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Advancing the Pre-Professional Development of Young Artists from Historically Underrepresented Populations in All Artistic Disciplines

Grants benefit young artists between the ages of 6 and 18 (throughout the duration of the program) who are not, and will not be, enrolled in any academic, conservatory, college, or degree granting training program during the fellowship.


The New York Community Trust’s Edward and Sally Van Lier Fellowship Program provides support for talented young people from historically underrepresented populations who are dedicated to a career in the arts.

Grants will provide assistance to arts groups and training programs in all artistic disciplines to help individual artists make the transition to professional careers. Grants will provide education, training, or other support for young pre-professionals living and working in New York City.

We will award grants of up to three years to a small number of arts groups to sponsor two or more artist fellowships. The purpose of the fellowships is to help young artists achieve a significant professional credit that can lead to future career opportunities. Grants will range up to a maximum of $150,000 for each organization, depending upon the number and size of fellowships covered. 

Proposals are due at The Trust no later than 12 p.m. May 1, 2018. Please note this is a receipt and not a postmark deadline. Only complete proposals as specified in this Request for Proposals (RFP) will be considered. We will announce the grants in October 2018.

Background and Purpose of the Van Lier Fund

Two major goals of The New York Community Trust’s arts program are:
  • Promoting diversity, equity, and access in and to the arts; and
  • Developing talented young artists from historically underrepresented populations.
The Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund, created by the will of Sally Van Lier, gave The Trust the opportunity to establish a fellowship program for young artists to further these goals. Sally Van Lier was a theatrical performer in the New York theater in the 1920s and appeared in the original production of Showboat. Throughout their lives, she and her husband were avid visitors to the City’s museums, concerts, and plays, and introduced many young people to the arts. To honor our donor’s intent, we make grants to arts groups and training programs to provide education, training, or other support at two stages of development:
  • Pre-Professional—The period of training to prepare for college, conservatory, or advanced professional training.
  • Young Professional—The period when artists between 18 and 30 years-old seek to establish a professional career.
We issue separate RFPs for each level of development. This RFP requests applications only for efforts to serve young artists, ages 6-18, throughout the duration of the fellowship, in all artistic disciplines. 

In 2016, The Trust released an evaluation of the Van Lier program. 

Qualifications of Organizations 

Grants will be made to tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organizations in New York City administering educational or fellowship programs that promote the professional development of talented young adults in all artistic disciplines. Grants will not be considered for agencies with annual operating budgets less than $250,000 (as demonstrated by an audit or the Form 990) nor for agencies carrying an accumulated deficit.

Applicants must request support for at least two artists, and may request more than that number. The fellowship activities and support may be provided directly by the sponsoring organization or in cooperation with another group. In all cases, the grantee will be responsible for recruiting and selecting fellowship recipients, assuring that resources are provided, monitoring the artists’ progress over the term of the fellowship, and tracking professional career developments after its completion. 

Groups with active grants from The Trust’s Arts program that conclude after October 2018 are not eligible to apply for this round. Additionally, The Trust will not support a Van Lier fellowship program for more than six consecutive years. At that point, the agency must take a hiatus from the Van Lier Fund.

Groups on hiatus may apply to The Trust in other program categories as per the guidelines on our website.

Qualifications of Fellowship Programs

We will consider programs that provide fellowships or equivalent support for young pre-professional artists. Fellowship activities must take place and help artists who reside in New York City. Recipients should be aged 6 to 18 throughout the duration of the fellowship. Priority is given to agencies that will assist young artists from historically underrepresented populations in the arts disciplines, such as African, Latino(a), Asian, Arab, and Native American artists and artists with disabilities. Gender also may be used as a lens to determine underrepresentation. Grants will not be made to provide fellowships to students enrolled in undergraduate programs. Applications that focus solely on regranting will not be considered.

Fellowship activities should be appropriate to both the art form and the development needs of the individual artists. We support a broad range of activities and related costs, such as training, coaching, and mentoring; opportunities to create, produce, perform, or publish; and college prep and visits. We will cover a limited amount of organizational costs. We will consider grants only where the primary purpose is to benefit the professional development of the fellowship recipient, rather than the sponsoring organization.

