To make art, you sometimes you need to find a way to fund it. These days, that can mean traditional grant funding programs, like Mass Cultural Council’s Artist Fellowships or Local Cultural Council grants, or alternative methods like crowdfunding or microfunding.
We asked a group of artists and funders: What’s the most important thing for an artist to keep in mind in asking for support from a funder?
Joanne Hillman, Chair of the Winthrop Cultural Council, one of the Local Cultural Councils
Along with an innovative project, I would say that one of the most important things that the Winthrop Cultural Council looks for in an application is how much of the community is served by the applicant. It is also extremely helpful if the applicant “paints a picture” for us about their project – give us the details.
Deadline for applications to the Local Cultural Council Program is generally October 15.
Sara Archambault, LEF Foundation Program Director
Having clarity about your vision for the project is critically important. This is not just the “what” part of your proposal (i.e. what are you creating?), but also the “why” and “how” and “who.” The process of preparing a grant request may help you achieve this clarity. Funders are often asking questions about your project that you, in your enthusiasm for the work, may not have asked yourself in regards to execution, audience, and feasibility. If you find that you are hitting major stumbling blocks in answering the questions put forward by the funder, have an honest talk with yourself. Is this project ready for review? At LEF, we welcome conversations with potential grantees to help you determine if you are ready to apply. I would see if the foundation you are approaching also invites these conversations. Sometimes speaking with a program officer can be very helpful; if not with potential dollars, then with essential feedback. Additionally, I would recommend that all grant seekers do their research before approaching a funder. Look at their mission and guidelines. Does your project fit the foundation’s program priorities? Get a jump start on that research here: www.lef-foundation.org!
Stacey Alickman, a visual artist whose USA Projects campaign successfully met its funding goal
Asking friends, family and virtual strangers to give money for your project is awkward. But in the process, I learned how to reach out on behalf of my art. The act of writing and inquiring if someone might be interested in making a pledge actually led to more than just funding for my project. I was offered an opportunity to teach a class, apply for a grant and to be part of a group show. Getting the project funded and consequently having more time to work in my studio is also why I was able to sell three paintings this year. Paradoxically, asking for help is a means to greater self-sufficiency.
Dawn Kramer, Mass Cultural Council Choreography Fellow
The “mantra” that my MassArt class had last spring in the course called “Art, Life, and Money,” was “patience, perseverance, presence.” One never knows who will be on any given panel and what the panelists’ particular interests will be… so it is important to keep trying and not give up hope. Maybe your work is particularly experimental and uses a combination of media, and maybe the panel in one year is particularly traditional. You probably will not be awarded a fellowship that year. However, in another year, the panel may be more avant-garde, and your work will be recognized and appreciated. When you present your work in any form-whether a written proposal or anonymous digital, supporting material – it is important to be as clear and precise as possible about your goals for a particular project or about selecting the “best” visual representation of your art work. If you are submitting video of live performance, remember that five minutes of video-time seems much longer than five minutes of live time, so present your work with that in mind. The first minute of video material will either “grab” the panelist’s attention, or not. Ask someone else to look at your supporting material, especially if it is someone in the arts who does not know your work already. That is the kind of viewpoint that could be very useful in selecting what you present to a panel. Good luck!
Image: photographic still from work choreographed and performed by Dawn Kramer.