Facebook Instagram Twitter X YouTube LinkedIn RSS

How Catalyze Grantees Leveraged Their $10K to Fuel Their Artistic Practices 

By Elizabeth Snell

The first Catalyze cohort is soaring to new heights with their $10,000 grants and professional development opportunities. In June 2023, the Catalyze program awarded the first 25 artists $10,000 each in practice-based funding along with professional coaching to ignite their careers. With the generous support of the Windgate Foundation, the total direct investment in artists will be $500,000 over two years. Below, you’ll find updates from a group of the current grantees.

Catalyze grantee Jennifer Perren’s travels

But wait—the application deadline for the next round of Catalyze awards closes January 22, 2024. If you are not familiar, this program offers practice-based grants combining financial support, mentorship, and management resources to central Arkansas creatives.

What is a practice-based grant? Unlike many other grant programs, these practice-based grants are not specific to one art project, but rather to the artist’s overall creative practice. Funds can be used for any purpose that supports the continued development of their creative work. From studio rent, to child care, to equipment, or research, the awards aim to support artists in their processes, with an understanding that artists know what resources they need to let their creative work soar. 

Central Arkansas Artists Share the Impact of $10,000 Grants on Their Art Practice

River Sisters Book cover

Catalyze grantee Denise Parkinson’s book

  • Virmarie DePoyster, thrilled by the Catalyze grant, expressed, “When I learned I had won the Catalyze grant, I felt like I had just found one of Willy Wonka‘s golden tickets.” She has used the funds to invest in her practice with museum-quality framing and expand a teaching program at the Art Group Gallery, fostering creativity in her community. Her show Beyond Labels at the Fort Smith Regional Art Museum is on view through February 11, 2024.
  • Denise Parkinson shared her philanthropic endeavors, “The best thing about being able to publish my second book after so many years of stalling from publishers, is that now I can do what I enjoy the most: Philanthropy!” She’s donating books to DeWitt public schools, ensuring the youth learns the suppressed history of River Culture.
  • Derek Slagle, capturing conservation through his lens, showcased stunning black and white images in his project. Explore the captivating visuals at derekslagle.com/conservation/.
  • Ben Grimes, who produced “The Breach” in partnership with The Arkansas Rep, found Catalyze to be more than just money. He expressed, “It has been a huge confidence boost to me and has served to launch me into bolder, more adventurous, and thus more impactful projects.”
  • Jennifer Perren described her Catalyze grant as “life-changing!” She explored nature, focusing on a new body of ceramic work inspired by the colors, textures, and folklore she encountered during her travels.

    Man kneels onstage with a green backdrop.

    Catalyze grantee Ben Grimes created a theatre production

  • Katherine Strause, preparing for a show at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, exclaimed, “I’m LOVING the opportunity that you guys have given me to be in the studio and make WORK.” Her studio at St. Joseph Center of Arkansas is full of activity.
  • Mark D. Wittig expressed gratitude, saying that he has multiple works-in-progress projects and upcoming solo exhibitions. His work, along with Catalyze grantees Ryan Howard and Derek Slagle are in The Arkansas Arts Council 2024 Small Works on Paper touring art exhibition on view from Thursday, January 4, through Friday, January 26. 
  • Veronica Wirges, now a Recording Academy member, elevated her stage presence and performance technology. She thanked Catalyze for opening new avenues for her artistic expression.

Read about the work of the additional Catalyze grantees here. 

About Catalyze

The Catalyze program, supported by the Windgate Foundation, empowers artists across creative disciplines in central Arkansas. Artists from Cleburne, Conway, Faulkner, Garland, Grant, Hot Spring, Jefferson, Lonoke, Perry, Pope, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline, Van Buren, White, and Yell counties can apply for this unique opportunity.

Large canvases of cowgirls on the floor and on walls in a studio.

Catalyze grantee Katherine Strause’s full studio of paintings

Catalyze is made possible through the generous support of the Windgate Foundation in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since 2009, M-AAA has facilitated professional development opportunities for hundreds of central Arkansas artists through programs like Artist INC Live and Artist INC Express, all supported by the Windgate Foundation.

Apply Now

If you’re an artist residing in central Arkansas, don’t miss out on the opportunity!

Applications for the second Catalyze cohort close January 22, 2024.

For application details and requirements, visit maaa.org/catalyze.


Header image photography courtesy of the artists (starting lower left and continuing clockwise): Catalyze grantees Virmarie DePoyster, Katherine Strause, Veronica Wirges, and Mark D. Wittig.