A One Million Dollar Grant To Honor Art & Artist
Let’s Build Something Beautiful Together®
The VSCO Artist Initiative™ is a $1,000,000usd grant and movement of solidarity that provides artists the resources to pursue their creative vision, no matter what the medium. The Initiative honors art and artist by discovering, funding, advising, and promoting creatives from all corners of the globe.
Artists who are chosen to take part in the Initiative will document their ideation and creation process by posting images to their Grid, publishing updates to their Journal, and collaborating with the VSCO team on promotions and projects. Open to artists of all mediums, the Initiative seeks to continue growing a creative movement built on integrity and artistry.
Introducing the Recipients
Athen B. Gallery
Urban or street art is not always afforded the same prestige as fine art, typically living in “the shadows of the art world, not properly recognized or celebrated”. Athen B. Gallery, located in Oakland, CA, changes that by highlighting some the city’s finest contemporary artists. The gallery curates and executes the production of three large public murals, working with and featuring local artists such as Ernest Doty, Ryan Montoya, Cannon Dill, and Brett Flanigan.
Keith Weaver & Tim Lampe
Keith Weaver and Tim Lampe of Atlanta, Georgia, noticed in recent years the lack of arts education for local youth. As photographers and established creatives, Weaver and Lampe set out to bring creative expression to the kids in their community by leading a photography class, and teaching the ins and outs of photography through the use of instant cameras.
Brooklyn based photographer Amy Lombard met with and documented people with shared, unique interests — particularly those who found and met others online. “My goal is to map out the interests and individuals that are both known and unknown to the masses”. The interests she documented were varied, ranging from the upbeat to the absurd, but her project sought to elevate and humanize each experience.
Photographer Scott Turner returns to the mountains of Central Asia to document the lives of the Kyrgyz. These nomadic horsemen have lived as shepherds for hundreds of years, and their traditional way of life remains mostly unchanged today. Turner captures this interesting cultural statement as he lives off the grid, alongside these shepherding families for the entirety of his project.
Born of a casual photo session and an honest conversation, Natalie McComas’s photo project ‘In This Skin’ will collect the stories and portraits of birthmarked subjects. McComas hopes to “offer insights into these people’s stories, their heartaches and desires, and encourage viewers to be more accepting and compassionate towards those who are seen as ‘different’ within their own community circles”.
Built in London in the 1960s, the historic Barbican Estate was designed as an urban village that would be separate from traffic and transportation. A well-known cultural hub, it is currently home to nearly 4,000 residents. Intrigued by the diverse mix of personalities, resident and photographer Anton Rodriguez documents the lives and stories of his neighbors in an intimate portrait series, showing that each unit is as unique as the personalities that live there.
While spending time in the United Arab Emirates, photographer Yumna Al-Arashi was struck by the prominent socio-economic divide between residents and migrant workers. Determined to promote social justice and human rights awareness, Al-Arashi documents the harsh working conditions of a largely marginalized population.
Animation & Photography
Los Angeles-based artist Sean Pecknold creates an animated stop-motion short. Blending photography with animation, the film highlights an adventurer on a journey into the unknown, a quest that, through Pecknold’s unique aesthetic, embodies both beauty and surrealism.
Photographer Benjamin Heath documents the farming families affected by the severe drought in California’s Central Valley. More than just a surface level reporting of the crisis, Heath spends significant time with the families, capturing the ins-and-outs their daily lives, and how they are affected as a whole.
Scotland based photographer James Robertson documents Afghan skiers as they travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland to train. He captures their triumphs and hardships as they prepare and dream for the opportunity to compete in future competitions, such as the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Brothers Don and Ryan Clark are the founders of Invisible Creature, a design and illustration company based in Seattle. The duo collaborates with a unique group of artists to film their creative interactions and ventures across diverse mediums across the United States.
An award-winning typographer and visual artist, Michael Cina has been creating stunning album art for Ghostly International since 2007. With his Artist Initiative grant, Cina produces a limited edition book featuring the first 100 album covers he created for the acclaimed record label.
