The Arts

The arts are essential to strong, vibrant communities. A dynamic cultural sector is a catalyst for growth, attracting and retaining businesses and visitors. They strengthen neighborhoods and communities by preserving the culture and memories of specific places and have a positive impact on health and well-being. The arts provide spaces to allow people from different backgrounds to engage with one another and opportunities to build community. Perhaps most importantly, they offer personal enjoyment to individuals, groups, and families, and give voice to the human condition.

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation focuses its arts grantmaking on efforts that strengthen arts organizations and nurture artistic talent.  This program focuses on adult artists. Please see the K-12 Education grant program for guidelines for projects that engage school-aged participants.

Durham Independent Dance Artists, photo by Zoe Litaker

Arts Grant Program

The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation (MDBF) has a long-standing commitment to a diverse and thriving cultural sector in Chatham, Durham, Orange, and Wake Counties in North Carolina, one that provides meaningful artistic experiences for communities throughout the Triangle region. MDBF strikes a balance between supporting the region’s established institutions and newer and emerging organizations that reflect the full breadth of our cultures and neighborhoods.

In 2021, about 65% of MDBF Arts grants were awarded to organizations with operating budgets less than $500,000, 9% to organizations with budgets between $500,000-$1,000,000, and 24% to organizations with budgets greater than $1,000,000.  

MDBF is a strong proponent of arts education, which is funded through the K-12 Education program.

MDBF focuses its arts grantmaking on strengthening arts organizations and nurturing artistic talent. Grants support a broad range of creative disciplines and practices—music, dance, theater, visual, digital/photography/filmmaking, literary, and audio (such as audio dramas).

 

Funding Program Goals
  • support cultural organizations that demonstrate artistic excellence and elevate the profile of the Triangle’s arts scenes, both locally and nationally;
  • support new, emerging, or grassroots cultural organizations that document, preserve, and/or present the values, spirit, and diversity of the Triangle’s cultural community; AND/OR
  • support arts-focused organizations that work directly with artists to nurture the current and next generations of artists, deepen and expand talent, develop professional and business skills, create new works.

 

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access: MDBF views our arts grantmaking through an equity lens. We are particularly interested in supporting organizations led by people of color, that incorporate arts accessibility into their work, and whose boards and staff reflect the diversity of the Triangle. By accessibility, we mean opportunities to encounter, appreciate, and participate in the arts. We support organizations that embrace and advance DEI practices and work towards equitable access and engagement in the arts.

 

Grant Opportunities

In 2021, MDBF shifted most of its grantmaking from project-based support to operating support for organizations that align with our Arts Grant Program funding goals.  MDBF offers two grant types described below that are awarded through an open and competitive grant process. There are separate and distinct eligibility and application processes for these grants.

 

2-Year Operating Support Grant

We offer a two-year grant of $10,000 each year for a total grant of $20,000. These grants will be made to organizations with which MDBF has an existing funding relationship, defined as having had at least one grant between 2012-2021. We anticipate making 10 two-year grants.

 

Eligibility for 2-year Operating Support grants

  • Grants are made to arts organizations. Arts education programs are funded under the K-12 Education grant program.
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status or have a fiscal sponsor.
  • The applying organization must be located in and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organization’s mission, goals, and programming directly relate to MDBF’s funding goals.
  • Organizations must have annual operating expenses less than $5 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation). Schools, units, and departments within larger organizations, such as universities, are not eligible even if their budgets are less than $5 million.
  • Organizations with smaller operating budgets are eligible. Have evidence of impact or success of primary programming/mission
  • Organizations may have only one active MDBF grant at a time.
  • Individual artists’ projects are not eligible for support. Fiscal sponsorships of individual projects are not accepted.

Evaluation criteria for 2-year Grants

  • Alignment of the organization’s arts mission and programming with MDBF’s funding program goals
  • Organization’s track record of delivering programming that aligns with funding program goals
  • Impact and benefit of programming to one or more counties in the Triangle
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—including accessibility—in its governance, staffing/artists, audiences, and programming
  • A demonstrated commitment to collaborate with other organizations
  • Organization has the capacity to achieve their goals: staffing levels and experiences (including volunteers), board governance, and financial resources
1-Year Operating Support Grant

We offer a one-year $5,000 grant targeted to organizations that have never received a grant from MDBF or to those that haven't received a grant since 2012. This grant provides an opportunity for MDBF to get to know new organizations.  We anticipate making 5 one-year grants.

 

Eligibility for 1-year Opportunity Grants:

  • Grants are made to arts organizations.
  • Applicant must have a current 501c3 status or have a fiscal sponsor.
  • The applying organization must be located in and primary programming must take place in Chatham, Durham, Orange, or Wake Counties, North Carolina.
  • Organization’s mission, goals, and programming directly relate to MDBF’s funding goals.
  • These grants will be made to organizations that have never received a grant from MDBF or have not received a grant in the previous 10 years.
  • Preference given to organizations with operating budgets under $300,000.
  • Organizations with annual operating expenses greater than $1 million (fiscal sponsors are exempt from this stipulation) are encouraged to talk with MDBF staff before applying.
  • MDBF has a history of supporting start-up nonprofits and those that are relatively early in their life cycles. They are eligible to apply.
  • Individual artists’ projects are not eligible for support. Fiscal sponsorships of individual projects are not accepted.

Evaluation criteria for 1-year Grants

  • Alignment of the organization’s arts mission and programming with MDBF’s funding program goals
  • Impact and benefit of programming to one or more counties in the Triangle
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in its governance, staffing/artists, audiences, and programming
  • Organization’s capacity to achieve their goals: staffing levels and experiences (including volunteers), board governance, and financial resources