North East-based cultural organisations to support the region’s artists with new fund

Four key North East-based cultural organisations are coming together to create a new fund to support the region’s artists. From October, the North East Artists’ Fund will provide ‘micro bursaries’ of up to £500 to support creative practitioners’ personal and professional development thanks to contributions from The NewBridge Project, Sunderland Culture, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, which is part of Teesside University.

Though small in scale, the bursaries are designed as an intervention which targets the gap between unfunded and grant-funded activity, supporting those artists with practical and everyday costs who can’t or don’t apply to Arts Council England’s Project Grants, or whose activity doesn’t meet its minimum threshold of £1,000.

Created and managed by North East Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN), the application process is deliberately quick and easy to complete, and the bursaries focus on outcomes rather than outputs. By supporting, for instance, travel costs, materials and development time – the chance to realise a particularly important meeting elsewhere in the country, or to pay for childcare for a few days in order to finish work for an exhibition – the bursaries seek to act as a catalyst for artists’ wider careers by enabling activity which unlocks larger projects.

The fund, which will run in its first phase until April 2023, draws in part on receipts from Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief, a crucial government rebate for cultural organisations which is currently due to come to an end in 2024. With most of the contributions to the North East Artists’ Fund coming directly from organisations’ own rebates, this is a chance to work together to redistribute some of the resources in the sector to help those most in need of support — and demonstrate how crucial it is to retain the tax relief post-2024. 

Of the fund, Sarah Munro (Director, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art) said: “This is a much-needed intervention for individuals, who have consistently lost out during the pandemic. Though the awards are small, it’s easy to underestimate the value of this kind of assistance, which can spell the difference between making work or not — or for some, even feeling able to continue with their artistic practice at all.”

Crucially, applications to the fund are expected not only to be useful financially but in terms of confidence and ambition too. For some, the very idea of applying for funding is scary and off-putting, so by making the process as easy and transparent as possible, with a successful application under their belt they may have the confidence to go on to apply for more significant grants in future.

Elinor Morgan, Artistic Director, MIMA, points out that “Artists have an important role in society and it’s exciting to be creating joined up approaches to supporting the development of new ideas and work. Through this fund we can provide modest bursaries that we know can make all the difference to the development of a project. Applications can often be a barrier so we aim to make the application process as easy and transparent as possible. We also want to help artists in the North East to grow in confidence and ambition so our hope is that this fund provides a base for more people to apply to bigger funding opportunities to grow the creative communities and infrastructure of our region.” 

Laura Brewis (Producer, Artist Development and Creative Industries, Sunderland Culture) said “Sunderland Culture is proud to back the North East Artists’ Fund. After such a challenging time for artists, we recognise it’s extremely important to support individual creative practitioners to make the next steps in their practice, which would often be impossible without financial help. Alongside Sunderland Culture’s Creative Development Fellowships, we know the fund will make a difference to artists in the region”.

Rebecca Huggan (Director, TheNewBridge Project) explains: “Museums and Galleries Exhibition Tax Relief has been a real life-saver for us and many other organisations. It’s important that the breathing space it’s offered us is passed onto individual practitioners in some way, and I hope we can build on this to create the case for the tax relief to continue in future in order that we might continue to help our region’s artists.”


Notes to editors

The North East Artists’ Fund will open on 5 October. It will offer bursaries of up to £300 (in exceptional circumstances, £500) to artists and other creative practitioners working in the visual arts who are based in the North East of England. The fund will have two rounds, opening in October and January. Awards will be made by an independent panel, with a year-round allocation retained for the smallest grants (up to £100) which will be awarded at the discretion of North East CVAN on a rolling basis.

The fund is entirely composed of funds from partner organisations. It will be managed by North East CVAN (Contemporary Visual Arts Network), an advocacy and development organisation for the visual arts sector and part of the nationwide CVAN network.

Applications are invited online at

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