CHALLENGE AMERICA: Grant Program Description

We Fund

Under these guidelines, funding is available for projects only.

This category supports focused, distinct projects that take place over limited periods of time and involve limited geographic areas. 

All projects must extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations that have limited access to the arts due to geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. The involvement of professionally trained, experienced artists and arts professionals is essential.

Each applicant must present a simple, straightforward project that reflects only one of the project types below. Fast-Track grants are available only for:

Engagement: Engaging the public with diverse and excellent art.

  • An arts event or events that will feature one or more guest artists. The project (such as a festival, exhibit, recital, reading, performance, screening, broadcast, lecture) must include the participation of guest artist(s). Artistic staff and resident artists of an applicant organization do not qualify as guest artists. In addition to artists' fees, the project may include public relations, professional documentation, and program enhancements that are integral to the event. Examples of program enhancements include interpretive material, transportation, program accommodations (e.g., sign language interpretation, audio description, Braille, tactile exhibit tours), catalogues, brochures, or publications. Other enhancements such as specific lecture-demonstrations, pre- or post-event talks, or workshops relevant to the proposed arts event also are eligible. NOTE: Projects that involve curriculum-based arts instruction are not eligible (see Arts Education in the Arts Works category).
  • The unified promotion of community-wide arts activities and resources to enhance cultural tourism or activities in cultural districts (including promoting the arts to underserved populations). Unified promotion is defined as the professional assessment, design, and/or distribution of public relations tools (calendars, websites, brochures, rack cards, signage, etc.) designed to benefit several local organizations. NOTE: Promotional projects for a single organization are not eligible.
  • The development of professionally directed public art projects. This project type is for visual arts projects only (such as murals, sculptures, or environmental art) that are developed through community engagement. Evidence of community involvement in the planning, design, or fabrication of the work must be apparent.

You will be asked to address the anticipated results in your application. If you receive a grant, you will be asked to provide evidence of those results at the end of your project. You will need to describe the participants' experiences as well as provide evidence of the participant group as underserved. If the nature of the project does not allow for the documentation of participants' experiences explicitly, you may document the composition of the participant group and the number of participants and activities, and describe the activities used to engage the public with art. Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for Engagement.

Livability: The strengthening of communities through the arts.

  • Design activities for new or existing cultural facilities or civic spaces. Projects may include the preliminary planning or design process for new cultural facilities or spaces, as well as the engagement of professional design services such as streetscapes, wayfinding signage, or landscape architecture. Work may consist of, but is not limited to, architectural studies, charrettes (design workshops), design competitions, or facility feasibility or predevelopment studies (including universal design projects and accessibility assessments). Activities also may include all design stages for the renovation, restoration, or adaptive reuse of existing structures to be used as cultural facilities. Funding is not available for fund raising, donor research, or actual renovation or construction costs.

Please note that certain types of Livability activities will require applicants to provide information in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and/or the National Historic Preservation Act. See here for more information.

The anticipated long-term results for Livability projects are measurable community benefits, such as growth in overall levels of social and civic engagement; arts- or design-focused changes in policies, laws, and/or regulations; job and/or revenue growth for the community; or changes in in-and-out migration patterns. You will be asked to address the anticipated results in your application. If you receive a grant, you will be asked to provide evidence of those results at the end of your project. Given the nature of Livability projects, benefits are likely to emerge over time and may not be fully measureable during the period of a grant. You will need to provide evidence of progress toward achieving improved livability as appropriate to the project and documentation of ways in which the project addresses underserved communities. Reporting requirements for Livability are different from -- and more extensive than -- the reporting requirements for the other outcomes. Before applying, please review the reporting requirements for Livability.

Applicants are encouraged to contact staff if they are considering Livability as a primary outcome.


    We Do Not Fund

    Under these guidelines, funding is not available for:

    • General operating support.
    • Seasonal support.
    • Activities that occur over an extended period (e.g., projects that span a full season, long-term residencies, most large-scale projects).
    • Competitions other than design competitions.
    • Projects that involve curriculum-based instruction in the arts.
    • The same organization (parent or component) for more than three consecutive years, even if for different projects.
    • Costs for the creation of new organizations.
    • Direct grants to individuals. (The Arts Endowment encourages applicant organizations to involve individual artists in all possible ways.)
    • Individual elementary or secondary schools -- charter, private, or public -- directly. Schools may participate as partners in projects for which another eligible organization applies. Local education agencies (school districts) and state and regional education agencies are eligible. If a single school also is the local education agency, as is the case with some charter schools, the school may apply with documentation that supports its status as the local education agency.
    • Construction, purchase, or renovation of facilities. (Predevelopment, design fees, and community planning are eligible. However, no Arts Endowment or matching funds may be directed to the costs of physical construction or renovation or toward the purchase costs of facilities or land.)
    • Commercial (for-profit) enterprises or activities.
    • Cash reserves and endowments.
    • Subgranting or regranting, except for state arts agencies, regional arts organizations, or local arts agencies that are designated to operate on behalf of their local governments or are operating units of city or county government. (See more information on subgranting.)
    • Costs (and their match) to bring a project into compliance with federal grant requirements.
    • Awards to individuals or organizations to honor or recognize achievement.
    • Generally, professional training in degree-granting institutions.
    • Work toward academic degrees and the pursuit of academic careers.
    • Projects that replace arts instruction provided by a classroom teacher or an arts specialist.
    • Literary publishing that does not focus on contemporary literature and/or writers.
    • Generally, publication of books or exhibition of works by the applicant organization's staff, board members, faculty, or trustees.
    • Exhibitions of, and other projects that primarily involve, single, individually-owned, private collections.
    • Projects for which the selection of artists or art works is based upon criteria other than artistic excellence and merit. Examples include festivals, exhibitions, or publications for which no jury/editorial judgment has been applied.
    • Expenditures that are related to compensation to foreign nationals and artists traveling to or from foreign countries when those expenditures are not in compliance with regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control. For further information, see or contact the Arts Endowment's Grants & Contracts Office at
    • Project costs that are supported by any other federal funds or their match.

    Additional information on unallowable costs is included in the instructions for the Project Budget form.