AJU Launches Artist Grants Program

Word LA Artist Grant Image

Why should Jewish institutions give small grants to artists? Supporting artists brings vibrancy to organizations and communities, making space for dynamic conversation and creating a bigger tent for engagement and education. Artists also create the relevant artifacts and performances that collectively define the present moment, and Jewish institutions and leaders who recognize this can integrate arts into the fabric of the community. It is in the specificity of an artist’s voice that we can feel a connection to ideas, each other, and the many communities that intersect in the cities where we live.

As the director the Institute for Jewish Creativity at American Jewish University, I am proud to share the launch of the WORD Grant fund: The Bruce Geller Memorial Prize. The WORD Grant will support artists creating projects that explore Jewish ideas, themes, tradition, history, and identity. AJU believes in supporting a contemporary, vibrant, Jewish cultural landscape in Los Angeles.

According to Claire Peeps, Executive Director of the Durfee Foundation, “Small grants are like stepping stones. Artists need small grants to get from one place to another, at all levels of their careers. Small grants allow artists to navigate across all kinds of terrain and to move from one project to the next, from small opportunities to larger ones. They help prevent artists from becoming isolated or immobilized. And they provide the platform from which artists make the leap to larger grants.”[1]

Small grants to artists have much broader benefits.  The power of the arts to change communities and positively affect organizations has been studies in other cultural contexts. Research by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts[2], identified social effects of arts and culture that include:

  • enhancing understanding and capacity for action

  • creating and retaining identity

  • building social cohesion

  • contributing to community development

  • fostering civic participation.

We at the Institute for Jewish Creativity are pleased to support projects that approach Jewish culture from a variety of perspectives, in terms of discipline, context and thematic elements. Applications are due March 30th for our first round of funding. Grants of $500-$2,000 will be awarded for the creation and/or presentation of new work.  A total of $20,000 will be awarded.

The Institute for Jewish Creativity is made possible through a generous Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles. Bruce and Jeannette Geller were influential Los Angeles residents whose passion for creativity and the pursuit of art defined their lives. Bruce Geller was an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter most famous for creating, directing and producing the highly successful TV show, Mission Impossible.

[1] Peeps, Claire. Supporting Individual Artists: Ten Years, Ten Lessons. Available here: http://www.giarts.org/article/supporting-individual-artists-ten-years-t…

[2] STANLEY, Dick. The Social Effects of Culture. Canadian Journal of Communication, Available at: <http://www.cjc-online.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/1744/1856&gt;. 


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Michelle Starkman, M.A., MBA
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