How to Apply for an Arts Grant

The hardest part of being an artist should be making art, not writing grants. 


Writing grant applications can feel so out of reach; the language of grants is dense, it takes time to complete them, and there are so many steps. 


The truth is, writing grants is especially hard for systematically disadvantaged groups. In our 2022 Impact to Insight: Findings from the Arts Community Survey, we found that respondents working at BIPOC or LGBTQ+ led and/or serving organizations were more likely to say that arts funding in Greater Pittsburgh was inequitable. 


However, there is a way around the obstacles that stop you from securing grants. If you’ve ever stopped writing a grant because you didn’t have enough time, help, or resources, check out our seven solutions to the most common grant application problems. 

Black woman with short hair pulled back in a headband holds a paintbrush while looking off camera

“Where do I find grants?” 

Finding grants can be time consuming, but it can also be easy if you know the right place to start your search.


Here are some great places to start looking for a grant that fits you:

  • New Economy: A resource for people to find funding, investing, and fiscal sponsorship opportunities with a filtering system based on field, identity, and region. 

  • ArtConnect: A community of artists with a library of national grants, residencies, and exhibition opportunities. 

  • Pennsylvania Council on the Arts: Pennsylvania’s state department that champions the arts with a library of grants. 

  • Pittsburgh Foundation: A collection of Pittsburgh-based grant opportunities from one of the nation’s oldest community foundations. 

  • National Endowment for the Arts: A collection of grants from the largest federal funder of arts and arts education. 

  • Carnegie Library non-profit resources: A directory of over 10,000 funders that provide grants and financial support to artists. The library recommends that first-time users make appointments for one-on-one training sessions.

“Am I the right artist for a national grant?” 

YES! Pittsburgh’s arts and culture scene is known on a national level, so there is no reason you should be intimidated by a national grant application. Before applying, you should ensure that your region is eligible for the grant. If you are eligible, approach the national grant the same way you approach a local grant!

Be Specific With Your Goals. Instead of saying, "I want to make public art," be specific and say, "I want to make public art installations out of recycled playground materials for children (6-10)."

“I don’t know when I should apply to a grant?” 

Don’t wait, especially if the grant is “first come, first serve.” 


A “first come, first serve” grant means the funder has a limited number of grants to offer. Only qualified applicants who apply before that number has been reached will receive the grants, but the grant doesn’t close after that number has been reached. For these “first come, first serve” grants, you should prioritize getting your application in as early as possible. 


If a grant is juried or selected by a panel, it means that grant will be reviewed by a team alongside all other applications. For these juried/panel reviewed grants, you should prioritize the quality of your application. 


Of course, always make sure you submit before the deadline!

Always ask for help! If you have a question, reach out to the grant's organization. With enough time before the deadline, they will usually provide you with support.

“What do I write in my grant?”

Your grant should reflect you, your artistic practice, and what you need grants to create. Here are a couple of questions you should make sure to answer: 


  1. What are you making? 

    You should try to articulate your project as best as you can. Even if your art will continue to develop, describe your project (as you envision it now) as best as possible. Remember, you are familiar with your project, but your application reader is not. Always, try to write so that an outsider would understand what you already know. 

  2. What are your project goals?

    Think about the goals that you want to achieve with your project and list them for your grant application. Try to be as specific as possible with your project goals. For example, if your goal is to find an audience for your art gallery, you should be specific about how many people you want and what the audience should feel. 

  3. Who is the perfect audience for your art? 

    You know who your art speaks to, but your grant application reader does not. You should describe your audience in as much detail as possible. You should think about the age, gender, race, sexuality, interest, and locations of your ideal audience. 

  4. How will you execute your project? 

    You should always include your timelines (including decision dates) and what collaborators you are working with. 

  5. What is your budget? 

    Building budgets can feel daunting, but remember to break it down into your expenses and income. Your expenses should include any personnel expenses, project materials, venue expenses, equipment rentals, and marketing/promotion costs. Your income should be broken up into money you receive before the project, contributed revenue like grants and donations, and the money you make from the project, or earned revenue like ticket sales and merch sales. 

Always include a timeline. You should always include your timelines (including decision dates) and what collaborators you are working with.

“Where do I look for help?” 

The language of grants can be hard to read, so it is inevitable to have questions. If there’s something in the application you don’t understand, you should reach out to the grant’s organization. As long as you reach out to them ahead of the application deadline, they will usually provide you with individualized support. 


You should also fully read the application guidelines, as some funders require you to receive outside support before you submit your grant application. 


You can also look for specialists to hire for grant writing. Or, if you'd like to better learn yourself, the Community College of Allegheny County offers a class about grant writing called 'A to Z Grant Writing," designed specifically for people looking to improve their grant writing. 

“How do I find specialized help?"

In the 2022 Impact to Insight survey, one interviewee said, “Racial discrimination, social economic discrimination, educational [discrimination] is unfortunately interwoven in the selection process in the Greater Pittsburgh region.” 


Unfortunately, women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled artists are at a systemic disadvantage for grant awards. However, new resources have emerged to help establish greater equity within the arts community in Pittsburgh:

  • Women's Business Centers: Women’s business centers are open to all folks in need of low-cost counseling and training to support their business. 

  • PACE: Pace supports small-to mid sized community-based nonprofits, especially supporting the needs of marginalized BIPOC communities. 

  • The Center for Shared Prosperity: The Center for Shared Prosperity supports equity in the Greater Pittsburgh area, specifically with BIPOC-owned businesses and organizations. 

  • ShiftWorks: ShiftWorks, a capacity-building organization for public art, has compiled resources for public art administration and management. 

  • Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania: Although the Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania is an organization for grantmakers, not grant seekers, the organization offers programs to support underrepresented communities. 

"No" is an opportunity to grow. If your grant application is denied, you should reach out and see why you were denied. Meetings like these can improve your next application!

“I got denied and lost hope.” 

Remember that a “no” is an opportunity to grow. Even if you are denied, you should still reach out to the grantmaker and see what might improve your next application. Even though every application is different, most grantmakers will give valuable advice for your next application. 


The best advice for a successful grant application is to answer exactly what the application asks concisely and simply. Remember that grantmakers are looking to support artists just like you, so prioritize sharing exactly what you do. 

For more information on Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council grant programs, please visit