Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Announces Request for Proposals for COVID-19-related Arts & Mental Health Program

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Announces Request for Proposals for COVID-19-related Arts & Mental Health Program


The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is a New York City-based private foundation whose grantmaking seeks to increase access and opportunity for all New Yorkers and to build healthy communities. Over the past 14 years, we have supported a range of programs addressing food insecurity, access to the arts, and public service. In 2018, we launched our Arts in Health initiative which supports organizations working on health issues that impact NYC communities and that utilize the arts as a tool for healing. The initiative highlights the value of multiple artistic disciplines, including visual art, dance, music, theater, and film, and focuses on three main health issues: mental health stigma, trauma, and aging-related diseases.

Reflecting on the past year, COVID-19 has been at best, disruptive and at worst, traumatic for New Yorkers. The pandemic has glaringly exposed long-standing health disparities that harm people in historically marginalized communities, and has had a profound impact on mental health, with increased rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges. However, as with COVID itself, the burdens are not evenly distributed; certain populations are especially in need of increased mental health and other resources because of long-standing challenges, stressors, structural inequities, and social and economic conditions.

In the Illumination Fund’s Arts in Health initiative, we have supported innovative arts-based programs that address trauma experienced by survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, formerly incarcerated youth, refugees, and other populations facing mental health issues due to life circumstances, and to combat mental health stigma that is often a barrier for people needing support. In the wake of the epidemic and the increased awareness of its disproportionate impact on specific communities, we are seeing an increased need for such programs. We are encouraged by the new dialogue about the importance and power of the arts. The arts are not a panacea, but research demonstrates that they can be a useful resource for individuals and communities.


In response to the increasing need for mental health resources brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund is issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) that expands on our Arts in Health initiative. We are currently inviting proposals from NYC-based arts and cultural organizations addressing mental health for people in historically marginalized and vulnerable communities. Projects must explore the role of arts as an approach to raise awareness of mental health challenges, promote healing, and foster creativity for people in these communities.

This Request for Proposals has two steps. First, the Illumination Fund is inviting organizations to complete an online application briefly describing their proposed activity or project. Second, based on these submissions, we will then invite selected organizations to submit a full proposal for consideration.

We will award project-based grants of up to two years to arts and community-based cultural organizations with operating budgets between $50,000 and $5 million. Grants will range from $10,000 to $100,000 per year and will take into account the proportion of the organization’s budget. Grants may be used for program for expansion, enhancements, or new programs.

Additional background is provided in the Announcement here:

Announcing Request for Proposals for COVID-19-related Arts & Mental Health Program


Applications will only be considered from organizations that meet all of the following criteria

  • An arts or cultural organization that:
    • Has 501(c)3 status or has a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor.
    • Is at least five years old.
    • Has a history and commitment working with historically marginalized groups. We consider marginalized groups to include, but not limited to, communities of color, formerly incarcerated individuals, survivors of abuse and/or domestic violence, immigrants, refugees, people experiencing homelessness, older adults and LGBTQIA.
    • Is located within the five boroughs of New York City.
    • Has an annual organization budget ranging from $50,000 to $5 million.

Program Criteria

  • Collaborations between arts and other community, health or social service organizations are welcome if they bring expertise in particular mental health issues, strategies, access to distinct populations, and integrated services. However, if an arts organization is collaborating with such organizations, the arts/cultural organization must be the applicant.
  • If a proposed program is new, the applicant must effectively articulate the rationale that such an approach is needed.
  • This grant opportunity is not for organizations that primarily use arts therapy, which is a distinct field of psychological practice with clinical outcomes.
  • Preference will be given to programs/projects that:
    • Employ artists with lived experience.
    • Serve people in historically marginalized communities.
    • Recognize the social, economic and structural issues that contribute toward the disproportionate impact of mental health problems in low-income communities and communities of color.
    • Have staff and/or board that are reflective of the targeted populations.

Online Application Components

The online application LOI form includes text fields for the following items, and you will be able to upload the financial information in a format of your choosing.

  • Narrative that clearly addresses the following:
    • Brief background and history of your organization. (250 words)
    • Commitment, understanding, and proven track-record to the vulnerable population(s) your program will serve. (250 words).
    • The mental health challenges of the communities you seek to support. (250 words)
    • Overview of the program for which you are seeking funding (500 words).
      • The overview should convey clear goals and objectives, with intended outcomes. Please tell us about your proposed activities and how they will lead to short-term and long-term results for your clients and the community. The project description should include sufficient detail to enable the Illumination Fund to assess feasibility, efficacy and potential impact.
  • Program budget, including a short description of significant components.
  • Current organizational budget (current fiscal year; please explain if COVID affected normal budget projections).

Application Timeline

Deadline: August 31, 2021

The online submission portal will open on July 15, 2021 and will close at 5 p.m. on August 31, 2021.  Applications that are incomplete or submitted after the deadline will not be considered.

You will be notified by September 30, 2021 if your organization has been selected to submit a full proposal. Applicants will then have until October 31 to submit the proposal.

The Fund will conduct interviews with the finalists in November.

Applicants are expected to be informed of decisions by December 1, 2021.


Because our staff is small, please do not call or email the foundation to follow-up on your submission.  For questions that aren’t addressed in the FAQ, or if you have trouble with the online application process, please email

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