Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions FAQ

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.

Applicant Workshops

The Hewlett Foundation hosted applicant workshops for the prior round of awards throughout the Bay Area in 2019. You can watch a recording of the workshop we hosted on September 4, 2019 below.


Who is eligible to submit an application?

Nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) public charity tax status and a minimum annual budget of $100,000 per year for the last three fiscal years that are based in the eleven 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 counties) are eligible to submit an application.

What is a “lead applicant?”

The lead applicant is the nonprofit organization responsible for submitting the application, managing the project, and commissioning the artist. The lead applicant may collaborate with other organizations, collectives, and projects.

Can a non-arts organization apply?

Yes. We welcome applications from eligible organizations that are not primarily arts organizations or are from a non-arts sector. A non-arts organization that applies will be asked (like every other applicant) to explain in the application how they will create and present their projects.

Can individual artists apply?

Individual artists may not apply. Artists must partner with a Bay Area 501(c)(3) public charity as the lead applicant.

Can individual artists apply using a fiscal sponsor?

No. Only 501(c)(3) public charities are eligible to serve as lead applicants for these commissions.

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 11-county San Francisco Bay Area. Lead applicants that fulfill the eligibility requirements but that are not current Hewlett Foundation grantees are also eligible to apply.

Can nonprofits based outside the Bay Area apply?

No, nonprofits based outside the 11-county San Francisco Bay Area cannot apply directly. However, they may collaborate on an application with a lead applicant organization that meets the eligibility requirements.

Can fiscally sponsored projects apply?

Yes, but fiscally sponsored projects must apply only with their fiscal sponsor as the lead applicant. Please review the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions guidelines for additional information about eligible fiscal sponsorship arrangements.

Can a fiscal sponsor submit multiple applications?

Yes, a fiscal sponsor may be a lead applicant for multiple fiscally sponsored projects. Additionally, a fiscal sponsor may also choose to apply for its own project.

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

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

How can organizations that do not meet the minimum budget requirements or that are not located in the 11 San Francisco Bay Area counties participate?

Organizations that do not meet the minimum budget requirements or are not located within the 11 San Francisco Bay Area counties are not eligible to serve as lead applicant for an application. However, these organizations can partner with a lead applicant that meets these requirements to serve as collaborators on an application.

Can a lead applicant apply more than once per application cycle?

No, a lead applicant may apply once per application cycle (unless it is a fiscal sponsor).

Can a lead applicant who has previously received a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission apply for another commission?

No. Any lead applicant that has been awarded a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission in the past may not apply again as a lead applicant (unless it is submitting an application on behalf of a fiscally sponsored project).

Who is a “lead artist” for awards in dance and movement-based performance?

The lead artist is the person primarily responsible for the creation of the new work as its choreographer or primary author. For the Hewlett 50 Art Commissions, movement-based performance is defined as performance that gives primacy to the moving body as the primary mode of expression, as opposed to text, spoken word, music, audio-visual or other elements of a performance. Multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary artists may apply but should have an established vision and perspective specifically in relation to dance and/or movement-based performance.

Can an artist apply more than once?

An artist may serve as the lead artist on only one application per award cycle, but may serve as a collaborator on multiple applications in the same cycle.

Can a lead artist be commissioned more than once?

No. If a lead applicant receives a grant to commission a lead artist, the artist cannot receive a second commission in future years. They can, however, act as a collaborator for future projects.

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

No, the lead artist may be from anywhere in the world.

What if the lead artist is based in the 11 San Francisco Bay Area counties listed above, but the lead applicant is not?

Regardless of where the artist is based, the lead applicant must be based in the 11 San Francisco Bay Area counties.

Can lead artists that were awarded the Gerbode Foundation Special Awards for the Arts or the Creative Work Fund apply?

Yes, lead artists that have previously been awarded the Gerbode Foundation Special Awards for the Arts or the Creative Work fund for a different project are eligible to apply. However, projects that have already received either of these awards are ineligible for funding. Projects may simultaneously apply to the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions and Gerbode Foundation Special Awards for the Arts or the Creative Work Fund, but cannot be awarded funding from these sources simultaneously. If a project is selected for one award, they must withdraw from the other.

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

Yes, existing staff members, teachers or artists are eligible to serve as lead artists. Lead applicants who have historically presented the work of the lead artist will be asked to explain how this project will be different from what the organization typically presents.

Are student projects eligible?

No, the lead artist may not be a student at the time of application submission, or during the grant period. Additionally, projects featuring performers that are predominantly students are not eligible to apply.

What kind of lead artists will be most competitive?

Competitive lead artists will have a proven and compelling track record of creating and presenting works that demonstrate they are ready and able to create a work of exceptional professional and artistic standards.

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.

Is it necessary for the creation/development of the work to take place in the 11 Bay Area counties listed above?

No, the commissioned work may be created or developed anywhere in the world as long as the world premiere of the work happens within the 11 Bay Area counties.

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 artist from the collective or ensemble to act as lead artist for the application.

Are adaptions of existing works eligible?

