Youth Speaks has been selected to administer the California Arts Council’s Individual Artist Fellowship Program, which will regrant $740,000 among 35 California-based individual artists and culture bearers at the intersection of culture, ancestral and Indigenous practices, and multi-racial movement work. 

As the Administering Agency, Youth Speaks will administer an application, review process, and professional development program for this region. 

The Individual Artist Fellowship provides unrestricted funding and state-wide recognition to California artists at key moments in their careers, elevating their capacity for continued contributions to the field and our state. 

Fellowship Webinar

In English

En Espanol

Program Timeline

Application Opens

August 7, 2023, at 1pm pst

Application Webinarsᅠ

Closed Caption Spanish Translation

Application Closes

September 30, 2023, at 11:59pm pst

Panel Review & Notification

October 1 - October 30, 2023ᅠ

Fellowship Announcementᅠ

November 1, 2023

Fellowship Duration

November 1, 2023 - September 30, 2024

Grant Guidelines

Deadline: September 30, 2023, at 11:59pm Pacific Time
Grant Awards Range from $5,000 – $50,000
For Artists who reside in Region IV of California
Fellowship Period: November 1, 2023 – October 31, 2024

Region IV includes the following 35 Counties: 

Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo, and Yuba counties.

Why is this program being offered?

With few opportunities for individual artists to apply for funding, and even fewer for their achievements to be recognized, the California Arts Council has created this program as a way to celebrate the state’s artists and culture bearers.

Purpose: What is the intended impact of this program?

The Individual Artists Fellowship (IAF) program will recognize, uplift, and celebrate the excellence of California artists and culture bearers practicing any art form with unrestricted grants.

This program will support artists' and culture bearers' individual artistic practices at key moments in their careers, elevating their capacity for continued contribution to the field and our state through unrestricted funding.

This program is intended to support a broad spectrum of artists working in all disciplines, from diverse geographies and communities of all sizes across Region IV of the state of California.

Excellence, for purposes of this grant, is defined as an artist’s:

  1. Unique artistic vision

  2. Ongoing commitment to creative practice

  3. Engagement with and impact on the larger cultural ecosystem

The grant program identifies three career tiers at which artists may benefit from this support:

Emerging Artist Fellows - $5,000
Emerging artists are those in the beginning stages of making their work public and engaging the larger community in their practice. Individuals at this career stage may have had a few public showings of their work, but still need ongoing resources or support.
Established Artist Fellows - $10,000
Artists in the Established tier regularly make their work public and engage the larger community in their practice. Individuals in this tier can give multiple examples of artistic and/or cultural works that have made a significant social impact.
Legacy Artist Fellows - $50,000
Artists in the Legacy tier can point to a significant body of work, produced over a substantial period of time, that has engaged their communities and that has made a significant social impact. Artists in this tier may be able to point to Emerging and Established Artists that they have mentored or otherwise positively influenced.
  • Individuals may submit an application in one career tier only.
  • The judging panel may shift an applicant to an alternate tier during the review process if it is believed that reclassification would make them more competitive.
  • Fellowship grants support individual artistic practice through unrestricted funding.
  • Awards will be funded at the full dollar amount for each tier; partial awards will not be made.
  • This grant is not intended to support artist groups or collectives.

As an additional means of recognizing and elevating Artist Fellows, convenings (in-person or virtual) will be held so they may engage with one another and be celebrated publicly for their distinction as California Artist Fellows.

Eligibility Requirements

California-based artists and culture bearers, 18 years of age and older, working in any artistic discipline, whose residential address is in the area designated as Region IV, are eligible to apply. Artists residing in or primarily working in other areas of California are eligible to apply for the Individual Artist Fellowship Program in their region. For more information, please visit

Please note recipients of the 2021 California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship are not eligible to apply.

Applicants must comply with the requirements below. All applications must include the listed items at the time of submission in order to be considered.

  1. Artist’s Narrative: Applicants must provide a brief description of their background and focus. 

  2. Questions on Artistic Process: Applicants must provide short written answers to the following questions.

    1. Describe how you engage your local community in your art-making. How does your art practice include social/cultural change practice?

    2. How would these funds support you and your arts practice? What impact will this fellowship make in your artistic career? 

  3. Work Samples: Applicants must provide three work samples that represent their art practice and discipline. Multiple mediums and all file types are accepted. Please see our FAQs for more information on work sample parameters.

    1. Support materials such as press materials, flyers, brochures, programs, newsletters, and/or other marketing pieces are also accepted.  

    2. More recent materials are preferred; however, we recognize that COVID-19 has impacted the amount of work created in the past three years.

  4. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV) (1 Page): Applicants must supply a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Resume may include significant awards and training, selected exhibitions, performances, installations, presentations, community recognition and/or publications. If possible, please include the city, state, and country (if outside the U.S.)

  5. 1 Letter of support or testimonial (1 Page): Applicants must provide a written signed statement from an individual or organization familiar with the applicant and their body of work. The statement should speak on the artist’s practice, relevance, and impact in their community. The letter must include the writer’s name, title, and contact information.

