Funding is a constant challenge for M/A partnerships to reach their potential and be sustained over time. Partnership funding is typically pieced together from multiple sources including existing municipal budgets; state, federal, and other government funding; foundation grants; and targeted support for the arts or for civic areas such as public safety, public health, community engagement, and economic development. The more we make the case for M/A partnerships, the more resources will become available. Consider these strategies when seeking funding:

  • Each partner brings connections to different funding sources. The key is effective translation of the partnership that demonstrates how it adds value to each sector. The themes and nature of the project itself can also open up resources.
  • M/A partnerships offer different angles that align with funders’ interests. Some funders may respond to the potential for the partnership to address a social issue, how it offers creative approaches to municipal government work and goals, or how it engages specific communities.
  • Grants to artists can support an M/A partnership. These might be modest in proportion to other funding sources, but can be critical in supporting people and activities that government funding cannot.
  • When a project gets to “we,” the resources are easier to find. As a project develops, excitement about it grows, and it becomes relevant to stakeholders, it can stimulate new funding prospects.
Creative CityMaking is supported by the City of Minneapolis General Fund, matching funds from participating city departments, and NEA and foundation grants. Each of these sources contributes to a different dimension of the work; CCM sees foundation and NEA funding as a way to “buy artists some freedom to experiment.”

Important sources of funding for M/A partnerships include:

Local Government

Local government dollars should always be a part of the funding mix. Yet, even in some of the most long-standing and impactful M/A partnership programs, municipal investment represents only a modest percentage of overall costs. The reasons are not surprising. Municipal and agency budgets are perpetually stretched. Government agencies are sensitive to public perception of how taxpayer dollars are used. Even when evidence shows the positive effects of artists’ work toward municipal goals, M/A partnership coordinators have been challenged to win support over other “essential” services. This may limit initial cash investments and/or default to primarily in-kind support such as space, equipment, services, etc.

Some strategies to consider:

  • Repurpose resources within existing agency or department budgets. Look for standard budget allocations that could support an artist instead of another contractor. Allocations could include: capital design, community engagement, professional development, and space rental.
  • Special allocations or earmarks for municipal priorities can sometimes be applied to M/A partnerships.
The City of Fargo, ND eventually created an earmarked line item in the city budget to support Jackie Brookner's Fargo Project. Other funding came from the Parks District, state conservation funding, the NEA’s Our Town grant, ArtPlace America, the Kresge Foundation and others.

Nashville, TN supported the Restorative Arts program through its Public Investment Plan. The program received $88,000 for each of two years to launch and continue the program.
  • Government mandates on a city or county level can be a good funding source for M/A partnerships that align with the mandate's goals.

Minneapolis’ Creative CityMaking and Los Angeles County’s Creative Strategist programs both support their city’s racial and cultural equity goals. The Boston AIR program aligns with a Mayoral initiative on resiliency.

  • Alternative revenue streams. Municipalities have found creative ways such as special taxes or public-private agreements to support the arts.
The City of Detroit allocated revenue from PEG funding—a tax on cable and internet services that goes towards public, educational, and government programs— to support the Chief Storyteller staff position. The stories appear on the project website and the city’s cable channel.
  • Ongoing programs with their own budgets. When M/A partnership programs become integral to municipal systems, they deserve a budget of their own. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate the need for outside funds, but helps ensure the work can continue without overburdening partners with fundraising.

After a successful pilot for Philadelphia’s Porch Light Initiative, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbilities Services created an ongoing budget line for the program.

  • In-kind funding. A municipality or agency can support some operational and project related costs by providing in-kind resources and services.
The City of St. Paul, MN gives the City Artist program operational support valued at $40,000 per year, including office space, computer equipment, and phone. The City of Austin, TX provided free use of city venues, vehicles, and marketing services for the My Park, My Pool, My City project. They also covered city workers’ time in assisting and participating in the project during regular work hours.

Local, State, and Regional Arts Agencies

Many local arts agencies (including councils and commissions) are critical third-party partners in M/A projects. They may assist in fundraising, make grants of their own, administer grant programs that support partnerships, and/or serve as fiscal sponsors. Similarly, state arts agencies make grants that may be applicable to partnerships. Also, local and state arts agencies sometimes manage public art programs that could be potential sources of partnership support.

The Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture has leveraged its strong relations with county officials and departments such as Public Health, Public Works, and Parks & Recreation to gain their fiscal support.
  • Percent for Art. Municipalities with Percent for Art ordinances may be able to support M/A partnerships with mandated budget allocations for public art as a regular part of public construction and renovation projects. Percent for Art funds are typically tied to infrastructure projects and therefore to physical artworks. However, as the field of public art expands to include projects that are more relational and process-oriented, some Percent for Art programs are also funding embedded artists residencies. However, because Percent funds are linked to specific construction projects, they are not a source for ongoing programs.
In Portland OR, the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s (RACC) intersections artist in residence program uses Percent for Art funds for socially engaged projects that support specific municipal agencies’ goals, and that aren’t restricted to the development site that generated the funds. RACC negotiated with the Portland Archives and Records Center to use around $100,000 of its Percent for Art allocation to support multiple artists in residence who, over time, would work collaboratively with Archives staff to define projects serving agency and community concerns.
  • Grant Programs. Check with your Local, State, and Regional Arts Agencies to identify grant programs that have potential to provide support for M/A partnerships. These could be focused on community-based art, arts and civic engagement, arts and community development, place-based projects, socially engaged art, and individual grants to artists. Examples include Colorado’s Arts in Society grant program; the Mid America Arts Alliance’s Interchange pilot program; and the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Creative City Boston.

State & Federal Non-arts Funding

Funding for M/A partnerships can be built into larger municipal budget proposals to state or federal agencies for transportation, environment, housing, or public health projects, when they are linked to the outcomes those agencies support. Federal mandates for public participation in programs such as Community Development Block Grants create additional opportunities.

The City of Minneapolis secured a $5 million multi-year grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to support communities affected by police violence. $100,000 of this grant was used to hire two teams of artists to work with the city’s Equity and Inclusion Division.

Place-based Funding

Creative placemaking, community development, and place-based funders may be sources of support for M/A partnerships. Some of these funders can also support training or coaching that help partners build skills and capacity, as well as communication and evaluation resources. Some funders with a deep commitment to place may want to be actively involved or even engage as a partner—so make sure to have clarity about the funder’s role at the start.

  • Creative Placemaking has been gaining ground for more than a decade. Public and private partners employ the arts and culture to strategically shape the physical and social character of a place in order to spur economic development, promote enduring social change, and improve the physical environment. Creative placemaking advocates believe that community development and planning projects benefit from the participation of artists from the beginning.
  • The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has been a steady supporter of M/A partnership projects. Its support has been significant in legitimizing a project and leveraging other funding. The Our Town program supports arts engagement, cultural planning, and design projects. Grant for Art Projects, NEA’s principle grant program, is also a potential source of funding for public engagement with art, and the integration of the arts into the fabric of community life.
“Getting national recognition [through an NEA Our Town grant] was great! It opened a lot of doors.” Nicole Crutchfield, planner, City of Fargo
  • National placemaking funders like ArtPlace America and the Kresge Foundation have catalyzed interest and focused resources to enhance creative placemaking and community development. In addition to NEA, they have led the way in supporting creative placemaking nationally, and have supported many of the projects profiled in this guide. However, foundation-driven initiatives often don’t last forever. For example, ArtPlace, which was a 10-year initiative by federal agencies, foundations, and financial institutions, and closed its open grantmaking program in 2017. Private foundations can also change direction based on current needs, so research their current funding priorities or speak to a program officer to make sure your request is within their guidelines.
  • Other place-based sources include Community Development Corporations, Main Street programs, Designated Cultural Districts, Tourism and Heritage organizations, and Regional Planning Agencies.

National Intermediary Support

National organizations in community development, creative placemaking, and other sectors are stepping up to guide their fields in areas like M/A partnerships and creative placemaking. Although most don’t provide funding, they do support professional development and technical assistance to build capacity for partnerships. Examples include:

Community Foundations

Community foundations provide a unique platform to generate new local opportunities. They can be a source of funding as well as allies in identifying and/or securing funds.