Seasoned photojournalist Mustafah Abdulaziz has been chronicling the topic of water since 2011, and plans to continue to do so until World Water Day 2020. He travels the Yangtze River in China, to “use photography as a conduit to seeing water not only as a resource, but as a measurement of how we exist, where we go and how we get there”.
Welsh animator and illustrator Gemma Green-Hope has a knack for storytelling. Her animations, created with a blend of drawn and stop motion elements, photographs, and voice over narrations, are full of subtle nuances and rich context. Green-Hope creates three distinct animation pieces inspired by Mabinogion, a set of medieval fairy tales well-known to Welsh children.
Written & Spoken Word
Joekenneth Museau is a writer and spoken word poet, who delves into the emotional journey that follows the death of a loved one. Museau visits the meaningful places of his mother’s childhood in Haiti, exploring his memories of her, and “the turmoils and triumphs” that come from living without her. As part of his final collaboration with VSCO Artist Initiative, Museau pens and creates a book about the journey and his experience.
Photographer Sierra Odessa travels to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri to document the ways the joyful neighborhood of her childhood has transitioned into its current metropolis. Using street photography, she captures intimate portraits and desolate streets — the lost innocence of a city changed.
Nour El Refai
Architectural photographer by trade, Cairo based Nour El Refai possesses a great respect and admiration for different cultures. Years prior, he visited Aswan, Egypt, and was captivated by the history of the region and the Nubian people. Typically a very private community, the Nubians struck up a friendship with El Refai, and ten years later, he returns to document the distinct culture, language, and experiences of their daily lives.
Using tintype photography, Josh Wool documents enclaves of craftsmen in the Hudson Valley region, hoping to call to attention the artists’ simple way of life. “There’s more to life than just material wealth… These folks exemplify that happiness is what you make, not what you have”.
Honolulu-based sculptor Chris Ritson creates mesmerizing crystal work that blends the organic with the man-made. Using a crystal called bismuth, Ritson experiments with the temperature and humidity that affect the crystal’s growth process, in hopes that viewers will “rethink the authenticity of the art object and the role of the artist or individual as creator”.
Video & Photography
Bay Area-based photographer Nirav Patel was born in Gujarat, India, but moved away when he was two. In an effort to reconnect with his birthplace and his few childhood memories of it, Patel documents the Uttarayan kite festival, an international celebration that originated in his hometown, where the kites are manufactured.
New York-based lifestyle blog and creative agency Street Etiquette created Slumflower, an editorial piece detailing the fictional tale of a 10-year-old boy growing up in NYC public housing. As part of their final collaboration with VSCO Artist Initiative, Street Etiquette showcased photos from the project in a gallery in New York.
Chris & Jon Schoonover
Chris’s Grid / Jon’s Grid / Intro / Update
As childhood fans of pro wrestling, brothers Jon and Chris Schoonover document the pageantry of the sport through underground wrestling organizations. Their work is highly stylized, and perfectly showcases the very candid imagery of this unique subculture.
In Texas, football is everything. Photographer and Texas native Lauren Marek captures the passion for the sport in her small but spirited hometown of Bellville, documenting nearly every game, practice, and rally. She faces the challenge of being an unobtrusive observer, while simultaneously getting more intimate, candid portraits of the players.
Nomadic photographer Kevin Russ traversed the Pacific Coast, capturing rural landscapes and the quiet, nostalgic moments of life on the road. Shooting only on his iPhone and editing on VSCO Cam®, he collaborated with VSCO Artist Initiative to create a beautiful photo book called The Western States. In May 2015, Russ toured his book through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, meeting with local creatives and photographers, and discussing highlights from his travels.
Young photographer Leo Martinez set out to capture the essence of Chihuahua, Mexico. Shot in black and white, Martinez’s work is a study in contrast, and he uses the juxtaposition of shadows and lights to underscore the duality of his city — a place that is at once modern and steeped in tradition. In February 2015, Martinez partnered with his alma mater, Chihuahua Institute of Technology, and VSCO Artist Initiative in a final collaboration to showcase his photography in a solo exhibition called “Auras Centrales”.
