The only open application grant at Ruth Arts, exclusively offered to Wisconsin arts and culture organizations with operating budgets under $2 million. Small and mid-size nonprofit visual arts, performing arts, and arts education organizations, including Tribal Nations, with ambitious project ideas are welcome to apply for grants via a juried process. The new grantmaking initiative will award either $100,000 or $200,000 over two years.

Grant Summary

Ruth Foundation for the Arts invites applications for its inaugural Special Project Grants program, awarding project funding to small and mid-size nonprofit visual arts, performing arts, and arts education organizations situated on land presently known as Wisconsin. The new grantmaking initiative will award up to $750,000 this year in support of arts and culture organizations in this state.

The program aims to build a robust and equitable arts ecosystem by investing in projects that have long-term cultural and structural impact for their communities. Of particular interest are initiatives that rethink and reimagine past practices, bring an expansive range of voices into public and artistic discourse, and contribute to a more complex and abundant understanding of the histories, lived experiences, and futures of this region.

Special Project Grants provide support at $100,000 or $200,000 over two years for successful applicants and are eligible to arts and culture organizations with operating budgets under $2 million.

What We Fund

We recognize that cultural production can take many forms, and we support arts and culture organizations that embrace the unconventional and experimental and whose activities are rooted in the communities in which they operate. We welcome proposals for new artistic commissions in the public realm, archival projects (including the creation of databases and the digitization and diversification of collections), publications, cultural revitalization projects, and capacity building and planning initiatives that improve the structural conditions of your organization. Organizations, initiatives, or collections that represent the contributions of underrepresented communities are highly encouraged to apply.

The program prioritizes projects that:

  • Are ambitious, timely, and relevant to the communities they seek to serve
  • Promote unique collaborations and equitable partnerships and include an artist-initiated process
  • Are invested in the cultural sustainability of this region and that contribute to public knowledge about a diversity of practices
  • Uplift historically underrepresented artists, practices, and art histories, with respect for cultural self-determination
  • Compensate all artists, performers, collaborators, and contractors for the creation of the project at respectable levels
  • Increase public access and education of archives, collections, creative practices, and cultural knowledge
  • Advance artistic production in this region by encouraging creative change, revitalization, and innovation

We do not fund:

  • Capital campaigns
  • Organizations whose core mission is not directly tied to art and culture programs or arts education
  • Pre-K-12 and K-12 schools, private K-12 institutions, and university campus projects
  • Fundraising events or galas
  • Playgrounds or parks
  • Museum acquisitions not tied to archive initiatives and/or community programming


The application portal opened at 8:00 AM Central Time, October 23, 2023 and will close at 11:59 PM Central Time, January 23, 2024.

For Applicants: Budget Template


Key Dates

October 23, 2023: Application Opens

November 22, 2023: Virtual Info Session

January 23, 2024: Application Deadline

April 2024: Public Announcement


Who is eligible for this program? Does our organization have to be in the Ruth Arts pool already?

The program is open to small and mid-size nonprofit visual arts, performing arts, and arts education organizations situated on the land presently known as Wisconsin, with operating budgets of under $2 million. Eligible organizations’ operations must primarily take place in Wisconsin. In addition to recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations, we welcome and encourage applications from Tribal Nations of Wisconsin. Wisconsin-based organizations currently in the Ruth Arts grantee pool are eligible to apply, however they cannot receive a Special Project Grant and a Core Grant in the same fiscal year. We encourage applications from organizations that have never received a Ruth Arts grant.

When can I start applying?

The application portal will open at 8:00 AM Central Time October 23, 2023.

Who decides who receives a grant?

The Special Project Grants are reviewed by a panel of eight distinguished jurists from across the United States, with final approval granted by Ruth Arts.

Are projects that involve collaborating with a non-arts and culture organization, or an organization outside of the region, eligible for this grant?

Collaborative projects are eligible as long as the host organization/applicant is an arts and cultural organization that primarily operates in this region and the project is publicly accessible to the residents of this state. We greatly welcome applications that include equitable partnerships with community-based organizations.

Are departments within city governments considered eligible to apply?

Municipal governments (including agencies and departments within) are not considered eligible for this grant program. The grant is specifically for projects of non-profits [with less than $200,000 operating budget] and Tribal Nations of Wisconsin.

What is considered a special project?

The program is dedicated to multi-year special initiatives and projects, not general operating expenses for arts and culture organizations. Newly commissioned projects, ambitious projects that build upon or expand previous programming in innovative ways, and new collaborations or capacity-building endeavours that have long-term impact for the organization and its communities, are all encouraged.

How is the funding distributed?

Selected organizations receive a grant of either $100,000 or $200,000, which is disbursed in equal installments of $50,000 and $100,000, respectively, per year over the two years. Special Project Grants should be directed towards a special initiative, however 25% of the funding can be allocated towards general operating expenses. Funds do not have to be completely spent within the 2 years, however all funds must be spent before your next Special Projects Grant application.

Am I eligible for other Ruth Arts funding?

Wisconsin-based organizations in the Ruth Arts grantee pool who receive a Special Project Grant are not eligible to receive a Core Grant in the same year. Wisconsin-based organizations in the RDK Legacy program are eligible to apply for Special Project Grants.

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