Small Business Partner Spotlight: The Arts Commission – Recognizing Talent, Fostering a Vibrant Community

Posted on July 5, 2024

by Lindsay Williams, Small Business and Nonprofit Librarian

Art means business. Ohio is full of incredible cultural resources – from the collections of larger art institutions to the contributions of independent creatives. More than 94,000 people are employed by arts-related businesses in our state, and each year creative industries contribute more than $41.4B to Ohio’s economy.

If you’ve met with our team at the Library, you’ve learned the hard truth that grants to for-profit businesses can be extremely competitive and hard to come by. However, for working artists, one local organization is making a major difference and that’s The Arts Commission.

Merit Awards

The Arts Commission’s Merit Award program recognizes outstanding local performing, literary, and visual artists, rewarding their intensive personal investments of time, finances, and other resources to advance their art form. It is this recognition in investments that inspired one local, award-winning playwright to apply:

“Look, for most people, being an artist consigns you to one of two lifestyles: either you have no money, or you have another job outside of your art… Both options can carry a stigma, especially among family or acquaintances: if you’re any good at your art, why don’t you make more money from it? If you were good at it wouldn’t you have money? (Or maybe that’s just the voice inside my head? Hard to tell sometimes.)

The beauty of visionary and forward-thinking organizations like the Arts Commission is that they understand that even as money is not a reliable measure of artistic success, it can be a preexisting requirement. Their commitment to funding individual artists at all – and to making funding available based not on costs associated with a specific project but on the overall quality of the artist’s creations – distinguishes them as unusually useful and insightful in their work on the behalf of local artists.”

The playwright also appreciates The Arts Commission’s commitment to a straightforward application process (our department – which has a unique opportunity to view many grant application forms – would echo that the Arts Commission’s is a refreshingly simple application process). As the playwright explains, “Many funding agencies funnel their resources into so many narrow categories and guideposts and qualifying channels that even figuring out whether you’re qualified to apply is a complicated puzzle. And sure, puzzles can be fun. People play the Wordle every day for a reason. But I appreciated that the funds I applied for weren’t all about barriers.

The Arts Commission’s emphasis is, as far as I can tell, on fostering Toledo as a healthy and vibrant art community, and the most important element of that community is its people. I appreciate the Arts Commission’s robust investment in people.

Little-known fact: artists are (often) people, and being a person in this society costs money. And as a writer who tends to work in local coffee shops, every time I sit down to write it costs me money. I didn’t say it was a good plan, it’s just what I do. And as a playwright, I usually have to be around when my shows go into rehearsal, and that usually involves travel. That also involves money. I love the Arts Commission for recognizing the ungainly, unromantic fact that art requires money, and committing to helping with that.”

The upcoming Merit Award cycle launches on October 1 with an application deadline of November 4, 2024. Artists living within a 30-mile radius of downtown Toledo may be eligible to apply – learn more here.

Four awardees will be selected in 2024, with one $3000 award, one $2500 award, one $2000 award, and one $1500 award. Recipients are selected by a panel of renowned Midwestern artists and cultural leaders, with expertise across various artistic disciplines.

When asked how he might advise other artists seeking grant funding to proceed, the awardee and writer shared, “I love the fact that the Arts Commission built the award I received around just making good art. The tricky thing about that is it leaves me with no particularly useful advice about applying for funds like this apart from: make good art. Which I mean you’re probably trying to do already.”

Another grant recipient (who is a local jewelry artist) responded with, “Just apply. Really. It is getting over that hurdle, and then getting over it again, and again, and again. As a jewelry designer, the art fair market specifically is incredibly competitive. You can’t give up after the first no because, eventually, it’s going to be a yes!”


The Arts Commission says it best, in their ‘How to Create a Successful Grant Application’ guide, and they say it in all caps: KEEP APPLYING.

Get that next grant!

Your Toledo Library team is confident you’ll find success. Once you get your first grant, it’s important to follow the guidelines – including reporting deadlines and any attributions requested in the contract, such as when a funder requests you post about the grant award on your social media or other promotional avenues. This way you’ll be a candidate in good standing when the next application rolls around. Here’s a Small Business & Nonprofit class that can help you meet those post-grant goals:

CONTENT PLANNING (Th) October 10 | 10:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m. | Main Library | Register

With many artistic mediums being very visual and/or performative, it is not uncommon that artist grant guidelines request for you to post about their funding of your project on social media and/or your website. In our Content Planning class, we’ll brainstorm topics and ideas that you can adapt for your various marketing channels throughout the year, making it easy to find ways to wrap those grant thank yous into a greater content strategy.



Looking to get inspired, manage money, master self-promotion, write grants, and more? This book collection was curated with artists and creatives in mind: view the list

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