Arts & Culture

The Grit Fund Provides a Vital Lifeline for the Arts

The foundation focuses on giving money directly to creatives, and requires that projects be public facing, community oriented, and often led by a local artist.
—Photography by Matt Roth

Baltimore, despite being a capital of culture, is a city with only a handful of major art funders. So when a new one splashes onto the scene, particularly one that distributes $60,000 annually in grants to local artists, people pay attention.

Such was the case in 2015, when the now-defunct The Contemporary teamed up with perhaps the best-known national arts funder, the Andy Warhol Foundation, which led to the creation of the Grit Fund.

“There is nothing better than being able to give people money to do something that they want to do for the community,” says Krista Green—pictured right, above—program officer for the Grit Fund and former chief administrative officer of The Peale Center, which now oversees the fund.

Now in its sixth cycle, the Grit Fund’s 2022 awardees were granted between $4,000 to $10,000 allotments to execute creative projects across the city and county. Among this spring’s 10 awardees are those that will design publications, host speaker series, establish community art spaces, and create online photo exhibitions. As a regranting program, the Grit Fund’s focus is giving money directly to creatives, and requires that projects be public facing, community oriented, and often led by a local artist.

Despite these requirements, Robin Marquis—pictured left, above—who worked with Green on the fund, explains, “We want to work with people who wouldn’t consider themselves artists in a million years; we’re trying to say yes to as many dance parties proposed by scientists as possible.”

Green, who recently stepped down as chief operations officer at The Peale and has worked in the cultural sector her entire career, spent 10 years at the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts before joining The Peale during the pandemic. Alongside Marquis, she has spearheaded the Grit Fund for the past two cycles, before which the program was briefly stewarded by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation following the closure of The Contemporary.

Marquis, an artist with a disability who also works at an inclusive design consulting firm, began their work at The Peale four years ago with an excitement to have found what they consider, “one of the only places in Baltimore interested in thinking about disability and cultural access and willing to put money behind it.”

Green sees the work The Peale is doing with the Grit Fund as part of a larger nonprofit trend to put money in the hands of individuals instead of institutions.

“I think funders are getting that to do the best work with the money that they have, they have to get out of the way,” she says, which Marquis agrees with: “We must trust artists, and what giving artists money means is that you trust them—this is getting the money where it needs to go.”

Applications for 2023 recipients open in December.