FRFAF Policies and Guidelines

The Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier strives to be a flexible, responsive source of support for projects pushing the edge of disciplines. Please carefully review our proposal guidelines and funding policies prior to submitting your application. 

For questions about our process or to request a meeting to review your proposal, please contact STUDIO Associate Director Tom Hughes.

  1. Deadlines
  2. Eligibility
  3. Selection Criteria and Review Process
  4. Proposal Guidelines
  5. Reporting Requirements

1. Deadlines

For the 2020-2021 school year, the deadlines to apply for FRFAF ‘Full’ Grants (of $1000 or $2000) are as follows:

  • October 1st, 2020, 11:59pm (Early Fall Round)
  • December 1st, 2020, 11:59pm (Late Fall Round)
  • February 1st, 2021, 11:59pm (Early Spring Round)
  • April 1st, 2021, 11:59pm (Late Spring Round)

Proposals for FRFAF Microgrants ($500) are accepted on a rolling basis during the Fall and Spring semesters, until funding for each semester has run out. 

2. Eligibility

Regular faculty and full-time students of Carnegie Mellon University are intended to be the primary recipients of the fund. However, applications are accepted from individuals who are actively affiliated with CMU under any of the following designations:

  • Graduate and undergraduate students currently enrolled in a degree-granting program at Carnegie Mellon, and in good academic standing (not on probation, leave of absence, or suspension)
  • Student organizations
  • Faculty on behalf of a class or student group
  • Fellows of the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
  • Tenure-track faculty
  • Teaching-track faculty
  • Special faculty: including visiting faculty, postdoctoral visitors, research special faculty, and instructional special faculty
  • Project scientists or similar research staff
  • Adjunct faculty in active employment (for applications over $500, such persons are expected to have been employed at the university for at least one year)
  • Staff (with the unanimous consent of the review committee), consistent with the spirit and intent of the Frank-Ratchye Fund’s objectives of furthering the creation of groundbreaking interdisciplinary artworks at Carnegie Mellon and by members of the Carnegie Mellon community.

The Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier has been modeled on related internal grant programs within Carnegie Mellon University, including SURG (for undergraduate students), SURG/Crosswalk (for interdisciplinary undergraduate projects), ISURG (for undergraduate research projects while studying abroad), GuSH (for graduate students), the Berkman Faculty Development Fund (for professors and research staff), and The College of Fine Arts Fund for Research and Creativity (for full-time CFA faculty). Other potentially applicable sources of funding at CMU include the President’s various ProSEED grant programs, the Henry Armero Award for Inclusive Creativity managed by the BXA Office of Intercollege Degree Programs, and various student awards from the School of Art. FRFAF applicants seeking additional support for their projects should consider applying to these sources, as well, if applicable.

Recipients of FRFAF Grants from previous award cycles are eligible to apply for new or repeat funding, on the strict condition that all reporting requirements for prior support (including Microgrants) have been satisfactorily met. In the interest of supporting a diverse range of work, no project may receive a regular FRFAF Grant more than twice.

Please note that alumni are not eligible to receive grants from the FRFAF program.

3. Selection Criteria and Review Process

Selection Criteria

Proposals are competitively evaluated based on:

  • The vision, originality, quality, and potential impact of the proposed project
  • The professional, artistic, and/or technical capabilities of the applicant(s)
  • The feasibility of the project
  • The potential impact of our funding and services on the project and for the artist(s)
  • The extent to which the proposed work “pushes the envelope” — fulfilling the specific mission of the FRFAF grant program, to support interdisciplinary art(s) “at the frontier”

The online application form for Frank-Ratchye grants can be found here. Please be sure to read the proposal guidelines and to familiarize yourself with the application process.

Successful applicants will be asked to sign the FRFAF Grant Agreement (PDF, DOC).

