Art Scholarships: How Not to Be a Starving Artist

Art Scholarships How Not to Be a Starving Artist

When it comes to scholarships, STEM students seem to have the pick of the litter. But what if you’re not passionate about science, technology, engineering, or math? And what if you’ve spent your whole life painting, writing, or performing instead of learning to code?

You’re not alone. Five percent of the Class of 2015 took home bachelor’s degrees in the visual and performing arts. That might not sound like much, but it was enough to put arts degrees in seventh place among the 33 categories of study tracked by the National Center for Education Statistics.

If you hear the call to a life of creativity, here’s how you can find art scholarships that will help you pay for college.

Nationwide art scholarships you should know about

If you’re looking for money to help you study the arts, you might want to start with some of the larger, more broad-based scholarships. Here’s a list of a few to consider:

Art Renewal Center Scholarships

Based in New Jersey, the Art Renewal Center (ARC) has a mission of “promoting education in realistic art.” In pursuit of this mission, ARC offers scholarships for students to attend schools for visual art around the world.

Previous first-place winners of ARC scholarships receive $4,000 for their education, while second-place winners receive $2,000 and third-place winners $700. You can apply for an ARC scholarship between August and December if you plan on attending an ARC-approved school.

National Society of Arts and Letters Scholarship

The National Society of Arts and Letters has been around since 1944 and works in support of the performing, literary, and visual arts.

This organization sponsors several competitions and scholarships. Two examples are the Naomi Rabb Winston Scholarship in Two-Dimensional Art and the Shirley Rabb Winston Scholarship in Classical Voice, each of which offers $10,000 awards.

You can find applications and learn more about these scholarships here. Both are due in February.

National YoungArts Foundation

Another art scholarship offering up to $10,000 in awards comes from the National YoungArts Foundation (YoungArts).

But the foundation doesn’t stop there. Winners also have the opportunity to take a master class with artists in their field, they can be nominated for more awards, and they “receive a lifetime of mentoring and support.”

Here’s the list of disciplines YoungArts supports:

  • Cinematic Arts
  • Classical Music
  • Dance
  • Design Arts
  • Jazz
  • Photography
  • Theater
  • Visual Arts
  • Voice
  • Writing

Applications are due in October and can be found here.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Another chance for various types of artists to find scholarships is through Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This organization gives out portfolio scholarships, scholarships for creative summer programs, and special awards offered in partnership with other organizations.

For example, the Gold Medal Portfolio gives 16 art or writing students scholarships of $10,000 each. The Silver Medal with Distinction Portfolio offers 30 students awards of $1,000 each.

The special awards are thematically based, and winners can receive from $500 to $1,000 for their education. You can find details on all of these scholarships via Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

Discipline-specific art scholarships

The list above pertains to fairly general disciplines in art, but you can find money for college for your specific interests as well. Here‘s a list of more narrowly tailored scholarships open to students nationwide:

  • The Professional Association for Design: Students of fine art, graphic or visual design, illustration or animation, interaction design, and photography are eligible for this scholarship. The amount of the award varies, but typically winners can earn from $500 for an honorable mention up to $3,500 for first place.

How to find even more art scholarships

Just as there are many ways to create art, there are many ways to find art scholarships. Here are a few more tips to help you find even more scholarships for college:

  • Research the schools you’re interested in attending. Many have their own art department-sponsored awards for students. You can get a good idea of what’s out there with this school- and location-based scholarship listing from Fastweb.
  • Join any relevant professional associations that accept students. Some sponsor scholarships specifically for their own members (such as the scholarship listed above by the International Interior Design Association).
  • Finally, as with all scholarships, don’t forget to go local. You can find art scholarships specifically offered in your community in this listing from But it also helps to talk to your school administrators and prominent organizations where you live to see what they have. Work you do in your community might qualify you for a scholarship as well.

Art students already know there’s a lot of extra work that goes into perfecting a craft. But it’s also important to learn how to talk about and promote your work so more opportunities to create can arise.

Consider these scholarships as more than a chance to cut down the costs of your education. They’re also an opportunity to learn how to talk about and promote your art like a professional would, taking you one step closer to that creativity-filled life you’ve always dreamed of.

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