Hot Kiln for Fire Structures," an art piece by Craig Edwards
“Hot Kiln for Fire Structures," an art piece by Craig Edwards

Maximize the value of artists’ work in their communities

We fund and leverage local and national collaborations, networks, knowledge, data, and policies that maximize artists’ value inside and outside the arts sector. For example, grantees carry out this strategy in various ways:

  • elevate perceptions of artists as primary drivers of our arts and culture sector
  • enable sector-wide capacity development
  • conduct research that enhances capacity for arts advocacy, field sustainability, and managerial excellence
  • support arts organizations and artists as partners in community development, leveraging collaboration among cultural, municipal, and economic development interests

Our grantmaking is guided by research on artist support structures, our logic model, and our theory of change.

Artist Support Structures

Data undergirding our work in the arts comes from a landmark report by the Urban Institute called Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists.

The study revealed that society undervalues the contribution of artists to communities. Although 96 percent of the people surveyed said they were “greatly inspired and moved by various kinds of art,” only 27 percent said that “artists contribute a lot to the good of society.”

We use the support structure model as a tool in guiding our grantmaking, seeking to fund organizations that provide many or all of these types of support:

  • training and professional development: Conventional and lifelong learning opportunities
  • validation: The ascription of value to what artists do
  • demand markets: The markets that translate society’s appetite for art into financial compensation for artists
  • material supports: Access to the financial and physical resources that artists need for their work: employment, insurance and similar benefits, awards, space, equipment, and materials
  • networks and community: Connections to other artists and people in the cultural sector and outward connections to the broader community
  • information: Data sources about artists and for artists

Logic Model

Our logic model is the map drawn from our two strategies, implemented through our program’s many activities, and ultimately directed to the outcomes we strive to achieve.

Grantmaking is only one of several program activities. The others are convenings, policy work, research, and relationship building.

Theory of Change

Our Arts program Theory of Change is rooted in a mutually beneficial cycle: artists contribute artistically, socially, culturally, and economically to a thriving Minnesota, while the state and local communities create the opportunity for working artists to thrive artistically and professionally.

How to Apply

Learn more about eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and deadlines on our how to apply page.