When you are a passionate artist, your career is all about the process and development of your chosen craft. Whether it’s writing, composing, painting, installation art, movie making or photography it goes without saying that all artists need a patron in order to create an impactful body of work.
In the good old days in India, kings played patrons to exceptional painters, dancers, sculptors, composers and writers. Most modern day artists juggle a day job and family along with finding the time to research, travel and create. The concept of ‘studied leisure’ is an unattainable luxury for a large percentage of artists which is why being awarded art grants, residencies and fellowships can mean a lot to us.
Grants from art bodies and corporates are few and far between but they mean full financial support of projects for a few days, weeks or even a year. As an emerging artist myself, I constantly wear different hats. I’m an artist but also a blogger, entrepreneur, author, zine maker, photographer, sales person, marketeer, graphic designer, hostess and ofcourse, grant writer. I’ve seen some amazing artists miss out on funding because of a badly written proposal. I’ve had people who’ve awarded me grants tell me how much they liked my proposal. In the last 6 months, I’ve drafted 19 proposals and been a recipient of over 13 grants that have fully funded my art projects. So, that’s a 70% success rate. Which is why I thought I’d put down this ready reckoner for those of you seeking funding in the arts after collating feedback from jurors and looking at my own proposals to see what worked and what didn’t. Hope you find these tips to create a winning proposal useful :
1. Answer the 5 Ws and 1 H
What you are you proposing to do? Where do you plan to exhibit/perform? Who will benefit from it? How is it relevant or site-specific? When will it be released and is it time-sensitive? How much will it cost? How long will it take to execute? What does this mean for your career as an artist? And so on. Don’t do it if you don’t have answers to these questions. A Grant juror reads hundreds of applications. So state your pitch quickly. Let him/her know how, what, when, why, and where, in the initial lines.
2. Illustrate Your Ideas
A picture is worth a thousand words. Instead of writing 500 words about what you propose to do, show a picture/rough sketch/ rendering of the proposed installation/art, writing sample/ video/ audio. The less text the better.
3. Follow Basic Rules
If they ask you to send a file smaller than 5mb then do so. Don’t send 25 pictures when they’ve asked you to submit 5. Not following basic rules means you are not interested or are not a capable. Don’t email something when they’ve asked you to upload it on a link either.
4. Pitch To A Friend
I always use plain language to explain my proposal to my husband. He always helps me reduce jargon, helps keep it simple, conversational and clear. I also find newer ways to describe and define the work I’m proposing after talking to him. This exercise helps me refine my first draft. I ask my husband to also look at my final draft because he’s an editor I respect the most. It also helps that he is always short on time which means I need to ensure my proposal instantly captures his attention, is short, is engaging and is able to convey my idea effectively.
5. Define The Costs
What are the materials and resources you will need? How much time will it take? Make a list of everything including goods transportation, commute, software, labor, art material, etc. This list also helps you figure out what you need to make the project possible.
6. Craft A Kickass Resume and Bio
Make sure you highlight your best awards, achievements, exhibitions and other accolades. I personally like to use a lot of infographics, avoid being text heavy and keep it very current and omit including info that is more than a few years old.
7. Apply apply apply
One surefire way to not win any grants is not to apply at all. These grants are awarded to a miniscule number of artists and not getting one does not negate your work. It just means there was good competition. Make rejection your best friend. Just keep at it! Pro tip : The more grants you win, the more chances you’ll be awarded the next one you apply for.
I’ve been awarded a grant by Art In Transit in association with BMRCL to develop a site-specific, interactive art installation titled ‘Letter’ inside the Cubbon Metro Station by the platform on Nov 14, 2018 between 2pm and 6pm. Art In Transit is a public art project, an initiative of Srishti Institute Of Art, Design and Technology.
This is a link to a video of the same winning proposal I made at the recently held Festival Of Propositions.