A career in the arts can be challenging. Older women might be interested in obtaining a formal art education or having the freedom to spend a few months focusing on their creative projects but lack the finances to take that step. Mature artists might also reach a point in their career where they feel like they have put a lot of effort into their work but still lack recognition for it. Fortunately, generous people have funded grants to encourage older female artists.

Professional Development

Professional development as an artist might mean taking college classes, attending a workshop or taking a residency to focus on your art. Each year, the Shirley Holden Helberg Grants for Mature Women awards $1,000 and a two-year honorary associate membership in the National League of American Pen Women to a female artist who is 35 years or older to help achieve her professional goals. Criteria for the award includes a statement of the artist’s goals and submission of photos of her work.

Surprise Award

The FJC-A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds annually awards a grant to 10 female artists. In 2010, the grant amount was $25,000. The award, Anonymous Was a Woman, is a little difficult to apply for since the nominators and program administrators are not named. According to the letter announcing the 2010 award recipients, the grant "enables women, over 45 years of age and at a critical juncture in their lives or careers, to continue to grow and pursue their work." Due to the secretive nature of the evaluation process, the award announcements are a great surprise and boost to the recipients.


Low-income women who are 35 or older can apply for educational scholarships through the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and enrolled in or applying to a school that complies with the Fund’s accreditation standards. The scholarship is not limited to studying art but can be used for the pursuit of an associate or first bachelor’s degree. In 2008, 11 percent of the award recipients were pursuing careers in arts and sciences. Applicants are asked to identify their goals, how they intend to achieve them, difficulties they have faced and their financial need.


A number of grants are available to mature artists who can demonstrate a financial need or have experienced an emergency. The Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation Grant was established for the purpose of assisting American painters who are 45 or older. The foundation awards three or four grants each year, ranging from $5,000 to $30,000. While applicants must explain why they need financial support, the award does not dictate how the funds be spent. The Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation provides Individual Support Grants to painters, sculptors and printmakers who have 20 years of experience “creating mature art” and show financial need.