Observations and resources from the 2016 TransCultural Exchange Conference in Boston.
The TransCultural Exchange Conference (TCE) took place February 25-27, 2016, the fifth such event since 2007. TCE focuses on international opportunities for artists in all disciplines.
At the 2016 conference, I moderated a panel discussion called “Funding Artists Mobility.” We talked about how to find, what to expect, and best practices in applying for U.S. and international travel experiences for artists that include financial support.
A Global Perspective
Why seek out international opportunities as an artist? One of the speakers on the panel, Dr. Frank Hentschker of the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at the City University of New York, spoke eloquently about the reasons why. He observed that the vast majority of books published or plays produced in the United States are by U.S. writers, a dynamic that extends to most if not all artistic disciplines. Limited exposure denies artists and audiences the diverse perspectives of a more global creative experience – something the Segal Center seeks to correct through its programming and publications. Dr. Hentschker discussed the Segal Center’s work with the Belgium-based organization On the Move, which supports cultural mobility by collecting and sharing information about funding opportunities for artists travel. The Segal Center and On the Move worked together to create the Cultural Mobility Funding Guide, a compendium of funding opportunities for international exchange for dance and theatre artists traveling to and from the USA.
In general, funding for artists mobility primarily falls into two categories: first, independent grants that help defray costs of travel and residency opportunities arranged separately by the artist; and second, travel and residency opportunities that include “built-in” financial support. The first – the independent travel grants – can be a bit tricky to find. Down below, I’ll share some resources that might be helpful. But it really behooves artists to consider funding at the very beginning of the process of researching and applying for opportunities. One funding opportunity to explore early on in your planning is the Lighton International Artists’ Exchange Program (LIAEP), which was presented at TCE by LIAEP Exhibition Director Michael Schonhoff.
LIAEP supports artists by offering unique opportunities for travel and exchange of ideas, with a focus on dedicated artists who have not yet worked in a foreign country and on residencies to countries that are less Westernized. The grants are competitive and support most costs directly connected to the travel and residency, with a maximum request of $6,000. Past awardees include Christy Georg (Sculpture/Installation/New Genres Finalist ’11), whose Arctic Circle Residency received a LIAEP grant in 2012.
In the second category – opportunities with built-in funding – is the Fulbright Program, presented at TCE by Fulbright’s Andrew Riess.
Fulbright, a U.S. government program, offers grants each year to students, scholars, teachers, scientists, professionals, and artists for international educational exchanges. For most artists who are not students, the Scholars Program for travel abroad to lecture/conduct research for 2-12 months is likely the best fit. But there are a range of Fulbright Programs. Reiss pointed out that scholars/artists who, due to family, work, or other circumstances, can’t spend an extended period abroad can apply for the Fulbright FLEX Award to propose multiple stays of one to three months in the host country over a period of two to three years.
Thinking about applying for a Fulbright as an artist? Reiss suggested this excellent and informative blog post by Shawn Lent, which offers a step-by-step breakdown of the information gathering and application process. (Representative quote: “Remember, Fulbright loves weird. Be specific and bold.”)
Have further questions? As a grants administrator myself, I always suggest that you contact that organization’s staff for clarification. It’s always appreciated – of course – when you do your homework first so your questions are targeted.
Generosity of Spirit
At the beginning of the post, I mentioned Dr. Frank Hentschker’s compelling case for global experiences in the arts. Inherent to that concept is generosity. It’s in the spirit of generosity that many of these programs are initiated. The Lighton grant program referenced above was founded by Linda Lighton, a sculptor who was impacted by her own international experiences and wanted to make such experiences possible for others. And Dr. Hentschker shared that he was in the process of converting a family home that he’d inherited, in Germany, into an artist residency space. The notion of accepting an artist from abroad into your country, into your community – what could be more generous than that? Artists, I’d argue, can only benefit when they carry that spirit of generosity forward during their own travel journeys. Share advice, resources, tips, and successes with fellow artists; help create a more global creative experience for all.
As promised, here are some resources on finding travel, residency, and artist mobility funding opportunities:
Follow TransCultural Exchange’s Facebook page
Shawn Lent’s So You’re an Artist Who Wants to Apply to Fulbright post
ArtSake’s Artist Residencies and Travel post, created following the 2013 TCE Conference
NYFA Current’s Travel Grants Tips and Opportunities post
Image: Christy Georg, CIRCUMNAVIGATING (2007), wood, steel, and cotton, 16x3x11 ft.