Terms of Award

Grant awards will:
  • Range from $50,000 to a maximum of $150,000 ($75,000 per year for two years or $50,000 per year for three years) depending upon the number and size of fellowships offered;
  • Sponsor two or more fellowships; and
  • Extend for a period of two or three years.
The purpose of the award is to provide direct support to specific young artists from historically underrepresented populations within arts disciplines (e.g., filmmaking, theater, music, visual arts). Requests to support graphic design, media post-production, or administrative roles will not be considered. Funds may be used to support or expand an existing effort, or to begin a new program. Grants are intended primarily to cover fellowship costs; however, a limited amount of administrative costs attributable to the fellowship program may be requested. Supplemental grants and funds from other sources are encouraged. 

Groups may choose to support either the same artists over the term of the grant, or different artists for shorter periods. The size and duration of each fellowship should be based upon the activities involved. Organizations should ensure selected artists are first-time Van Lier fellowship recipients. 

The Trust will require grantees to submit periodic reports on the program as a whole and on the status of each fellowship recipient, generate line-item budgets that demonstrate how the grant money is spent, and establish procedures for tracking the artistic achievement of recipients following the completion of the fellowships. 

Review Criteria

Proposals are reviewed by staff then recommended to the board for funding. Factors considered in selecting grantees include:
  1. Diversity of artists, disciplines, and geographic location of programs;
  2. Quality of programs and services offered;
  3. Achievement in identifying and training talented artists from historically underrepresented populations in arts disciplines;
  4. Depth of understanding of the support and services needed for youth to obtain admission to professional level programs—e.g., college, conservatory, or professional company; 
  5. Extent of knowledge about the issues involved in helping young artists begin professional careers;
  6. Soundness of the organization’s management and qualifications of staff;
  7. Scope of monitoring and tracking procedures; and
  8. Commitment and ability of the organization to continue the fellowship program after the term of The Trust’s grant.

Proposed Specifications and Support Material

Proposal narratives should not exceed five pages and should cover at least the following topics:
  1. Brief description of the organization’s history, background, artistic significance, current programs for advancing talented artists from historically underrepresented populations, and commitment to equity. 
  2. Need for the fellowship.
  3. Methods used to identify and select fellowship recipients, including determination of financial need.
  4. Number of fellowships to be provided, including the name of the recipients if known, or profile of intended recipients.
  5. Description of the activities, resources, public performance or exhibition opportunities, and support services to be provided to fellows, including any direct financial support. If another organization will be involved, describe its role and qualifications.
  6. Approach to helping fellowship recipients identify career goals and establish plans to achieve them.
  7. Plan for monitoring each artist’s progress and for tracking the artist’s career development after the fellowship ends.
  8. Strategy for continuing the fellowship program after Trust support has concluded. 
  9. A plan for informing recipients of their Van Lier fellowship and promoting the fellowship internally and externally.
  10. Previous Van Lier grant recipients should note how Trust support has affected the organization overall. For example, did the Van Lier program help attract new culturally diverse artists or advance the organization’s commitment to diversity among its staff and board? How did previous fellows benefit and how have those careers progressed? Cite specific examples.

The multi-year project budget should indicate the annual and total cost of all fellowships; include an itemization of the costs per artist (e.g., stipend, space rental, supplies, administration, etc.); indicate the total requested from The Trust specifying the amount requested for each fellowship; and, if applicable, note other confirmed and projected funding sources. 

Support materials should include:

  1. A copy of The New York Community Trust proposal cover sheet that you have submitted online via the RFP Tab in the Grantee Portal:
  2. Annotated list of the Board of Directors 
  3. List of current funders
  4. Organization’s most current audited financial statement, or if not available, IRS form 990 for organizations with budgets of $750,000 and up, submit latest audited financial statements; organizations with budgets between $250,000 and $750,000 should submit a CPA review report.
  5. Agency operating budget for the most recently completed fiscal year, current year and projected budget(s) for the period of the grant request
Proposals must be delivered by 12 p.m., May 1, 2018, to the offices of The New York Community Trust, 909 Third Avenue, 22nd Floor, New York, NY 10022. Faxed and emailed proposals will not be accepted.

Please note that this is not a postmark deadline. Proposals received after the deadline will not be considered.

Contact and Program Administrator

Please direct all inquiries and applications to:

                Ms. Kerry McCarthy
                Program Director, Thriving Communities, Arts and Historic Preservation
                The New York Community Trust
                909 Third Avenue, 22nd Floor
                New York, NY 10022

                (212) 686-2578

909 Third Avenue | New York, NY 10022 | P (212) 686-0010 | F (212) 532-8528 |
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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.