Full Grant Review Committee

Grantees of the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier are selected by the Director of the STUDIO in consultation with a committee comprised of the following:

  • The Head of the CMU School of Art
  • A College of Fine Arts faculty member, from outside of both the STUDIO and the School of Art
  • A CMU faculty member from outside of the College of Fine Arts who has demonstrated an interest in the intersection of their discipline and the arts
  • At least one highly respected representative from the greater Pittsburgh arts community

4. Proposal Guidelines

How to Apply

All applications must be submitted via our online application form. Your application is your chance to tell us about your proposed project, why it’s interesting, and how you plan to use the grant. Your finished application will include:

  • A full proposal following the guidelines provided (for ‘Full’ grants larger than $500)
    A brief project description (for $500 Microgrants)
  • A detailed budget for the project
  • Pertinent supporting materials: prior work samples, preliminary research, etc.
  • A letter of support from your faculty advisor or course instructor (required of students)*

Prospective applicants are strongly encouraged to consult with the Associate Director of the STUDIO, Tom Hughes, prior to submitting their application. The Associate Director can advise about the sorts of projects that fall within the scope of the FRFAF program, and about how best to ensure that proposals receive full consideration. Tom Hughes can be reached for a meeting via email at

*Letters of support may either be submitted along with your Project Supporting Materials through the FRFAF grant form or may be emailed directly to the Associate Director of the STUDIO, Tom Hughes.

General Advice

  • This set of guidelines is for ‘Full’ FRFAF grants of $1000 or $2000. Microgrants generally require less comprehensive support and justification.
  • Be sure to comply with all the basic requirements, eligibility rules, and application procedures.
  • Clarity matters. Write your proposal for a ‘general interest’ reader rather than a domain expert.
  • Have someone you trust review your proposal before it is submitted to check for errors. Carnegie Mellon’s Global Communication Center can provide additional guidance on writing your proposal.
  • Each section listed below corresponds to a field in the online application form.

Proposal Sections

Part I. Abstract

The Abstract is a brief but specific statement that answers the following questions: what do you want to do, using what means and resources, and why is the project important to you, your field, and to the larger world?

Part II. Project Narrative

The project narrative is a detailed discussion of your proposed project, including the objectives, the methods you plan to use, and how your project relates and contributes to the particular creative field(s).

Proposals should include:

A. A detailed description of the creative work you intend to undertake:
1. What makes it original?
2. Why is it important that you undertake this project?
3. Objective or goal: What do you want to achieve?
4. Conceptual approach: How are you approaching the project?
5. Issues: What concern, problem, or need will the work address? (if applicable)
6. Approach: What medium and genre will you be using and why are they appropriate for this work?
7. Vision: What is your vision for the final project?

B. A discussion of how the proposed work fits into and advances the field’s current creative context and conversation:
1. What are the sources of inspiration for this project?
2. How does it build on or differ from past or current work by others in the field or in related fields?
3. In what specific ways will this work advance the current creative context and conversation?

Part IIa. Relevance to FRFAF Grant Program

The mission of the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier is to support “groundbreaking projects that can be described as ‘thinking at the edges’ of the intersection of disciplines.” In this section, please explain clearly how your proposed project is an example of practice “at the frontier”. Which envelopes are you pushing? Which frontier(s) are you exploring?

Part III. Process

Describe the process involved with the project.
A. How do you plan to accomplish the project?

B. Provide a detailed timeline, including:
1. Pre-production research
2. Production schedule itemizing tasks and allocating time
3. Post-production, if applicable

Part IV. Biography

Describe your personal, professional, and educational background as they impact this project:

A. What formal and informal training have you had?
B. What relevant experiences have prepared you for this project?
C. How does your past work inform this project?

Part V. Outcomes

Outline the outcomes of your project:

A. Personal benefit: How will this project/product enhance your interests and skills, directions and opportunities for further work?

B. Exhibition/Presentation: How, where, when, and to whom do you plan to present your work? How will you disseminate your project, and the knowledge you have gained from it?

Part VI. Biographic Supporting Materials

All proposals must contain supporting materials to clarify the proposal. In this section, please provide documentation of your portfolio and relevant prior work, which demonstrates your talents and your capacity to execute the proposed project. You may upload a file directly to the application form, or you may provide a link to your website, Vimeo account, video reel on YouTube, etcetera. For uploads, we recommend PDF files; uploads are limited to 5MB.