Online Application

Applications will be available online through Youth Speaks Submittable page. Only complete applications submitted by September 30, 2023, at 11:59pm pst will be accepted. Please make sure you select the submit button when you are ready to submit your application for review. 

You will need to create an account through Submittable in order to access the application. You do not have to create a new account if you already have a submittable account. Submittable will automatically save your progress and allow you to continue making edits until you submit your application. 

The application may take you at least a few hours to complete if not more.

Application Review Criteria

Applications will be reviewed by Youth Speaks and panel members from various parts of California selected by Youth Speaks. Applications will be reviewed based on the following review criteria:

  1. Creative Vision: Artist effectively communicates their personal story, artistic medium or practice, and long-term aspirations for their work.

  2. Aesthetic Excellence: Artistic work and/or examples of cultural practice demonstrate strong alignment with the components of the Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change including commitment, communal meaning, disruption, cultural integrity, risk-taking, sensory experience, emotional experience, openness, coherence, resourcefulness, and stickiness.

  3. Community Engagement and Social Impact: Artists effectively communicate their engagement with their community(ies) and the positive social impact their work has had locally, regionally, and/or statewide, addressing themes including but not limited to race, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

Panel Adjudication and Ranking Scale

Panelists will review and rank applications, identifying final cohorts at each tier that represents the diversity of Region IV’s arts landscape and geography. The following 100-point scale will be used, with 100 being the highest score:

100-90 points

Exemplary. Meets all of the review criteria to the highest degree. A model for field or discipline with essentially no weaknesses.

89-80 points

Outstanding. Very strong with some minor weaknesses. Meets the review criteria to a high degree.

79-70 points

Good. Strong but with numerous minor weaknesses. Meets the review criteria to some degree.

69 points & below

Marginal. Very few strengths and some major weaknesses. The review criteria is only marginally satisfied.

Grantee Requirements

Awarded grantees must comply with all requirements as stipulated in the grant agreement, including but not limited to the following:

  1. Complete contract documents - Upon notification of grant award, complete all required contract documents in order to receive 100% grant payment.

  2. Consistent activities - Maintain communication with Youth Speaks throughout the duration of the fellowship and participate in program activities as scheduled by Youth Speaks.

  3. Thank you letters - To better inform our elected representatives as to the value of the arts and the use of state funds, grantees are required to include—with the approved grant agreement— copies of signed letters sent to the Governor and state Senate and Assembly representatives thanking them for the grant. Local representatives may be found at this link:

  4. Final Report – a one-page narrative telling the story of what your fellowship meant to you and your community.

Language Accommodation

Applications must be submitted in English. Large print is available upon request. Our Webinars will be provided in Spanish and English with Closed Captioning. People who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf-Blind, or have difficulty speaking may dial 711 to reach the California Relay Service (CRS). If you need any other accommodations or assistance please contact us at

Linked you will find a Spanish copy of the Program Guidelines , FAQs, and the Application, however, please note applications must be submitted in English. 

Additional Support & Questions

Youth Speaks staff is available to offer guidance and clarification in preparing your application. Register and attend our informational webinars or email your questions to You are also encouraged to attend our group office hours.

Group Office Hours: Starting August 9 - September 27, 2023, on Wednesdays from 1:00pm- 2:00pm pst. Please sign up for Office Hours here.

Lead Contact: Perla Barraza, Project Manager Narrative Change and Applied Stories,


Who is considered an artist and culture bearer?

Culture bearers or cultural practitioners include sustainers of indigenous and other cultures’ traditional rituals. Their art practice is intergenerational and aims to preserve and share ancestral knowledge through healing, dancing, crafting, making, storytelling, and/or other forms of art and ritual.

Artists may include but are not limited to those engaging in all creative disciplines. In the visual arts, this includes not only painters, sculptors, and illustrators, but also graphic designers, photographers, videographers, filmmakers, and digital media, and crafts. Literary arts include but are not limited to writers of fiction and non-fiction, playwrights and screenwriters, poets, and lyricists. Performing arts includes but is not limited to actors, dancers, and musicians, but also directors, choreographers, conductors, and designers (scenic, lighting, sound, costume, props). Culinary arts may include but are not limited to winemaking and beer brewing, etc.

Do I have to live within one of the 35 counties of Region IV to apply?

Yes. The program recognizes that many artists travel to practice their work or are hired to bring their work to other communities, but this is a program for California-based artists only. You must reside in Region IV to apply for the Region IV fellowships.

If you reside elsewhere in California, you are encouraged to apply to the Individual Artist Fellowships Program for the region in which you reside.

Can I apply if I have already received support from Youth Speaks before?
Yes. You are still welcome to apply even if you have been a part of a previous YS program, cohort, or commission. You will need to fill out this new application and be aware of the new process and criteria. Please note recipients of the 2021 California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship are not eligible to apply.

