Operating Support Grant

Artistik Approach at Artspace Lofts
photo: Alyssa Kelley


Providing operating funds to arts organizations has been a cornerstone of ArtsMemphis’ since its founding in 1963. ArtsMemphis recognizes that unrestricted support is necessary to shape a dynamic and sustainable arts community. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of local individuals, foundations and corporations and the Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsMemphis will invest nearly $1.314M in arts organizations in FY20 through this competitive operating support grant program. 

This unrestricted funding is intended to advance ArtsMemphis’ mission of sustaining Memphis’ world-renowned cultural vitality and strengthening local communities through the arts. These investments should supplement other revenue, both earned and contributed, generated by the organization.



Beginning February 1, 2019, all grant applications will be submitted through our online grant application platform. Please click here to access the grant application site and to create your account.


Organizations must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible to apply for funding consideration:

  • Have a current 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status, with a primary place of business in Shelby County.
  • Have proof of compliance with all local, state, and federal laws or requirements (i.e. IRS form 990, state auditor forms, TN solicitation license, etc.).
  • Organization’s primary focus is arts-based. 
    • The organization creates, exhibits, and/or performs works in any of the following fine, performing, applied or literary art forms as a primary public function:
      • Drawing
      • Painting
      • Sculpture
      • Printmaking
      • Photography
      • Dance
      • Theater
      • Music
      • Decorative art
      • Functional art
      • Creative writing
    • Your organization should reference the arts in your mission statement, as well as in strategic planning documents and/or other foundational materials
    • If your organization utilizes both the arts and humanities to achieve your mission, you must have an emphasis on the arts and a majority of your programs address an arts discipline, in order to be eligible for funding.
    • Please contact Tracy Lauritzen Wright ([email protected], 901-578-2787) if you wish to discuss if the work of your organization meets the eligibility requirements.
  • In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must assure and certify that they will comply with the following:
    • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 
    • Age Discrimination Act of 1975
    • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 where applicable
  • If an operating support grant was awarded in FY19, all reporting and other requirements must be submitted and the grant closed out by June 30, 2019.  

Not Eligible

The following entities are not eligible for Operating Support Grants but may be eligible for other funding through ArtsMemphis. 

  • Organizations with a mission that is not arts-based.
  • Institutions of higher education or individual departments of colleges and universities. 
  • Religious organizations, churches or church-affiliated programs, and programs that have implicit religious content, express a particular religious view, or advance a religious purpose.
  • Governmental institutions, i.e., public libraries, park and recreational facilities, schools, etc.
  • Arts-missioned programs or projects operating under a fiscal agent that does not have an arts-based mission.  

Group Designations

In your LOI / Organization Profile you will select your Group Designation. Please note that Groups 2-4 are determined by averaging the 3- year expense average as reported on Form 990 for past 3 fiscal years.

Group 1:  Current fiscal year budget less than $100,000 OR less than 3 years of ArtsMemphis grant support in past 5 fiscal years

Group 2:  3-Year Budget average* of $100,000-$399,999 AND 3 years of support from ArtsMemphis in past 5 fiscal years

Group 3:  3-Year Budget average* of $400,000-$1,499,999 AND 3 years of support from ArtsMemphis in past 5 fiscal years

Group 4:  3-Year Budget average* of $1,500,000+ AND 3 years of support from ArtsMemphis in past 5 fiscal years

*3-year expense average as reported on Form 990 will determine funding category for Groups 2-4.   

Three years of support in past five fiscal years means that an organization received at least one ArtsMemphis grant, from any of our programs including designated gifts, in three different years since July 1, 2015.


Grant award decisions are competitive and awards are based on an organization’s documentation of progress and success against the stated criteria.

Submission of an application for funding does not guarantee that funding will be awarded. Likewise, award of funding one year does not guarantee funding the following year.

Requests for FY19 funding may not exceed 5% of an organization’s current fiscal year budgeted expenses.

