Chronicling three decades of Art Ventures
By Meredith T. Matthews
Thirty years ago, in 1990, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida saw the fruits of their fundraising efforts blossom into its first Art Ventures grants. Challenged by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to raise $100,000 per year to match the NEA’s $50,000 per year grants over a four-year period, many donors came forward to show that they believed in the NEA’s support and in strengthening the arts in our community.
The Art Ventures grants are designed to help emerging artists and small arts organizations launch and strengthen their efforts and careers. Today, local funding for Art Ventures Individual Artist Grants comes from the Art Ventures Endowment, the J. Shepard, Jr. & Mary Ann Bryan Arts Endowment, the Anne and Sallyn Pajcic Art Ventures Endowment, the Independent Life Minority Arts Fund, the Alynne Sharp Art Fund, and the Baker Family Advised Fund. It is the only fund of its kind in our region and has helped the Northeast Florida arts community become robust and sustainable.
“Milestone anniversaries like this offer tremendous perspective. When I think about the people who imagined how a fund like Art Ventures could shape the community, I’m astounded,” says Amy Crane, Community Foundation senior program director. “Those early donors and trustees, led by Courtenay Wilson and Ann Baker, brought their big idea to life. And now, after 30 years, the fund remains one of only a few like it in the country.”
To date, more than $1.3 million has been invested in the Northeast Florida arts community through The Community Foundation’s Art Ventures Fund. More than 175 grants to individual artists and more than a hundred grants to small arts organizations have been given, helping the arts to remain vital. Each year, approximately 15 grants are bestowed on local artists and organizations. This year, however, in celebration of 30 years of Art Ventures, The Community Foundation made 30 grants—18 for individual artists and 12 for small arts organizations.
“As we reflect on the quiet power of the Art Ventures Fund to nurture our individual artists and small arts organizations over the past 30 years, it’s clear that this has been a remarkable investment,” says Martha Frye Baker, chair of The Community Foundation Board of Trustees. “By expanding the number of grants in this anniversary year, we hope to draw attention to the significance of having a vibrant arts community and its role in making Northeast Florida a better place for all its citizens.”
The Community Foundation is also celebrating the work of artists who have received Art Ventures grants over the 30-year period in an exhibition of select works at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. This exhibition was originally planned for June 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will now take place January 13 through February 21, 2021. There will also be a publication of artists’ work created by The Community Foundation to celebrate this anniversary.