Some stories are so powerful, we forget they are stories at all. They become the air, the water, the culture mediating what is and what we imagine to be possible. This is where the poet gets to work. Join us for an intergenerational showcase celebrating artists at the forefront of youth narrative power, featuring artists and alums from the Brave New Voices network, demonstrating how the artist doesn't just flip the script, they bend the light.

Can I apply if I am undocumented?
Yes. You may apply to this fellowship regardless of your immigration status as long as you meet the eligibility requirements.
Are the tiers of funding dictated by the age of the recipient?
No. An award tier designation is determined based on where the artist or culture bearer is in the various stages of their artistic practice. We encourage each applicant to review the descriptions thoroughly and determine which represents their own unique practice at the time of submission.
Do I need to provide a budget with my application?
No. Although we would like to know how these funds will support and impact your artistic process, you are not required to submit a budget with your application.
Do I need to propose a project that I will need to complete at the conclusion of the fellowship period?
No. This award is unrestricted, which means it can be used at your discretion. You are not required to create new work or to report back about how you utilized your fellowship funds.
What are the work samples parameters?

We suggest submitting at least three work samples you feel represent you and your work in the strongest way within the provided parameters.

Writing samples: Maximum of 10 pages total. Examples: short stories, scripts, poetry, musical scores, etc.
Images and Renderings: Maximum of 10 images total
Video and Audio: Up to 5 minutes in length total. Upload video directly or link to your video on Youtube. Please ensure it is "Unlisted" and non-password protected.
Are the music samples supposed to be a total of 5 minutes or does each sample have to be a maximum length of 5 minutes?

All video and audio samples should not exceed five minutes in total. This also applies to writing samples, images, and renderings; we ask that you do not exceed the 10 page/ 10 image limit.

For example: an artist who is a singer/musician could submit the following work samples:

Work Sample 1: one minute long song/audio sample
Work Sample 2: two minute long song/audio sample
Work Sample 3: two minute long song/audio sample

For example: an artist who is a playwright could submit the following work samples:

Work Sample 1: five pages of a completed script
Work Sample 2: four pages of a scene from another script
Work Sample 3: one page of a script outline/draft
I am a multidisciplinary artist and create art through multiple mediums, can I mix and match my work samples media?

Yes, you can upload multiple mediums and mix and match work sample media.

For example: an artist, that is both a performer and a visual artist, could submit the following work samples:

Work Sample 1: one minute long video dance performance
Work Sample 2: one minute long video dance performance
Work Sample 3: one slide deck with five images and their captions/descriptions.
Do I need to submit sample descriptions on a separate document?
You may describe your work sample in a way that you feel is best for you. You may upload your samples with a description in the same document or you may upload a separate document and number the samples with an attached description corresponding to each number.
I belong to an ensemble or a collective, can we jointly apply for this award as a group?
No. Applications for this opportunity must be submitted by individual artists and culture bearers only. This grant will only be awarded to individual artists. However, you can still submit as an individual artist or culture bearer whose work is rooted in ensemble or collective making.
Can our community outreach efforts be outside of our artistic practice?
Yes, we understand that artists have multiple avenues for community engagement and we invite you to provide as much evidence as possible that speaks to that side of your professional practice.
How do I articulate how my work has impacted my community?

Depending on how you define the community you are engaging with, you would articulate how your work or practice has a positive social impact on this community directly. The Artistic Process questions allow space for you to provide specific examples or stories from your own work to support your larger articulated goals around this impact.

A resource you may want to consider referencing is the Continuum of Impact guide created by Animating Democracy which may give you some ideas on how to frame social impact through creative work. We also encourage you to review the Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change for different examples of artists creating arts for change.

Who should I ask to write my letter of support? Do they need to be an artist themselves?
Along with being familiar with you and your work, we suggest selecting the person/organization that can write the strongest letter of support. They do not need to be an artist themselves.
Will I have an opportunity to engage with the other fellows?
Yes. You will have an opportunity to interact and network with other fellows during the fellowship convenings.
Has Youth Speaks awarded this grant before?
No. This is the first award cycle between Youth Speaks and the CAC. Please visit to learn more about this award.
Do I need to submit a W-9?
Yes. For payment purposes, we require that you submit a W-9 form with your Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Learn about the benefits of having an ITIN HERE.
Who will select the fellowship recipients?
Your responses will be reviewed by Youth Speaks and panel members from various parts of California selected by Youth Speaks.
I will not be able to attend any of the scheduled webinars, where can I find a recording of the webinar?
Do the webinars build on themselves or are they all the same?
All three webinars will provide the same information regarding the Fellowship program and application process.
I think I may have a conflict of interest, how can I confirm whether I can apply?
If you think you may have a conflict of interest, please email us at
Who can I reach out to if I need help or if I am having trouble with the application?
Please email with any questions and we will respond to you within 24 hours. You are also encouraged to attend our group office hours - August 9 - September 27, 2023, on Wednesdays from 1:00pm- 2:00pm pst. Please sign up for Office Hours here.