Our Mission

A Blade of Grass nurtures socially engaged art. We provide resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change. We evaluate the quality of work in this evolving field by fostering an inclusive, practical discourse about the aesthetics, function, ethics and meaning of socially engaged art that resonates within and outside the contemporary art dialogue.

What We Support

  • Socially engaged projects in which art is a catalyst for social change.
  • Projects that feature artists in leadership roles.
  • Dialogue-based projects that emphasize sustainable partnerships with communities.
  • Projects in which artists engage community members as equal partners.
  • Projects in which co-creation with non-artists is part of the process.
  • We value process over product: relationship building and problem solving are key goals.
  • We provide financial support with minimal restriction, and budget line items may include things like living expenses that are not direct project expenses.
  • Artists working nationwide, as well as artists based in the US who are working internationally.

What We Don't Support

  • Projects in which the focus is on producing an exhibition, theater production, 
or objects for display.
  • Residencies or studio practice, except as they directly relate to achieving outcomes of a community-based project.
  • Projects that lack co-created outcomes and/or community engagement.
  • Artists or artist collectives registered as 501c3 nonprofit organizations.

Meet the Fellows

ABOG Fellows for Socially Engaged Art work in leadership roles and in partnership with communities, in ways that are relevant in everyday life, at ambitious scale, to enact social change. Click here to meet our current and past Fellows, and here to watch FIELDWORKS short documentary films, and learn about the type of work ABOG supports.

Thank you! Our 2017 Open Call is now closed.

About the ABOG Fellowship

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible applicants for the ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art:

  • Socially engaged projects in which art is a catalyst for social change.
  • Projects that feature artists in leadership roles.
  • Dialogue-based projects that emphasize sustainable partnerships with communities.
  • Projects in which artists engage community members as equal partners.
  • Projects in which co-creation with non-artists is part of the process.
  • We value process over product: relationship building and problem solving are key goals.
  • We provide financial support with minimal restriction, and budget line items may include things like living expenses that are not direct project expenses.
  • Artists working nationwide, as well as artists based in the US who are working internationally.
  • Kindly note, ineligible applications will not be reviewed. If you have questions regarding your eligibility, please contact: info@abladeofgrass.org

    About the Fellowship

    The ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art is an active, year-long relationship. Documentation and field research may extend beyond the Fellowship year, in order to fully represent your project in your FIELDWORKS documentary and publication.

    Fellows become active members in a cohort and participants in a program that features a range of services, including:

    • Project support of $20,000 with minimal restriction (budget line items may include things like living expenses that are not direct project expenses).
    • A two-day orientation that explores ABOG’s documentation and field research models, and includes workshops on strategies for community engagement.
    • A two-day midyear retreat with other Fellows to share progress and challenges, and offer feedback to one another.
    • Support and feedback for ongoing self-evaluation in the form of collaborative action research.
    • Field research by an outside evaluator. We want to understand how the projects we support impact communities, and capture and share innovative ideas and successful models for future use.
    • ABOG production of a short video documentary on each project.
    • Access to our broad network of specialists outside the art world. Ask us how we can help you connect with experts in issues your project addresses!

    Fellows submit interim and final reports, each including a narrative description of activities to date and a budget update, to ABOG.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligible applicants for the ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art:

  • Are artists or artist collectives working independently. Artists or artist collectives registered as 501c3 nonprofit organizations are not eligible to apply. If you are a collective, please submit a single application under the name of the collective. Multiple applications for collectives are not permitted.
  • Are not currently enrolled as students.
  • Are US citizens, or US residents with legal work status. If applying as a collective, a US citizen or resident with legal work status must be the primary contact for the group.
  • Are at least 25 years of age.
  • Have not received an ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art as an individual or as part of an artist collective in the last 3 years.
  • Have projects that engage directly with a specific community or communities.
  • Have a website with contextualized examples of past work that a selection panel can review.