After a six month stint traveling and creating, artist Erik Otto returned to San Francisco with a specific goal in mind: to “create one unforgettable evening that brings different walks of life together to collectively celebrate the creative spirit… and take people to a place that inspires their own imagination”. ‘Rising Tides’, a multidisciplinary exhibition Otto put on as part of his final collaboration with VSCO Artist Initiative, showcased sculptures, paintings, lights, and live music.
We are looking for active members of the VSCO creative community. Before you apply, download VSCO Cam®. Start a VSCO Grid. Share your work. Be involved.
Thank you for your submission. We review all applications; however, due to the sheer volume we cannot personally respond to all of them. If your project seems like a potential fit, we will contact you directly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why am I required to have a VSCO Grid to apply?
Artist Initiative recipients should be active members of the VSCO creative community, and maintaining a VSCO Grid is an ideal demonstration of this. Additionally, we believe the creative process is as important as the final result. Recipients are required to document their creative process on their Grid and Journal to provide insight into their artistic journey.
Who is eligible?
Artists of all levels, mediums, and locations are encouraged to apply.
To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years of age and reside in a jurisdiction in which offering or accepting the grant would be lawful. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
Can I edit my entry after I submit it?
No, you may not edit an entry after it has already been submitted, but you can save your entry as a draft to review before submission.
What is the selection process?
VSCO Artist Initiative reviews submissions based on the following criteria:
- The project has the potential for positive social and artistic impact.
- The project is unique and interesting.
- The budget is reasonable.
- The applicant displays passion, initiative, and creativity.
What are the expectations of the artist?
Selected artists who choose to take part in the Initiative will be required to post images of the project on their VSCO Grid, supply content to be featured on the VSCO Journal, and collaborate with the VSCO team on promotions and projects.
When will I hear if my project has been selected for the Initiative?
Due to the sheer volume of applications, we are unable to personally respond to every submission. If your project seems like a potential fit, we will contact you directly, though there is no firm timetable for a response time.
Do all projects have to be photography based?
To reveal the creative process, all projects must be documented photographically on your Grid. However, a project does not need to be photography based. Beauty can be found in all forms and mediums, and the Initiative grant is intended for a variety of artistic expressions: illustration, film, music, painting, photography, craft, design, mixed media, performance art, sculpture, new media, installation, etc.
How many projects will be selected?
There is no specific number of projects that will be selected.
Are group submissions allowed?
Yes, group submissions are allowed.
What will VSCO provide to the selected artist(s)?
VSCO will supply mentorship, as well as financial, creative, and promotional resources.
Does the artist retain rights to the work created for the VSCO Artist Initiative?
Yes. The artist retains ownership of their work. VSCO will have certain customary rights, such as the rights to display the work in various forms and locations, including but not limited to the VSCO website and apps, promotional materials, social media, books, and exhibitions.
How much money is allocated towards each project?
The grant amount varies for every project, based on factors such as scope, location and timeline.
Can I use the grant to fund travel?
Carefully consider whether or not your project truly requires travel. Is it imperative to the narrative of your project? Travel should be related to a personal story, a continuation of a narrative, an intriguing point of view, or other component that is integral to your project.
Does my project include a guaranteed end collaboration with the VSCO team?
The Artist Initiative team will work with recipients to determine their final product based on specific parameters. We fund project ideas, and that may or may not include a final book or event — not every project is guaranteed a final collaborative product or event.
What if I allocated for book creation/event in my budget?
Do not include the costs of exhibitions/events/book creation in your budget. Budgets are based on the expenses you require in project creation, not final product. The Artist Initiative team will work with recipients as the artist’s project progresses to see whether or not a final collaborative effort is appropriate.
What is considered a strong application?
Applications need to be clear and concise, and explain the project ideation and creation process. Spend time on it — the more love you show your proposal, the more likely we are to love it as well.