As we near the beginning of the school year, I want to purposefully address one of the elephants in the room when it comes to arts integration. One of the largest issues I have heard teachers come up against when it comes to integrating the arts into their classrooms is funding for arts supplies. Teachers are rightly reticent to request supplies from the art department at their schools as these departments are often underfunded themselves and have limited supplies. I have spent the past two years navigating grant writing and fundraising specifically for arts integration purposes. While it would be meaningless for me to list specific grants to apply for, as most grants are localized, I can help direct you to the right place to search for arts integration grants.
In hopes of saving someone from having to search and discover all of the same funding sources, I have compiled a list of places to research funding for arts integration at your school.
A word about timelines. Regardless of size, the majority of grant applications are either due at the conclusion of the school year (June or July), or towards the start of the new school year (October, November). If your school does not have an arts integration specialist position, I recommend forming a committee that meets after school with the explicit purpose of completing grant applications so that the burden and reward of the application extends to as many teachers as possible.
Local Grants and Fundraising
I have found that although local grants are often for smaller amounts of money, they are the easiest to obtain. There is a smaller pool of applicants applying for the funding and often these same organizations allow you to reapply for their grants year after year. The majority of localized grants in our area come from Arts Councils. I find that the best way to discover your local arts council is to either visit the local arts center or to simply Google the name of your county or school district and the words “arts council.” Maryland has 24 various arts councils mainly organized by county and each council offers individualized grants in various amounts.
Be aware that some of these organizations will pay for specified programming. For example, an organization might pay for your school to partner with a specific teaching artist or group of teaching artists. One confusing aspect of localized grants is that they may only pay for a portion of having an artist visit the school. For instance, an arts organization may pay for half of a visiting artist to visit your school, and the school’s Parent Teacher Association may be asked to provide the remaining funding for the other half of that artist’s residency.
One of the most effective ways to fundraise small amounts of money is to utilize local community power by partnering with a local restaurant and having a percentage of meal cost on a designated day go towards your arts integration budget. Chipotle, Applebee’s, California Pizza Kitchen, Outback Steakhouse, Subway, Chick-fil-A, and Panera all offer partnerships if you contact your local branch as do many mom-and-pop style shops. Have students create fliers advertising the event and encourage families to meet up for dinner and support arts integration at their children’s school. Additionally, if your school sends supply lists home in August or September with students, ask to include supplies specifically for the purpose of Arts Integration on that list. Consider asking to place a donation box for requested supplies at local art stores such as A.C. Moore, Michaels, or Joannes Fabric.
There are also online fundraising platforms such as gofundme.com and donorschoose.com where you can crowdsource funding for a specific arts integration project or trip.
State and Regional Grants
Every state in the USA has an arts council that offers some sort of funding for the arts. You can look up your state arts council on the National Endowment for the Arts page. There are also six regional arts councils in the USA which all offer arts grants including the Southeast: Southern Arts Federation, Mid-Atlantic: Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Northeast: New England Foundation for the Arts, Mid- America: Mid-America Arts Alliance, Mid-West: Arts Midwest, West: Western States Arts Federation.
National and Commercial Grants
In the USA some of the largest arts organizations offering grants or funding include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Art Education Association. Target and Walmart also offer grants that can be utilized in the classroom. Crayola and other large art companies offer grants specifically for art supplies and art funding. These grants are usually very popular and difficult to obtain but are worth a shot if you feel you have a solid application.
Regardless of where you apply you should be able to recycle certain parts of your grant applications from one to the next. For example, most grants request a description of student population or classroom setting and this will obviously remain the same regardless of grant application. One last place to search for grants is to reach out to the local teaching artist organization (such as Young Audiences) as these organizations have an intrinsic motivation to help you in finding grants that are a good match for your school.
Happy grant hunting!