Installation view of Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photo by Libby Weiler.

Past/Present: An Exhibition Initiative for US Museums

The Terra Foundation recognizes the important conversations taking place within the United States today and that museums are central to their exploration and circulation. In response, the foundation is launching a three-year initiative that opens a new area of funding for US museums within its responsive exhibition program. This initiative supports temporary exhibitions that demonstrate historical art of the US’s connections with conversations of current relevance.

The Terra Foundation seeks exhibition projects organized by and shown at US museums that address all of the following:

  • Focus on an issue of current relevance. A wide range of topics could be addressed; applicants will describe how the exhibition engages with the topic.
  • Offer probing scholarship, with new insights that are addressed within both the exhibition and the catalogue; a publication is required.
  • Demonstrate originality in approach and presentation, as well as meaningful engagement with intended audiences during exhibition development.
  • Include a significant portion of pre-1980 American art (at least half of the works).

Additionally, we encourage exhibitions that:

  • Combine pre-1980 art and more recent art: in this case, at least half of the works must be by US artists and date to before 1980; the quantity of recent art may vary, yet the selection must be in meaningful dialogue with the historical works in the exhibition, and vice versa.
  • Explore how artists in different times and/or places addressed similar issues with different or like approaches.

Past/Present: An Exhibition Initiative for US Museums grant proposals will be reviewed by an external panel of specialists in American art.

Deadlines

Exhibitions voted on in the Spring of a given year must open after June 1 of that year to be eligible for funding. Exhibitions voted on in the Fall of a given year must open after February 1 of the next calendar year to be eligible for funding.

To document the Terra Foundation’s support, grants must be acknowledged in the exhibition publication and marketing materials.

Fall 2020 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: March 2, 2020
Proposal: May 15, 2020

Spring 2021 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: August 3, 2020
Proposal: October 15, 2020

Fall 2021 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: March 1, 2021
Proposal: May 14, 2021

Spring 2022 Awards

Letter of Inquiry: August 2, 2021
Proposal: October 15, 2021

If the foundation responds to a letter of inquiry by requesting a proposal, the organization applying for a grant will be expected to complete an application. See “How to Apply” below.

Eligibility

The foundation only accepts proposals from institutions with United States 501(c)(3) status located in the United States. Exhibition grants are not made to individuals.

This exhibition initiative requires that exhibitions do the following:

  • Be organized and presented by at least one US museum.
  • Focus on an issue of current relevance.
  • Offer probing scholarship, with new insights that are addressed within both the exhibition and the catalogue; a publication is required.
  • Demonstrate originality in approach and presentation, as well as meaningful engagement with intended audiences during exhibition development.
  • Include a significant portion of pre-1980 American art (at least half of the works).

The Terra Foundation does not accept proposals for:

  • Artist commissions;
  • Exhibitions primarily comprised of artist interventions with historical material;
  • Acquisitions or capital expenditures;
  • Exhibitions primarily comprised of single private or commercial collections;
  • Exhibitions without catalogues;
  • Online exhibitions;
  • Permanent collection installations;
  • Exhibitions previously opened touring to new venues;
  • Exhibitions previously declined by the Terra Foundation.

We will only accept one proposal per exhibition. The proposal must come from the organizing institution(s).

If you have questions about our our grant initiatives, please visit the Grant FAQs page, contact [email protected], or contact Program Director of Exhibition & Academic Grants, Carrie Haslett at [email protected]

How to Apply

The online grant application process is three-part:

  1. Before submitting a formal proposal to the Terra Foundation, prospective applicants must complete an online letter of inquiry (LOI) using this link: Past/Present: An Exhibition Initiative for U.S. Museums Letter of Inquiry.
  2. After reviewing the letter of inquiry, the foundation may invite the submission of a formal online proposal.
  3. Formal grant proposals undergo a review process before final decisions are made by the foundation’s Board of Directors.

Review the FAQ for information on the online application process.

Letter of Inquiry (LOI)

A letter of inquiry must precede any formal grant proposal to the Terra Foundation; formal proposals are accepted only by invitation of the foundation after review of the letter of inquiry. A prospective applicant can expect to hear from the foundation within three weeks of receipt of the letter. The online Letter of Inquiry will require the following information:

  • Brief statement of the organization’s purpose and goals;
  • Description of the project, including its beginning and ending dates as well as the need and audience it addresses;
  • Identify how the issue of current relevance will be explored in the exhibition;
  • Description of how the project demonstrates originality in approach and presentation;
  • Other organizing partners and funding sources and amounts for the project, if relevant;
  • Preliminary or draft exhibition checklist noting prospective lenders;
  • Internal deadline for submission of changes to exhibition catalogue (Please be aware that the Terra Foundation for American Art requires the inclusion of its logo in the catalogue of any funded exhibition.);
  • Total cost of project and the grant amount requested.

All letters must be written in English.

Formal Proposal

After a letter of inquiry is reviewed, prospective applicants may be invited to submit a formal proposal through the online system. Please note that an invitation for a formal proposal does not guarantee funding at any level. Formal proposals must be written or translated in English. All attachments should also be written or translated into English.

Formal proposal must be submitted through the online system.


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