Kindly note, ineligible applications will not be reviewed. If you have questions regarding your eligibility, please contact: info@abladeofgrass.org

How to Apply

Writing Your Letter of Interest

The ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art is intended to support artists who take a leadership role, and engage directly with communities to develop projects of ambitious scale that promote social change. We do not support projects focused on exhibition outcomes, artist residencies, or studio practice unless explicitly geared toward direct social engagement.

Be sure to frame your project in these terms as you address the following questions in your 500-word statement:

  • What is your proposed project? Clearly articulate project goals and explicitly describe how you intend to achieve them.
  • What is your artistic vision, and why is your project best framed as an art project?
  • How does your project enact social change?
  • Will the project be realized in the course of a year? If not, what do you expect will happen during a one-year fellowship?
  • Who will you be working with, and how will you be working with them? Describe your process for collaborating, and outline the relationships you’ve established with members of that community.

All applicants must submit the following via online form:

  • Eligibility screening
  • Link to a website with examples of past projects.
  • 500-word Letter of Interest
  • CV (or CV’s if applying as a collective) in PDF format

Make sure to submit your application via our online form only. Applications received via other means will not be reviewed.

Applicants selected as semi-finalists will be invited to submit a full application with an extended narrative, budget, and a timeline with specific benchmarks for realizing each stage of their project in early November 2016.

Helpful Tips!

Collectives should submit a single application under the name of the collective. To submit multiple CV’s, please consolidate them into one PDF document prior to uploading.

Special characters, such as ampersands, quotation marks, and apostrophes, take up extra characters when translated into HTML code in web-based application forms. If you notice a higher than expected word count when you copy and paste from your word processing program into the online application form, try the following:

  • Transfer your text into a text-only utility like TextEdit or Notepad before pasting it into the online form. This will delete hidden HTML code to ensure the proper capture of your text.
  • Try to avoid using special characters if possible (such as ampersands, quotation marks, apostrophes).
  • Use only one space after the end of sentences. If you enter two spaces after a period, HTML coding adds extra spaces. You can also save character space by limiting the use of tabs.

How We Decide

Reader and Selection Committees

  • A panel of readers made up of an artist, a community organizer or participant in a community-based art project, a curator or arts administrator, an educator or scholar, and an ABOG representative will review initial letters of interest and recommend up to 50 semi-finalists. All applicants will be informed of their status in early November 2016.
  • Semi-finalists will submit a full application by January 6, 2017, which will be screened by a separate but similarly composed selection committee.
  • ABOG staff will screen final recommendations made by the selection committee and interview the finalists.

Readers and Selection Committee members are asked to review Fellowship proposals using the specific context and criteria outlined below. (PDF version available here)

Our Stake in Social Practice

The ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art is designed to serve artists working in leadership roles and in partnership with communities, in ways that are relevant in everyday life, at ambitious scale, to enact change.

This specific stake in socially engaged art and these fellowship resources are informed by the book Education for Socially Engaged Art, by artist Pablo Helguera. Selection committee members receive a copy to use as a reference when reviewing materials. We specifically ask reviewers to keep in mind two of Helguera’s key points:

  • Socially engaged art is about activating members of the public (or a community) as collaborators, rather than passive receptors.
  • Artists who produce socially engaged works are interested in creating a kind of collective art that affects the public sphere in a deep and meaningful way, not in creating a representation of a social issue.

Selection Criteria

We ask reviewers to rely on four criteria for evaluating proposals: artistic excellence, capacity to enact social change, viability in everyday life, and fit with fellowship resources. The specific questions we ask reviewers to consider are below:

Artistic Excellence

  • Does the artist have a strong track record?
  • Is the project ambitious?
  • Is it aesthetically compelling?
  • Can it act as a leading example in the field of socially engaged art?

The Project’s Capacity to Enact Social Change

  • Does it approach a specific issue in a new way, or otherwise offer opportunity for innovation?
  • Does it enact, as opposed to represent, social change?
  • If the project is ongoing, does this proposal represent meaningful growth in the project?
  • Is the project aesthetically or formally innovative?

