Community Arts Grants are Back!

April 12 2023

There’s nothing like attending a free cultural program in Washington Square Park. The wide variety of performances and activities that take place in this space are an essential part of what makes it unique. While WSPC hosts a wide variety of public programs, we’re far from the only ones bringing cultural offerings for the community to enjoy. That’s why for the last 8 years, the Conservancy has helped support local community groups that bring free public programming to the Park. What started as a small fund to spread Conservancy resources to legacy events like the Washington Square Music Festival and Films on the Green has grown into a robust grant program that not only supports old school favorites, but encourages ever-evolving cultural offerings for the Park.

Young New Yorkers gather in the Park for a Square Dance evening sponsored by the "Recreation Division of the Department of Parks" in 1966
Young New Yorkers gather in the Park for a Square Dance evening in the summer of 1966

One of the things that makes the Park special is its tradition of free, live, cultural events. For generations people have flocked to the Park for concerts, movies, dance nights, and more. Providing these grants is just another way we help to keep that history alive. While for some organizations a grant from WSPC is a small part of their budget, for others it’s all the funds they have access to, and they wouldn’t be able to program without it. Since the program began in 2016, WPSC has provided over $65,000 in funds to help grantees bring the cultural offerings to life. 

Originally called the Mini Grants Program, it was an idea born from the Conservancy’s first Executive Director, who began receiving numerous funding requests from local groups bringing free programming to the Park almost as soon as the Conservancy formed. By creating a formal grant process, available resources could be allocated fairly instead of defaulting to giving the groups who had been around the longest. The first cycle in 2016 awarded $5,000 to 7 groups, and both the amount of funds distributed and the number of applicants has only grown over the years.

Folk Festival goers dancing to the music in 2019

This year the Selection Committee has $15,000 to distribute to applying organizations, a significant increase since the first cycle eight years ago! As the years have gone on we’ve been thrilled to welcome back Park favorites like Dances for a Variable Population and NY Laughs among many others. But in the last few cycles, new applicants have joined the ranks bringing ever-more diverse offerings to the Park.

Washington Square Park is a dizzying kaleidoscope of sound and movement and action. We’re proud to make a small contribution to these cultural organizations who add so much. Applications are currently open for our 2023 season, and we encourage all interested parties to apply now!