Skip to content

Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities

The Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities supports accessibility in the arts and celebrates the work of disabled Midwestern visual artists.


An image of a tangled mess of painted ropes around a rock
Photo Credit: Madison Elyse Rubenstein


About Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities  

Please note that we acknowledge both identity first and person first framing of disability identity. When we use the phrase “disabled artists,” we intend to align with the Social Model of Disability understanding that people are disabled by environmental and societal barriers. 

Visual artists with disabilities, across many lines of difference, are doing incredible work around the Midwest. The Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities recognizes and celebrates their efforts and encourages their future work.  

This award also supports and celebrates accessibility in the arts. It recognizes that the general funding community in the Midwest has not historically invested in disabled artists and that increasing support for this group is an important part of increasing accessibility in the arts. It also advocates for the arts being viable employment, which is often overlooked by funding agencies supporting people with disabilities. 

We invite mid-career 2D and 3D visual artists with disabilities to apply for this award. Each awardee will receive a $3,000 check award. There are no requirements for how awarded funds are used, though awardees are encouraged to use it toward growing their art career. Awardees’ submitted work will be featured on the Arts Midwest website.  

From 2023–2025, this award will recognize 27 individuals (9 per year) in the Arts Midwest region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and the Native Nations that share this geography.  

Applications are now closed for the 2024 Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities. Applications will open again in Summer 2025.

How to Apply


We want this opportunity to be accessible to all and will work with applicants who need to use other means to apply. Options may include but not limited to: 

  • Using an adapted form in Microsoft Word 
  • Providing verbal responses by Zoom: if you need to verbally apply for this award through Zoom call, please contact [email protected] 
  • Sharing a video application 

Please contact John Kaiser, grants manager, as early as possible to begin a conversation about how we can help make this opportunity accessible to you. John can be reached at: [email protected] or 612.238.8024.  

Lastly, we acknowledge that we are working within larger ableist systems. Some awardees may experience income limitation and other barriers to receiving this award. We will work with awardees on a case-by-case basis to identify a plan, which may include options like a monthly payment plan rather than receiving the award in full at once or working with a guardian to receive the award. 

We invite mid-career 2D and 3D visual artists with disabilities to apply for this award. Artists may use assistance in filling out the application. We also allow nominations with consent from the artist being nominated.  

This award may be a fit if you: 

  • Are based in the Arts Midwest region of: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, or the Native Nations that share this geography. 
  • Have a disability/identify as disabled. Disability communities are not a singular group, and we want artists to be able to self-identify into this award. We welcome a self or medical diagnosis understanding of disability. Disability as you experience it may include, but is not limited to cognitive, learning, and developmental disabilities; emotional or mental health disabilities; and/or physical disabilities. We acknowledge disability justice and intersectionality and encourage artists who are part of historically excluded groups, such as women, people of color, immigrants, and people who identify as LGBTQ+, to apply for this award.  
  • Create 2D or 3D visual art. Examples of 2D art include but are NOT limited to: drawing, painting, printmaking, photography. Examples of 3D art include but are NOT limited to: ceramics, sculpture, glass
  • Are mid-career, which we interpret as creating artwork and building a career for 5-15 years 

Step 1: Register in our SmartSimple grants portal 

Step 2: On the registration page, click “Individuals” 

Step 3: If you are an artist filling out the application for yourself, fill out the registration with your information. If someone is helping you with the application, you will be able to include their info once you get into the application. If you are nominating an artist with their consent, register with your info, and you will share the artists’ info in the application. 

Step 4: Once you’ve filled out your registration and submitted, you will receive an email with a login link. Click on the login link. 

Step 5: The login link will take you to a screen where you will create a new password for your account. Then click submit. 

Step 6: Once you’ve created the password, you will receive a verification code in your email. Access this email, copy the verification code, and paste in the box on the login page. 

Step 7: Now you’re in the SmartSimple portal! Make sure your profile is correct. Go to the top right corner with your name letter symbol and click on Personal Profile. Confirm the info is correct from your registration. 

Step 8: Go back to Individual Portal Home. To begin the application, click on Funding Opportunities. Click “Apply Now” on Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities. 