Yes, as long as the adaptation of existing work includes significant reimagining or creative alterations by the lead artist. Site-specific versions of previously premiered work are not eligible to apply.

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

If the project has already been initiated and is conceptually well developed, the work is still eligible for a commission. However, because this is a commissioning award for new works, projects for which the bulk of the creative work has already been completed may not be competitive. 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?

Yes, the lead applicant must publicly present the work at least once as a Bay Area world premiere.

Project Budget

How much should the commissioned lead artist be paid?

The lead artist commissioning fee must be at least $50,000.

Are there other restrictions on Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions funding?

Yes, all applications must request $150,000. A minimum of two-thirds of the commission ($100,000) should support the creation and development of the commissioned work (this amount includes the $50,000 lead artist commissioning fee). Any remaining funds may support the presentation of the commissioned work. The online application budget template will give guidance for organizing project income and expenses.

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 requirement 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 budget?

No. 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 annual 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.

Can the project budget include indirect costs like administrative overhead?

Yes, in the “overhead” line item of the expense budget applicants may include indirect costs such as rent, utilities, technology systems, and a portion of administrative (accounting, HR, etc.) and other staff that support the project.  Overhead expenses are one of several categories of expenses considered presentation expenses. The category of presentation expenses can total up to $50,000 of the expenses paid for by a Hewlett commission.

When will the commissioning funds be dispersed?

Projects that are awarded funding for dance and movement-based performance will receive the entire $150,000 payment in July 2020 after a grant agreement has been signed and approved by both the lead applicant and the Hewlett Foundation.

What financial information must the lead applicant provide?

Lead applicants must provide a project budget using the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions budget form.

Lead applicants must also provide ONE of the following:

  • A current DataArts (formerly the Cultural Data Project) Hewlett Foundation funder report
  • A balance sheet AND profit and loss statement for the organizations most recently completed fiscal year
  • A 2018 audit

What financial information must a fiscally sponsored project provide?

Fiscally sponsored projects will not be required to provide financial information unless they are selected as finalists and there are questions about the fiscally sponsored project’s finances.

Application Process

When is the online application deadline?

The online application deadline for dance and movement-based performance was 5:00 PM on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.

What is the application process?

Lead applicants must first complete and pass a brief “yes or no” eligibility questionnaire. Upon successful completion, applicants will gain immediate access to the full application.

How do I begin the online application?

Applications for the current round of awards in dance and movement-based performance are now closed. Applications for the next round of awards, in folks and traditional arts, will open in summer 2020.

Can multiple users work on the same online application simultaneously?

No, the application may only be accessed through a single user login. If you would like to share the application with colleagues, we recommend that applicants write out their narrative responses offline in a separate document, and when finished cut and paste their responses into the online application. Multiple users may 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 application system, please contact our provider at Survey Monkey Apply.

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

What if we accidentally submitted the application before it was completed?

To gain access to a submitted application, an applicant must send a request via email to 50chelp@hewlett.org.

Will there be other application cycles of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions?

Yes. There will be two additional application cycles of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions in folk and traditional arts (in 2020), and in film and media (in 2021).

When must the commissioned work for dance and performance-based art be premiered?

Premieres must take place by July of 2023. That gives awardees three years to create the project and present a Bay Area world premiere.

Where must the commissioned work be premiered?

The world premiere can take place anywhere within the 11 Bay Area counties listed above. The work does not need to premiere in the same county that the lead applicant is headquartered in.

Are projects without a confirmed venue eligible to apply?

Yes, works that have not yet confirmed a venue for the world premiere are eligible to apply. The lead applicant should list potential venues and explain how they will select the venue(s) within the narrative of the grant.

Can the commissioned work be premiered as part of an annual festival?

Yes, commissioned work may have its world premiere as part of an annual festival. However, Hewlett 50 Arts Commission funding must support only the creation of the commissioned work and its presentation – funding may not support overall marketing or administrative costs of the festival.

Are there any requirements regarding the length of the commissioned work?

Yes. Due to the size of the awards, commissioned works are expected to be full-length shows of at least 60 minutes in length.

Are there any requirements regarding the venue?

Only that the venue be publicly accessible and 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.

Are there any requirements for commissioned work to tour?

No. Plans to tour commissioned work beyond the Bay Area world premiere are not required. However, if there are plans to tour the work beyond its premiere, it is helpful for panelists to know.

What are reporting requirements for awardees?

Awardees will be asked to submit a final report within six months of their project world premiere.

How current do work samples need to be?

Work samples may be from any year. However, we recommend submitting work samples no older than five years in order to give panelists a sense of the artist’s current capacities and artistic practice.

Review and Selection

Who will review the application?

An anonymous, national panel of experts from the fields of dance and movement-based performance will review and score all applications. The panel will select the finalists for the award, with Hewlett Foundation staff making the final selection of the 10 recipients of the awards.

How will the application be scored?

Five criteria are used for scoring the application:

  • Artistic Excellence;
  • Project Concept;
  • Project Design and Planning;
  • Audience and Community Impact; and
  • Financial Capacity.

For a full explanation of these criteria, please see: How to apply for a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission.

Will we receive feedback about the review?

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

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