Last year, for its 50th anniversary, the Hewlett Foundation announced an ambitious endeavor: The Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, a five-year, $8 million initiative to fund 50 exceptional works of art in various disciplines through 2021. Each year of the initiative is dedicated to a different discipline (last year’s was music) and this year, the foundation is offering 10 separate grants of $150,000 each for projects in theater, musical theater, and spoken word.
The catch is that individual artists may not apply; instead, the application is open to nonprofits in eleven Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma), who then partner with artists to sponsor their specific projects. The nonprofit — which doesn’t necessarily have to be an arts organization — is responsible for managing the project, commissioning the artist, writing the letter of inquiry required to start the application process, and developing the full proposal if they make it to the second round. The deadline to submit a letter of inquiry is April 20. On Jan. 30, there’s a webinar for potential applicants.
If 2017’s recipients show us anything, it’s that the Hewlett Foundation prizes works that engage with the social issues of our times. Last year’s 10 grant recipients included Terence Blanchard, whom the Kronos Quartet commissioned for a piece on race relations in America; DJ Spooky, who worked with the Internet Archive to create an “acoustic portrait of the internet” incorporating chamber music and digital art; and Huang Ruo, whom the Del Sol String Quartet commissioned to create a bilingual oratorio inspired by the poetry of immigrants detained under the Chinese Exclusion Act.
And if you’re not a playwright, director, or spoken word artist? Fear not. The 2019 grant is for dance and multi-discipline performance art; 2020 is slated for folk and traditional arts; and 2021 is dedicated to film and media.