How to Become a Not-Starving Artist

Seattle University is home to a community of student artists, many of whom will be seeking careers in the highly competitive arts disciplines after graduation.

On May 1, Seattle U hosted Jim Kelly, the executive director of 4Culture, who spoke to a classroom full of musicians and theatre students about the process of applying for grants from 4Culture.

According to Kelly, only about 40 percent of applicants receive grants. His best advice for becoming a part of that 40 percent is to “make it hard to say no” through careful and deliberate writing and proofreading of your application. Kelly also encourages putting yourself out there; he said that making connections and networking are imperative to an artist’s success—and 4Culture, among other arts organizations, can assist in that process.

Here are just a few of Seattle’s local arts organizations and resources you should get familiar with before graduating.


4Culture is a public agency dedicated to advancing the local community through culture and art. The organization was originally started through the King County Arts Commission, and although it is no longer government-funded, it continues to offer grants to both individuals and groups of artists.

The application process is very competitive, so to help increase your chances 4Culture offers free application seminars and frequent networking events that are open
to the public.

Local artists are encouraged to apply for grants towards any type of project they are working on. Applications and more information are available at
City of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture.

Our city’s Office of Arts and Culture is on a mission to “activate and sustain Seattle though art” by creating opportunities for all residents to experience and participate in a variety of arts and cultural projects. Their website provides a place for local organizations to post listings for events as well as training, funding and job opportunities. Similar to 4Culture, they provide opportunities for both individual and group projects.

The Office of Arts and Culture also partners with local organizations to provide funding opportunities and awareness for events and exhibits in the Seattle area. Learn more about these local arts resources at

Artist Trust

This not-for-profit organization provides both funding and a variety of other resources for artists, including grants, training programs and advertising for arts events. Their website also serves as a resource for artists, allowing them to post listings or information about their upcoming events.

Artist Trust offers nine different types of grants, each of which are awarded to just a few applicants who are selected by panels of local and national artists and arts professionals.

Since grants are made possible through donations, their website also offers an opportunity to support the artists. Donors also help fund training seminars and events. Artist Trust provides a good overall resource for artists, see their website at


This statewide organization caters to independent arts groups who are trying to achieve and maintain success in the art world. Shunpike offers a variety of services for everyone from aspiring art entrepreneurs and preexisting arts groups to Washington neighborhoods that are trying to increase their cultural capital.

The best way to take advantage of Shunpike’s services is to become a member. For a small annual fee, members have access to all of the organization’s clinics, programs and events. They also give supporters a chance to donate and make the visions of local artists possible.

Shunpike also offers support through sponsorships, which allow arts groups to offer tax-deductible receipts to donors. They also offer members free grant application reviews to improve their chances of receiving grants from other organizations. Become a member at

Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA)

CoCA is a Northwest arts organization which serves as a forum for experimentation, discussion and development of contemporary art. For over 30 years the organization has operated galleries throughout Seattle, creating a number of spaces for new and experimental works.

For a small annual fee, students, artists and art enthusiasts alike can purchase a CoCA membership, which gives them access to free grant reviews as well as 10-15 percent off of arts exhibition services, materials, professional photographic services and publication design. Art lovers can also show their support and receive a number of benefits by donating. Check CoCA out at

On the Boards

On the Boards seeks to introduce audiences to the latest and greatest in contemporary dance, theatre and music with a special emphasis on local Northwest performing artists. Geared toward art lovers, the organization offers networking events, artist interviews, master classes, an interactive audience blog and much more.

Additionally, On the Boards’ 12 Minutes Max program provides a space and an outlet for artists to experiment with new performance ideas in front of an audience. The open studio program features six to eight artists each performing 12 minutes or less of new original material—with full creative control over the space.

The 12 Minutes Max program is currently on a brief hiatus (for the first time in about 36 years) as it undergoes experimental changes to create a better platform for artists. Check them out at and

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