Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions FAQ

On January 30, 2018 we hosted an introductory webinar for the last round of awards. A recording of that webinar is above and the slides from the presentation are available for download.

Hewlett Foundation staff will be answering questions about the initiative in the space below. If you have a question that has not yet been answered, please email us.

Important Dates

Applications for the next round of awards, in dance, will open later in 2019.


Who is eligible to submit a letter of inquiry (LOI)?

Nonprofit organizations with 501 (c)(3) public charity tax status and based in the eleven counties of the greater San Francisco Bay Area are eligible to submit an LOI—those in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma counties. The nonprofit does not need to be an arts producer or presenter. Individual artists may not apply for a grant. Artists must partner with a Bay Area nonprofit as the lead applicant.

What is a “lead applicant?”

The lead applicant is the nonprofit organization responsible for managing the project, submitting the LOI, developing the full proposal if invited, and commissioning the artist. The lead applicant may collaborate with other organizations.

Can current Hewlett Foundation grantees apply?

Yes, current Hewlett Foundation grantees in all of our program areas are eligible to apply if based in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Can nonprofits based outside the Bay Area apply?

No, nonprofits based outside the greater San Francisco Bay Area cannot apply directly. However, they may collaborate on an LOI with a lead applicant based in one of the 11 counties listed above.

Can we apply using a fiscal sponsor?

A fiscal sponsor can be the lead applicant for the LOI, if the fiscal sponsor is located in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Can a fiscal sponsor submit multiple applications?

Yes, a fiscal sponsor may submit LOIs for multiple projects.

Can a fiscally-sponsored entity have a budget under the $100,000 threshold if the fiscal sponsor’s overall budget is over $100,000?

No.  The fiscally sponsored entity must itself meet the requirement of a minimum $100,000 annual budget over three years.

Can a nonprofit organization apply more than once?

A nonprofit may apply once per year as a lead applicant. If awarded a grant, the lead applicant may not apply again.

Who is a “lead artist” for awards in dance?

The lead artist is the person primarily responsible for the creation of the new work as its choreographer.

Can an artist apply more than once?

An artist may serve as the lead artist on one application and as a collaborator on other applications in the same calendar year. If the commissioned project is awarded a grant, the lead artist may not apply again.

Can an artist be commissioned more than once?

If a lead applicant receives a grant to commission an artist, the artist cannot receive a second commission in future years.

Does the artist have to be from the San Francisco Bay Area?

The artist may be from anywhere in the world.

What if the artist is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the lead applicant is not?

Regardless of where the artist is based, the lead applicant must be based in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Can an artist apply directly for a grant using a fiscal sponsor?

No. Nonprofit organizations are the lead applicants for these grants.

Can an organization commission an existing staff member, teacher or artist?

While current employees of the lead applicant organization are eligible to serve as the lead artist on an application, our intent is to commission world-class artists to create works of the highest artistic quality and enduring value.

Is preference given to local, national or international artists?

Artists may be based anywhere in the world, with no preference for one location over another.

What if the lead applicant would like to commission an artist collective or an ensemble?

The lead applicant may work with an artist collective or an ensemble, but the lead applicant must designate a single lead artist from the collective or ensemble.

Are adaptions of existing works eligible?

Yes, as long as the proposed work has significant artistic merit on its own terms.

Can we apply for an award for a work currently in development?

Yes, so long as the project meets the other requirements for eligibility. Pieces that have been performed as workshops or staged readings may apply but if a work has already been fully staged it will be ineligible.

Is there a minimum production-run length?


Project Budget

How much should the commissioned artist be paid?

Our goal is to attract the best artists in their respective fields. Two-thirds of the Hewlett Foundation award should support the creation and development of the commissioned work, including the lead artist’s commissioning fee ($50,000 minimum) and their direct expenses. Direct expenses include but are not limited to travel and accommodations, and payments to other artists who participate in the creation of the work, including composers, lyricists, and the like. The remaining one-third of the Hewlett Foundation award must support the presentation of the premiere, including expenses associated with production, marketing, fundraising, venue, and payments to performers. The LOI budget template contains examples of how project expenses should be allocated.

If an organization collaborates with more than one artist on the creation of a new work, does each participating artist receive a $50,000 commissioning fee?

The lead artist must receive a minimum of $50,000 as their commissioning fee. Payments to other artists who participate in the creation of the new work can count towards the guideline that two-thirds of Hewlett Foundation award go to the creation of the new work.

Is the size of the grant limited by the organization’s operating budget?

Successful organizations will demonstrate that they have the financial capacity to successfully execute the proposed project. Thus, successful applicants will receive an award of $150,000 regardless of their budget size and could receive an award equal to or more than its budget size.

Can the project budget be larger than the grant request? Is there a requirement for matching funds?

We anticipate funding both projects that have additional sources of funding and those that are funded solely by the Hewlett Foundation’s award. There is no matching fund requirement.

What financial information will need to be provided?

A very brief project budget that is included in the online Letter of Inquiry system. Lead applicants must also provide one of the following: 1) A current DataArts cultural data profile; or 2) the most recent audited financials; or 3) financial statements from the most recently completed fiscal year.

LOI Process

Can multiple users work on the online LOI?

Yes, an application may have more than one user. Multiple users will need to share sign on credentials.

Who do we contact if we are having problems with the form?

If there is a technology problem with the online LOI system, please contact our provider at Fluid Review.

If there are questions regarding the LOI requirements or process, please contact  Hewlett Foundation.

What if we submitted the LOI before it was completed?

You may continue to edit an LOI after it has been submitted, up until the submission deadline in April. Please note, the application portal closes at 11:59pm on the date of the deadline.

When should I apply for a commission in dance, traditional arts, or film and media?

The next round of commissions will be awarded in dance and movement-based performance, and only applications for projects in those disciplines will be accepted when the application period begins later in 2019. Organizations may apply for other disciplines in the years we award those commissions:

2020: Folk and Traditional Arts

2021: Film and Media


When must the commissioned work be premiered?

Premieres must take place in one of the three years immediately following the year of the award.

Are there any requirements regarding the venue?

Only that it be located within the 11 counties of the greater San Francisco Bay Area: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, or Sonoma

What are the expectations regarding community engagement?

An objective of the initiative is to engage and impact local communities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Community engagement is demonstrated by the quality, depth and scope of the opportunities to impact diverse communities. Applicants will describe their current constituents, the intended audiences for the project, how the community will be engaged by the project; and the significance of the work to the Bay Area and beyond. Applicants will also describe the factors that will contribute to accessibility, the venues for the premiere, and the potential for touring and/or additional performances.

Review and Selection

Who will review the LOI?

An anonymous, national panel of experts from the fields of theater, musical theater and spoken word will review and score all LOIs.

How will the application be scored?

Four criteria are used for scoring the LOI: 1) Artistic Excellence; 2) Community Engagement; 3) Collaboration and Leadership; and 4) Financial Capacity. For a full explanation, please see: How to apply for a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission.

Will we receive feedback about the review?

Due to the large number of LOIs we expect to receive, we will not be able to provide individual feedback.

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