The North East Artists’ Fund is an Art Network North East initiative which brings together visual arts organisations and local authorities to support visual arts practitioners with micro-bursaries of up to £500. The bursaries are simple to apply for and are based around outcomes, not outputs — which means no lengthy reports and no requirement to make anything.

The fund is currently closed. We are working to bring the fund back for 2024-25: please join our mailing list for updates.

The North East Artists’ Fund is different because…

It’s a partnership. It isn’t controlled by the agenda of one organisation, and isn’t confined to one part of the region. It’s much bigger than last year, but it’s still not huge! The total fund is just short of £19,000, so we don’t have much to give away.

It’s built in the region for the region. The fund is entirely composed of contributions from our partners in the North East: The Auxiliary, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Creative Central: NCL (funded by the North of Tyne Combined Authority and Newcastle City Council), Culture House Sunderland, Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council, MIMA, The NewBridge Project, North Shields Cultural Quarter and Northumberland County Council.

It’s designed to be user-friendly. The form will only take 5 – 10 minutes to complete, and it’s focused entirely on you and your work. We don’t ask you to make anything in return, and we don’t ask you to complete a lengthy report afterwards. We only ask that you answer a few brief questions on award of your funds and again at the end of your activity, so that we can try to track how useful the intervention has been.

It’s only for individuals, not organisations. This means all of the money will go to individuals, where funding from other sources would normally be split between the two.

It’s about outcomes, not outputs. This means it’s all focused on making a change to the way applicants feel about their practice – that they feel they’re able to move forward, even in a very small way, compared to how they’d feel without the support – rather than asking that they make a new piece of work, or undertake specific research.

It’s for people based in the North East. That way, you’re only up against other applicants from the region, not thousands from across the country — and we can be sure all of our support is going to benefit the North East.

What applicants say about the fund

‘The micro bursary is a useful funding model. As with many artists I find myself spending huge amounts of time looking for and applying for larger funding bids which are often unsuccessful. The time spent writing these bids is not time spent in the studio, so the opportunity to apply for smaller amounts in this way to solve an immediate barrier to making a piece of work or carry out some research is useful. Receiving a small grant can also be a much-needed boost to morale. I do hope that this model can be continued and even extended.’

‘Thanks again, the funds have made a good difference to my practice and boosted me out of a weird long slump I was in.’

‘For me, it was about being recognised. This will help me and the opportunity given to me… the support is a moral boost too — that what I’m trying to achieve has been seen.’

‘Thank you! The funding opened up a whole new way of making in my practice, and thinking of my work.’

‘As a result of this opportunity I have a fire in my belly!’

‘This bursary will allow me immediate access to specialist equipment that I need to complete a commission. It will enable me to focus on making without the worry of the financial implications of hiring equipment.’

‘The process was extremely easy and I appreciated the fact that the fund trusts that you’ll spend the money where you said you would — it takes away the pressure to follow up and write about the award like other funding bodies require you to, and instead lets you focus on continuing making.’

‘A fantastically simple process, which is a major boon when working in the arts where time-making-art-and-not-filling-out-endless-applications is so valuable. Thank you so much!’

‘Seamless, paid quickly, perfect application form, and success rate. Thank you.’

What the micro-bursaries can cover

The micro-bursaries are designed to help you overcome what might otherwise be a barrier to your practice.

You can apply for anything that will make a difference to your practice. This might be something that is practice-based – for instance, materials, travel or research – or it might be about removing an obstacle to your practice, such as essential childcare, or even buying out your time from a non-art based job in order to spend crucial time on your art practice. It could also be a ‘capital’ purchase – a piece of equipment which helps you to make work, for instance. There are no ‘correct’ answers, and there is no exhaustive list, but in general, if it’s something that would help your practice, and which you couldn’t otherwise afford, it’s eligible. If you’re unsure and would like further advice, please contact us.

Eligibility

The fund is designed to help individual practitioners. This includes but is not limited to:

  • visual artists
  • curators
  • critical writers on visual arts
  • freelance art technicians
  • freelance producers

You must be 18 or over to apply. The fund is not open to HE / FE students or organisations. 

See the FAQs for more information.

How much to ask for

You can apply for anything from £1 – £500. Most of our awards will be between £101 – £300, so bear in mind the urgency and need of your application. There are two ways your application will be assessed, depending on how much you’ve asked for.

For £1 – £100, we will assess your application directly and can provide a decision in 10 working days.

For £101 and above, you will need to apply by the deadline and wait. There are three deadlines. Your application will be assessed by a panel.