Part VII. Project Supporting Materials

Include supporting materials in this section which provide evidence that your project is possible, that you have thought it through, and/or that you have produced a proof-of-concept. This might include sketches, mockups, or renderings of your proposed work, and/or documentation of your work-in-progress prototypes. Be sure to label all images with explanatory text. You may upload a file directly to the application form, or you may provide a link to your website, Vimeo account, video reel on YouTube, etcetera. For uploads, we recommend PDF files; uploads are limited to 5MB.

Part VIII. Budget

Consider your budget carefully. Include a listing of all the items you propose to purchase and your best estimate of the cost of each item. All expense items should be explained in a budget narrative included on your budget page and they should include specific vendor information – where you plan to purchase the item(s) and how much each item costs. All costs must be directly related to the proposed project and fully justified. The selection committee reserves the right to disallow certain line items, and to approve only partial budgets. If applicable, please mention any other sources of funding for the project in your budget narrative.

Part IX. Other Funding Sources

Please list other funding sources to which you have applied, or intend to apply, for project support. This might include funds from your advisor or department; SURG (for undergraduate students), GuSH (for graduate students); or the Berkman Faculty Development Fund (for faculty and research staff).

Funding Policies

Applicants can request support from the Fund to obtain materials, hire student assistants or outside contractors, purchase equipment, rent time in a recording studio, etc., as required to create the work. Collaborative projects are welcome, and partnerships across disciplines are encouraged. The endowment cannot be used to support conference fees or travel expenses, except where such travel is an integral part of making and/or realizing a project supported by the Fund. Grants are given as cash awards for materials and supplies related to your project only, and will not affect student financial aid. Works are to be “owned” by the artist/s.

FRFAF Grants and Microgrants are awarded per project and not per applicant. Thus, for example, the funding limit for two students seeking a Microgrant for a collaborative project is still $500, and not $1000.

Grant Disbursement

Grants are disbursed in any of the following ways, by arrangement with the STUDIO:

  • Through direct purchases through the university’s accounting system — in which purchases may be made on the recipient’s behalf by the STUDIO or another departmental business administrator.
  • In the form of reimbursements for expenses, upon submission of valid receipts to the STUDIO
  • In the form of a check made out to the recipient. This option is only available to students, and is considered a non-qualified scholarship.

Funded projects must be completed within six months after the release of funds, unless an alternate timeline has been approved in advance. Should completion of the project exceed the anticipated timeline, written notification must be submitted to the STUDIO’s Director for approval.

Please note carefully: Depending on your employment status within the United States, and depending on how you choose to receive your support, your FRFAF grant may constitute taxable income. For U.S. citizens and Resident Aliens for tax purposes, this income is self-reported; a student recipient will not receive a Form 1099 and no tax withheld on the income. It is advised that the students contact their personal tax advisor regarding the self-reporting and tax consequences. Foreign nationals (nonresident aliens), however, are subject to tax withholding and reporting on non-qualified scholarships; the only way to be exempt from this tax is if there is a treaty between the foreign national’s home country and the United States, and if the recipient is qualified to take advantage of the treaty. In practice, this means that foreign students who elect to receive their FRFAF award in cash will have taxes withheld, and should plan their budgets accordingly.

5. Reporting Requirements

Final reports are due within one month of project completion and should include the following:

  • A narrative summarizing the project’s process and outcome
  • Documentation of the supported project, which could include any combination of photographs, video, and/or audio recordings. Please note that videos should be delivered as high-resolution movie files (.mov, .avi, .mp4, etc.) and not as links to streaming services such as YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Where appropriate, source code bundles or links to source code repositories
  • A financial report itemizing all income and expenses for the project

Click this link to access the documentation submission form

Final reports and documentation of all work will be archived on The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry website. If requested by the selection committee, recipients of grants larger than $500 may be asked to provide interim (“milestone”) project reports. The committee may adjust award amounts based on this interim review process. Grant recipients may be asked to present their work at an annual exhibition and/or presentation of all work supported that year by the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier.

Acknowledgment of Support

Wherever the works are exhibited it is to be noted that “the work was supported in part by funding from the Carnegie Mellon University Frank-Ratchye Fund For Art @ the Frontier” as part of the work’s provenance. When possible, the logo of the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (files can be downloaded here) should be used in conjunction with this credit line.