Creative Arts Competitions

The $15K Creative Arts Competition is an annual contest established in 2013 to foster arts-focused startups at the Institute. The $15,000 prize is awarded to help launch the winning enterprise and enable the recipient(s) to join the ranks of MIT’s most successful startup founders.

The Competition offers more than just financial support; all teams are invited to workshops designed to accelerate arts-focused ventures throughout the duration of the year-long competition. Teams receive mentorship from past prize winners, distinguished faculty, and MIT alumni. Mentorship encompasses pitch preparation, business plan coaching, customer development advising, and more.

Participating teams apply in early spring and are expected to develop their business plan over the course of the competition with assistance from mentors, workshops, and staff support. In late April, the finalists are chosen by preliminary judges to present their venture to a live judging panel for a chance to win $15,000.

The $15K Creative Arts Competition is supported by the Council for the Arts at MIT.

Mentorship provided with support by

For more information contact:

Shannon Rose McAuliffe
Manager of Student Arts Programs

Congratulations to Rivet, the 2021 $15K Creative Arts Competition winners! $1000 finalists are Azeki Road, Casso, Fermentation Heritage Project, and Volar.

“We always enjoyed the experience, and we always learned a lot. When I heard them call our name tonight I didn’t believe my ears. I almost started to cry.”

– Rivet team lead Anj Fayemi, ’20 Chemical Engineering

Criteria and Frequently Asked Questions

Details about eligibility, judging criteria, and common questions.

Timeline and Application Process

Join the competition up until the application deadline on Sunday, February 7, 2021. Watch the finalists make their pitch live on Zoom, May 11, 2021.

Past Recipients

Businesses ranging from online music mentorship to VR for the blind.

Resources, Events & Virtual Workshops

Past Events

Live Pitch Finale Event

May 11, 2021 at 5:00-7:00pm / Open to the Public

The pitch finale will be a virtual event that is open to the public, during which each team presents their venture to a panel of esteemed adjudicators. Following deliberation, a winner will be announced and the $15K prize will be awarded to the winning team. 

IAP Course: How to Talk (and Write About) Your Artistic Practice and Arts-Based Entrepreneurial Projects

January 7, 14, 21 & 28 / 4:00-5:00 pm

In this 4-week practical workshop taught by the staff of the Office of the Arts, you’ll learn how to talk about, write about, and pitch artistic projects and ventures. You’ll develop an elevator pitch, artist and/or project statement, and learn how to write persuasively about your work for grant applications and awards or competitions, as well as learn best practices for developing a pitch deck or curating a portfolio. This series of linked workshops will also help prepare you to participate in MIT-specific arts opportunities, including funding from the Council for the Arts at MIT, Student Art Awards, Wiesner Art Gallery exhibitions, and the $15K Creative Arts Competition. Space is limited to 30.

Non-Profit Business Plans with Miguel Rodriguez

Monday, December 21, 2020 / 7:00-8:00 pm

This session helps students interested in the competition’s non-profit track to build out a robust business plan by identifying target impact, stakeholders, key partners, and more. We are joined by guest facilitator Miguel Rodriguez, who is the founder and president of Athlone Artists and has held executive positions with Boston Baroque, Opera Boston, and Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

For-Profit Budgets with Kit Hickey

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 / 7:30-8:30 pm

This session is aimed at helping for-profit venture teams create a prospective budget to support your venture’s early growth. Kit Hickey, co-founder of Ministry of Supply and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center will share her experience budgeting to support growth in a company’s early stages. 

Non-Profit Budgets with Julia Turnbull

Monday, December 7, 2020 / 7:30-8:30 pm

This session focuses on how to create a prospective budget to effectively plan for your non-profit venture’s growth. Julia Turnbull, Assistant Director for Student Programs at the Legatum Center, will discuss her experience evaluating budgets and grant funding for the Inter American Development Bank.

Building your For-Profit Business Plan with Carly Chase

Sunday, December 6, 2020 / 5:00-6:00 pm

Carly Chase, Managing Director of the MIT NYC Startup Studio and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Martin Trust Center will be sharing guidance on how to build a strong plan for your arts-related venture. You’ll hear professional tips for building out dimensions from target customers to key suppliers and everything in between.

Building Your Value Proposition with Dr. Michael Camp

November 19, 2020 / 7:30 pm

Dr. Michael Camp, Executive Director of Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation at Ohio State University, leads a workshop on how to build and articulate your value proposition as an arts-related venture.

Kick-off Conference

October 25, 2020 / 1:00-3:30 pm

Wendy Swart Grossman and Jen Guillemin, co-founders of Creative Re/Frame, present their keynote address, “Bringing Meaning to the Marketplace: Make*Care*Strategize*Implement.” Panel discussion featuring Competition mentors and past winners of the $15K, who share their experiences, successes, and wisdom with us. Panelists include Maria Esteban Casanas and Michael Stradley (Elements, 2020 $15K Winners), Ellen Shakespear (Spaceus, 2018 $15K Second Prize), Nir Hindi (Mentor, Founder of The Artian), and Jon Corbiere (Mentor, CEO of Thought Cafe).