Please only apply for what you need. The overall fund is small, and we want it to reach as many people as possible. With this in mind, we will sometimes decide to award less than the amount requested.

Tips for a successful application

The more detail you can give us, the better we can assess your application — and the greater your chance of success. Try to think about why you’re applying, what you need and how that will help you. Be as specific as possible: if, for example, you’re applying for assistance with the cost of installing your next exhibition, make sure you tell us where and when the exhibition is. It’s fine to make more speculative applications, too – for instance, running a workshop in your community to test whether it would be viable in the longer term – but be as direct as you can about the variables you know about: how have you gauged demand for the workshop? What would a successful outcome look like to you? And what will you do if it goes well — do you have a plan for the future after this micro-bursary is spent?

If you’re in any doubt, or confused or unclear, don’t forget you can always get in touch!

Deadlines

The fund for 2023-24 launched on 10 July 2023.

For £100 and under, you can apply at any time until 29 February 2024. We aim to give you a decision within 10 working days (N.B. turnaround in August and December is 15 working days).

For £101 and above, there are three deadlines:

Round 1 opened on 10 July, with a deadline of 31 August. Applicants received decisions by 22 September.

Round 2 opened on 1 October, with a deadline of 30 November. Applicants received decisions by 22 December.

Round 3 opens on 8 January 2024, with a deadline of 29 February and decisions by 22 March.

How to apply

Please apply by completing the online form. If you find it easier, you can send a video/audio (2 minutes) or hard copy (address at the base of this page), addressing the questions on the form. If you have any questions, contact us before applying.

After applying, please also complete the diversity monitoring form to help us ensure that what we do is representative of the diversity of the region. It’s voluntary, anonymous and has no bearing on your application — and will take 1 – 2 minutes.

What our partners say about the fund

‘We are delighted to continue supporting the micro-bursaries, which give direct financial support to artists in the North East. Easy to apply for and open in scope – the fund has the potential to support lots of artists to develop their practices and address barriers that prevent them from making work.’

Frances Stacey, Director, The NewBridge Project

‘Northumberland is committed to supporting the cultural sector through this needed Fund to directly support artistic practice and new projects. It is heartening to see how the partnership of supporters has developed and long may this continue.’

Wendy Scott, Cultural Development Manager, Northumberland County Council

“We want to help artists in the region to grow in confidence and ambition so our hope is that this fund provides a base for more people to apply to bigger funding opportunities to grow the creative communities and infrastructure of our region.”

Elinor Morgan, Artistic Director, MIMA

‘We aim for Darlington to be a place in 2026 and beyond where culture enriches lives, involves people and is central to identity and prosperity.  Encouraging artists and curators to explore and build their practice through the North East Artists’ Fund aligns to this ambition since creativity is key to taking things forward.’

Stephen Wiper, Creative Darlington Manager, Darlington Borough Council

FAQs

This award is aimed at those working in and around the visual arts whose main source of income is freelance work. This includes, but isn’t limited to, artists, curators, art writers and art technicians, for instance. We recognise, firstly, that the ‘visual arts’ is an imperfect and porous definition, and that few people can say that they only work in the ‘visual’ arts without any relationship with other disciplines. Nevertheless, this fund isn’t suitable for those whose main practice is music or theatre-based, or designers, illustrators or commercial photographers as part of the normal course of their work — though there may of course be elements of these in any artist’s practice: this is not about the medium but the destination of your work. Secondly, we understand that for many, their work is a complex mixture of salaried or hourly-paid and freelance work, and don’t expect applications to be ‘freelance-only’ — rather that this is the main source of your income, and that, for whatever reason, you could do with some support towards it.

We won’t and can’t police these distinctions: we only ask that you consider whether your needs could be met any other way, and to bear in mind that this fund is necessarily small and limited in scope.

Because it’s a bit more snappy than North East Artists, Curators, Writers and Anyone Else Who We Might Have Forgotten Fund. That’s all.

This award is aimed at those working in and around the visual arts whose main source of income is freelance work. If you’re an artist, curator, art writer, art technician, for instance (though this is not an exhaustive list), your main work engages with some form of visual arts practice, and you would struggle without assistance, then you’re eligible – but we can’t fund students, unfortunately.

We are interested in focusing on those practices whose immediate result isn’t transactional: if you are a designer or illustrator, or an artist with an established model for regularly selling work, we’re not going to be able to help unless you’re applying to test out a new working model, take your work in a different direction as visual arts practice (as opposed to commercial-first work), or take specific risks. We don’t want you to ‘prove your poverty’ but we do want to have a sense of need – why this activity, and why now? We can’t issue a concrete set of rules, as everyone’s practice is different, and will instead judge each application on need.