Review Process:

  • Review panel comprised of ArtsMemphis board members and supporters.
  • An organization’s review may include a site visit, event or performance attendance or pre-review meeting with review panel members.
    • Not all applicants will be visited or have a pre-review meeting.  Therefore, all critical information must be included in the grant application.
Applications and associated materials must be received by Friday, March 29, 2019 by 5:00 p.m. 
  • Emailed and hard copy organization profile and application forms will not be accepted. 
  • In fairness to others, no deadline extensions are granted and we will not accept incomplete applications. An application may be deemed incomplete and ineligible if information is not provided in the appropriate format by the deadline. 
  • Please do not submit more materials than stipulated; excess materials will be discarded. 

You are encouraged to contact Tracy Lauritzen Wright at ArtsMemphis in advance of the deadline with any questions or to seek guidance ([email protected], 901-578-2787).  A list of Frequent Asked Questions will be available and updated regularly.

Criteria for Evaluation

As ArtsMemphis works towards impact-based funding decisions, we are considering the following areas around which we anticipate defining goals for our grants and arts investments in the near future.

  • Vibrant Communities
  • Economic Impact
  • Talent Development & Retention (for arts organizations and community as a whole)
  • Youth Access
  • Fair Opportunity Exposure – our vision is that every Memphian experiences the impact of the arts in their lives

The impact areas above and the criteria below will be used as a guide by review panel members to assess each application.

Mission, Capacity and Impact (60%) 
  • Mission
    • Does the organization demonstrate progress against their stated mission and goals?
    • Do the organization’s goals align with ArtsMemphis’ mission and vision?
    • Does the organization show advancement in program excellence in all creative endeavors?
  • Capacity
    • Is there stability within the organization and its leadership?
    • Does the organization have the administrative capacity to carry out its goals today and plan for tomorrow? 
    • Does the organization have the artistic capacity to carry out its goals?
    • Does the organization have existing relationships/partnerships to advance inclusion in their programming, and/or to leverage assets and capacities with other organizations to expand impact, access and sustainability?
  • Impact
    • Does a program(s) or initiative noted in the application address underserved populations?
    • Was a program(s) or initiative noted in the application developed due to and/or utilizing research or evaluation data?
    • Does the organization present art works that are inclusive of all members of the community or use art to tell stories that are inclusive of all members of the community?
    • Does the organization have key metrics and an evaluation plan to track success against stated goals?
    • Does the organization offer programs that are relevant to the broader community
Governance and Fiscal Accountability (40%) 
  • Governance
    • Does the Board financially support the organization and is it actively involved in the organization?  
    • Does the Board structure align with the needs of the organization?
  • Fiscal Accountability
    • What is the general financial health of the organization?
    • Does the organization have diverse revenue streams?
    • Does the organization have a defined strategy for growth and/or sustainability?
    • If the organization is operating at a deficit, does it have a reasonable plan for reversing this trend?  
    • Does the organization have reserve funds available in the event of a deficit? Are there controls in place to maintain a reserve? 
    • Is there an effort to improve the efficiency of operations and control expenses? 

Information Sessions

All FY20 Operating Support Information Sessions have concluded.

To download the presentation, please click here.

If you have questions, please contact Tracy Lauritzen Wright at [email protected] or call (901) 578-2787.

Office Hours

FY20 Operating Support Office Hours Application Support

February 8th 9:00am  ArtsMemphis

February 12th 4:00pm  ArtsMemphis

February 21st 1:00pm   Central Library Meeting Room A

February 25th 11:00am  Central Library Meeting Room A

March 13th 10:30am  Central Library Meeting Room C

March 19th 9:00am  ArtsMemphis

March 27th  9:30am  Central Library Meeting Room A

RSVP for an Office Hour Here.

Please Note: Attendance at an Office Hour is not required but encouraged, especially for new applicants. Registration is not required, but appreciated.


Please view the FAQ document here

You may submit questions about this grant in writing to Tracy Lauritzen Wright at [email protected].

Questions received by March 20, 2019 will be answered and included in the FAQ document.


Please download our glossary here

If you have any questions regarding the FY19 Operating Support Grants please call our office at (901) 578-2787 or contact Tracy Lauritzen Wright at [email protected] or 901.341.0407.

One Gift Helps 80 Arts Groups and Artists

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