The Project’s Viability in Everyday Life

  • Does the project attract the interest of non-artist stakeholders?
  • Does it meaningfully engage a community or communities?
  • Is it legitimately helpful?
  • Is its language externally focused?
  • Is it meaningful in the absence of a contemporary art context or an initiated audience?
  • Is it feasible?

Fit with Resources

  • Is the artist working independently (i.e. as an individual or collective, and not as a 501c3 nonprofit organization)?
  • Will the artist and/or project particularly benefit from a supportive cohort of other artists working on similar problems?
  • Will the artist and/or project particularly benefit from occasional institutional assistance, such as contacts or consultation?
  • Will this project benefit from the artist’s guided self-reflection, reciprocal peer evaluation, and study by an outside evaluator?
  • Is this a project that can benefit from having its story told through an external voice?

Top Reasons Proposed Projects Were Not Selected

  • The project was not innovative.
  • The project was not aesthetically compelling.
  • The proposed project’s relationship to the community was poorly defined or overly prescriptive.
  • The proposal added a small community engagement component to a static public art proposal rather than developed a project with the participation of a community.
  • The project conflated access to contemporary art and social change.
  • The project primarily represented social issues rather than enacting social change.
  • The project proposed to represent a community without meaningfully engaging it.
  • The project had an impact exclusive to or primarily in service of the initiated contemporary art dialogue.

More feedback, from our review process in 2014, is available HERE.

Fellowship Workshops

Prior to the September 19 deadline, ABOG hosts two Fellowship Workshops which are free and open to the public with RSVP. If you are in NYC, we strongly recommend attending a workshop before applying. They are a great opportunity to meet staff, ask questions, learn more about our mission and how we consider applications, see great examples of the type of work we support, and get practical information about the methods socially engaged artists use. Fellowship Workshops can also connect you with a small group cohort for mutual assistance with writing your application to improve your chances of success. Fellowship Workshops take place from 6-8 PM at The 8th Floor, 17 W 17th St, in New York City.

If you are not local to NYC, don’t worry! Videos and materials from past Fellowship Workshops are available below.
 

Additional resources used during the workshops are available here:
 
Is My Proposal Ready for Primetime?
What Made a Proposal Uncompetitive?
 
Example Letter of Interest – Courtney Bowles & Mark Strandquist (2016)
Example Letter of Interest – Joseph Cuillier (2016)
 
Example Letter of Interest – Sol Aramendi (2015)
Example Letter of Interest – Mary Mattingly (2015)
 
Example Letter of Interest – Jan Mun (2014)
Example Letter of Interest – Jody Wood (2014)
 
Frequently Asked Questions – ABOG Fellowship for Contemplative Practice
 
Interested in joining a small working group? Contact: info@abladeofgrass.org
We’ll introduce you via email to two other artists interested in independently reviewing each other’s proposals.

Kindly note, sign ups for working groups closed Monday, September 12.

View all Fellowship Workshops

Contact Us

Not sure whether your project is a good fit? Have questions about the application process? Send us a short description via email (not the whole application document), and allow 2-3 business days for a response: info@abladeofgrass.org

Please send us final questions by 5 PM (EST) on Thursday, September 15.

Past ABOG Programs

ABOG Distinguished Artist Fellowship

ABOG Distinguished Artist Fellowships were awarded to artists who were realizing socially engaged art projects of ambitious scale. Fellowships paired project support of $50,000 per year for up to three years, with a wide range of services tailored to the project, including strategic support, field research tools, documentation and other tailored resources for socially engaged artists. Distinguished Fellows were selected by nomination only.

Project Grants for Organizations

From 2012-2014, Project Grants for Organizations were awarded to arts organizations enabling ambitious socially engaged art projects by placing artists in leaderships roles and building active and sustainable community partnerships.

Artist Files

Artist Files was an experimental, curated grant cycle that selected twenty artists in 2012 to participate in an open, online discourse about their individual projects and the unique traits of socially engaged art. This process helped to shape the criteria for the ABOG Fellowship for Socially Engaged Art. We thank our first Fellows for their insights!