Step 9: Click save and begin your application. For the first question: 

  • If you’re the artist who registered yourself, click “I’m filling out this application for myself.” Your registration info will show up. 
  • If you registered yourself as the artist and are getting assistance, you may click “I’m an artist getting assistance filling out this application” and it will prompt you to share your assistant’s contact info. 
  • If you registered to nominate an artist with their consent, click “I’m nominating an artist” and it will prompt you to fill out the artist’s contact info. 

Applicants will be asked to share: 

  • Contact Information 
  • Demographic Information (optional) 
  • Artist Statement: What is your intent in being an artist? How would you like to accomplish this? Please add your response here or upload a document below. 200 words or fewer. The panel will use your answer here for scoring: Artistic Intentions 
  • Community Statement: Community can mean different things to different people. How does your work relate to community? Share a story or a quote. 200 words or fewer. The panel will use your answer here for scoring: Community Connection 
  • Growth Statement: How has your work grown over the years, and how do you think your art will continue to grow? 200 words or fewer. The panel will use your answer here for scoring: Mid-career Artist Status 

Please upload 3-5 images of your artwork that you’d like to be considered by the panel. Video files no longer than 3 minutes are also acceptable. Files are preferred, but if you don’t have those, you may share a website or social media link that displays your work instead. Submit your favorite work from the past 5 years. You will not be disqualified if you submit older work. However, be aware that panelists are looking to your work samples to show them your current practice. 

  • The following file types are allowed: jpg, gif, tiff, png, mov, mp4. 
  • The panel will use your work in scoring: Artistic Intentions (the connection between the purpose of the art and artistic statement is clear/artists’ mission ties into art samples, skill is evident) 
  • Once you’ve uploaded the files, please rename the files with the title, year, and medium. You can do this by toggling over the three vertical dots on each file you upload in the File Manager, and click “Rename.” You will not be disqualified if you don’t, but it’s preferred. Example: “Fish, 2020, Oil paint on canvas.” 

Please note that if you are selected, the work you submit will be featured on Arts Midwest’s website starting in the summer of 2024. Staff will confirm selected pieces with awardees. 

You will receive an email confirmation to confirm receipt of your application. Once Arts Midwest staff reviews it, we will follow up with any questions we have before it proceeds to the review stage. 

Awardees will be selected by a compensated panel of five individuals. Each year the award will engage a new set of panelists based in Arts Midwest’s region. The panel will represent perspectives of disabled artists and arts and cultural workers, accessibility advocates, and other historically marginalized identities (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+).  

Following an orientation, the panel will review and score all applications in our grants portal system, SmartSimple. 

The panel will use three criteria in the review process: artistic intentions, community engagement, and mid-career artist status. We define these below and the application materials panelists will use for each. Each criterion is on a scale of 1-5 points for a maximum of 15 points per application. 

Criteria:  Artistic intentions (5 points) 

  • The connection between the purpose of the art and the artwork is clear/artist’s mission ties into artwork samples, skill is evident 
  • Support: Artist statement and artwork samples 

Criteria: Community connection (5 points) 

  • (The relationship, and value of relationship, between applicant’s art and community is clear 
  • Support: Answer to question “How does your work relate to community, however you define community? Share a story or a quote.” 

Criteria: Mid-career artist status (5 points) 

  • Shows potential for continued growth and exploration, commitment to developing and advancing art is demonstrated 
  • Support: Artist statement, artwork samples 

May 6, 2024: Application opens  

May 23, 2024: Application closes at 11:59 pm CST 

June 2024: Panel selection process 

July 2024: Awardees notified.  

Summer 2025: Application round 3 opens. 

This award is supported by the James Edward Scherbarth and Paul Francis Mosley Giving Fund. The award was created in honor of the late James Edward Scherbarth, an award-winning visual artist, visual arts teacher, and advocate of arts access who lived and worked in Minnesota. Jim believed that creativity lives in everyone, and he dedicated his career to helping people express themselves through the visual arts.

Established in 2022, the Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities Award honors Mr. Scherbarth’s commitment to arts access by supporting mid-career Midwestern visual artists with disabilities.

Thank you to Koko Dehn, Bonnie Thorne, and Simone Needles with Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts for their invaluable insights in the shaping of this award.

Have questions about the Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities?

We’re happy to answer any questions you have about the Midwest Award for Artists with Disabilities. Be sure to check out our FAQs, and if you’d like to talk to us we’re just an email or a phone call away. 

FAQ Contact Us