We don’t want to create lots of complicated rules — we only suggest that if you have access to another source of income, and/or your main source of income is your salaried job, you consider finding funding elsewhere. It’s not that we don’t think you need support, but the fund is relatively small and we want to make sure that our support is targeted at those who would benefit most from it.

We recognise that this is in many ways a specious distinction, but it is a reflection of funding channels for the arts. We are funded as a visual arts network so the main focus of our attention is on artists and organisations that work predominantly with the visual. You are of course still eligible to apply if your practice includes, for instance, sound, performance or the written word — but if you’re primarily a musician, or your entire practice revolves around writing for theatre, for instance, we’re not likely to be able to help.

You can apply for up to £500 – but given the relatively small size of the overall fund, most of our bursaries will be focused between £101 and £300. For awards of £100 and less, you can apply at any time up til 29 February, and we can give you a decision within a week. For awards of £101 – £500, there are three application rounds, each with a deadline.

The overall fund is small, and we want to ensure that the bursaries we award have the most impact possible. We also wanted bursaries to be as responsive and unbureaucratic as possible. The result is a compromise: if something’s come up and you just need to buy a train ticket to attend a crucial meeting in the next few weeks which wouldn’t otherwise be able to happen, for example, you can apply for a smaller bursary and get a really quick decision from Art Network North East directly. To ensure we’re fair and can distribute larger bursaries to those who most need them, awards of over £100 will be decided by an independent panel.

You can apply for anything that will make a difference to your practice. This might be something that is practice-based – for instance, materials, travel or research – or it might be about removing an obstacle to your practice, such as essential childcare, or even buying out your time from a non-art based job in order to spend crucial time on your art practice. It could also be a ‘capital’ purchase – a piece of equipment which helps you to make work, for instance. There are no ‘correct’ answers, and there is no exhaustive list, but in general, if it’s something that would help your practice, and which you couldn’t otherwise afford, it’s eligible. If you’re unsure and would like further advice, please contact us.

Absolutely. If you apply but don’t get funded, ask for feedback and, if you can address the points it raises, make another application. Note that in many cases it might be no more complicated than the fact that many more people have applied than we have funds to award, but we’ll still tell you if this is the case.

No. It’s a small amount of money and is designed to try to help you carry on doing what you do best. All we ask in return is that you complete a very short questionnaire at the start and end of your activity. It’s not a report form or a justification for what you’ve done, but a simple way for us to try to track the impact of the bursaries on applicants’ practices — and make the case for the fund to continue in future.

For the purposes of this fund, we consider the North East to comprise all addresses in postcodes DH, DL1 – 6 and DL12 – 17, NE, SR, TD15 (England) and TS.

You can apply more than once. Owing to the relatively small size of the overall fund, though, we are unlikely to be able to help you more than once.

You can – for instance, if you work as a duo or collective, for instance, and you can demonstrate that it’s essential that the bursary cover costs for more than one person. Bear in mind, though, that this fund is designed to help individuals, and multiplying costs will result in a larger application, which owing to the relatively small size of the fund is going to compete more for a slice of the total. Think about whether it would be better to apply individually. We won’t fund organisations, or activity on behalf of organisations.

Yes. This is public money and it’s important that you know why we might have decided not to fund your application. Just get in touch and we’ll arrange to give you as detailed feedback as possible.

Sorry, we won’t fund activity taking place on behalf of organisations, whether or not they are voluntary or funded, constituted or not. The micro-bursaries are designed to help individual applicants.

Yes, if that’s what will help you and you can’t otherwise afford it. Equipment and materials are just as valid as research, travel or support costs.

All applications need to demonstrate why the amount requested is needed. If you need to apply for the maximum of £500 and provide a compelling reason, you stand every chance of being awarded. We do want to help as many people as possible though, and won’t often be able to award the maximum. However, if we’d like to support you but don’t feel we could award what you’ve asked for, we will offer a lesser award, which you are free to accept or not. If you’re worried about applying for this much but then not getting any funding, and would prefer to talk it through first, please contact us.

Our partnership runs until early spring 2024. In March, we’ll look back at how useful the fund has been to applicants and make the case for it to continue. We hope it will carry on for 2024-25 but won’t know for certain til next year.

No. The fund is split up to protect allocations for each part of the region, reflecting our region-wide partnership.

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