The Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation Grant for Writing on Sculpture

The Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation Grant for Writing on Sculpture

In this grant program, the Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation’s goal is to encourage and support sculptors, whether emerging or established, and writers about sculpture.

Statement from the Director

Jonathan Silver was a sculptor and writer. He worked from the model and from his imagination. He was passionately interested in the history of sculpture, ranging from ancient Egypt and Hellenistic Greece through Michelangelo, Rodin, Giacometti, and Richard Serra. The questions he asked himself about sculpture were fundamental. Why, since prehistory, had human beings needed sculpture? What made one sculpture successful but not another one? What was it about some sculptures that enabled them to exist on their own, in any environment; and how had other sculptures defined the environments they created and become inseparable from them? How did the process, materials, and form of a work express its individual personality and history and the world from which the work emerged? How could sculpture become a vehicle for ideas?

His writing was rigorous and fearless, as well as provocative and speculative and sometimes funny. When he was working on his plaster heads and figures, he devoted some of his time to reading epic poetry and European novels and to studying Greek and Hebrew thought. His exploration of sculptural rhetoric and verbal rhetoric – as well as musical rhetoric – went hand in hand. His constant search to find language for the deepest levels of creative and visual experience is essential to his identity and legacy. In the months before Silver died in 1992, at fifty-four, his sculpture was in the process of changing again, and he fantasized about more changes to come. “If I make it through this illness,” he said, “I’ll make figures that dance.” It is no more possible to imagine the sculpture he would have made than it is to imagine what he would have written.

The Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation regards writing about sculpture, like sculpture itself, as a field with unlimited potential. The foundation is an organization in which making and finding language for sculpture are equally at home.

– Michael Brenson, Artistic Director, the Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation

About the Grant

  • The JBSF offers one $20,000 grant per year.
  • The JBSF grant program operates on a 2-year cycle with alternating grants that support writing in even years and sculpture in odd years. Applications are now open for writing on sculpture, and the recipient will be announced later in the year. The sculpture grant application will be available in 2025.
  • The writing grant is specifically for a writer who generates fresh writing and thinking on the history, aesthetics, purposes, imagination or situation of sculpture.
  • Supported categories of writing include essays and books.
    • Essays: magazine essays, catalogue essays, book essays
    • Books: research or manuscripts currently in process or nearing completion.
  • Types of writing that are supported include art criticism, art history, memoir, psychoanalytical study, philosophical meditation and literary study.
  • The grant recipient is expected to complete the project within one year of receiving the award.

The Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation does not discriminate on the grounds of race, color, or national origin; on the grounds of disability; on the basis of age; or on the basis of sex.

Grant Guidelines


  • Applications are now open for writing on sculpture.
  • Applications must be submitted through the JBSF Grant Application Form. We must receive your application no later than 11:59pm EST on May 31, 2024. See the Application page for more information about the Grant Application Form.
  • Expect notification of awards no earlier than November 15, 2024.


You are eligible to apply for the grant in writing on sculpture if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are an individual.
  • You are a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or you hold an O-1 Visa.
  • At least one example of your writing has been published for the first time within the last five years (between January 1, 2019, and the present).
  • Types of eligible work:
    • Books, essays, memoirs.
  • Minimum requirements for submitting writing samples:
    • Up to three published writings from magazines, literary journals, or other publications (including online). The samples can originate from the same publication (although submitting samples from diverse publications is encouraged).
    • No sample should be longer than 2,500 words. If the original text exceeds 2,500 words, the sample can be an excerpt from it.
  • The samples should demonstrate your strength as a writer and their relevance to your project proposal.
  • The following types of work are NOT eligible: pre-publication material, such as proofs; work that has appeared in a publication for which you are the publisher or editor; collaborative writing; news reporting; letters to the editor; social media posts; essays on one’s own art or writing practice; student publications (including dissertations-theses).
  • You are not eligible if you are an employee, consultant, or board member of the Jonathan and Barbara Silver Foundation, or an immediate family member of such a person.


  • Applications must be submitted electronically through the JBSF Grant Application Form. It is strongly recommended that you submit several days before the application deadline to avoid technical or submission issues. You will receive confirmation of a successful submission within 24 hours.
  • All writing samples and attached materials must be in English.
  • Questions or concerns regarding the Application Form can be directed to
  • IMPORTANT: Your application will be automatically rejected without panel review if:
    • One or more required forms or attachments are missing
    • Your writing sample(s) exceed the word count requirement
    • Incorrect or insufficient publication information is provided
    • You have already received a grant from the JBSF during the last 5 years
    • You are not a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident of the U.S., or O-1 Visa-holder
    • The writing samples are not in English
    • The application is not responsive to the mission and values of the Foundation
    • Your project proposal includes referential content about your own art or writing practice


  • The selection process is two-tiered; evaluators first determine eligibility, and then three panelists chosen by the JBSF will review the proposals in closed sessions.
  • Evaluation is based on the vitality of the writing, the potential of the project proposal to contribute to the field of sculpture, appropriateness of the project to the Foundation’s mission, and confidence in the writer’s ability to complete the project.

General Terms and Conditions


  • Budget: The applicant will attach a budget, in paragraph form (a max. of 250 words) that itemizes the expenses necessary to complete the proposed project. Briefly describe the categories of expenses and the amounts for each category the grant will cover.
  • Eligible expenses:
    • Writer’s fee (amount incurred by creating time to write)
    • Research
    • Travel (airfare, car rental, ground transportation, lodging, meals, per diem)
    • Living expenses (including childcare)
    • Fees for image permission
    • Reproduction and copying costs
    • Costs relating to editing, transcription, or translation
    • Expenses relating to the following are NOT eligible and your application will be rejected if your budget proposes to use the grant funds for any of these: loans or other debts: reimbursement of payments already incurred; purchase of land or building; tuition expenses; fees paid to third parties for promotion, marketing, or sale of work; commissioning work by others; health-related expenses (dentistry, hospitalization, etc.).
  • The applicant will list any contributions that have already been raised, as well as any other pending sources of income for the project (for example, other grant applications).

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