Next Step Fund

Program Description

The Next Step Fund, funded by The McKnight Foundation,* provides project grants up to $5,000 to professional artists in any discipline for the purpose of career development and artistic achievement. Applicants may be at any stage of their career, but must demonstrate achievement in their artistic field and have a history of public presentation or community contribution. This is a highly competitive program. 


Deadline(s) for this program have passed.

Program Directors

An ideal Next Step Fund project is one that:

  • helps an artist overcome a barrier to significant, long-term success, professionalize or increase artistic output and quality,
  • complete a project that marks a significant milestone in their career, and/or
  • reach a new community or market.

Online application procedures are in the guidelines. Please read the guidelines before you apply. The application will be activated six weeks before each deadline.

**Next Step Fund finalists will be notified via email on May 5, 2017.

Application Workshops

There are no upcoming workshops for this program. Please contact your program director with questions.

Program Requirements & Eligibility

This program has a two-tiered process for review. A peer review panel rates all eligible applications based on the program criteria. A smaller group of the highest-rated applicants are selected as finalists and asked to submit work samples as context for their proposals. The grantees are selected from the finalists after a public panel review. 

The requirements listed below are intended to give a sense of the program and are NOT comprehensive. Applicants are required to read the complete guidelines before beginning their application.

  • This program funds emerging, mid-career and established artists, working in any discipline, who have evidence of artistic excellence respective of their career stage.
  • Applicants must have resided in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington County during the entire year prior to the deadline. 
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.

This program does NOT fund:

  • Projects being produced by an organization. This program provides support for the professional and artistic development of an artist independent from their organizational identity. 
  • Fellowship support to sustain an established artist’s profession. 
  • Activities that engage in political lobbying, serve the religious socialization of participants, or discriminate against persons or groups.

Help With Your Application

Due to the large number of applicants to this program, the program directors are unable to give individual feedback on grant applications.

Grant Application Workshops

Application workshops are held about a month prior to the deadline. Participants learn about the grant program, application process, and how to write an effective Next Step Fund grant application. This is your opportunity to get questions answered on your project ideas.

Grant Library

MRAC maintains a library of the Next Step Fund finalist grant applications and the recorded panel discussion. Reviewing these materials can enhance your understanding of the process and improve your application. The application library is open during MRAC hours and staff is happy to help you. To see a list of this and last fiscal year’s funded projects, visit our recent awards page.

*The McKnight Foundation's arts program is founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive. The McKnight Foundation supports working artists to create and contribute to vibrant communities.

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