Thursday, April 11, 2019

Exhibit at Westfields Hospital in New RIchmond, WI - now up

An exhibit of recent landscape paintings is now up at Westfields Hospital in New Richmond, WI.The art will be on display until early July, 2019. If you get a chance, stop on by and take a peek.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Nebulous Act of Grant Writing

I started work at the Como Zoo and Conservatory in 1994 because I had written a grant and received money to initiate arts programming. Over the next nine years, I funded a good portion of the youth programming through $300,000+ in grants. I have not been nearly as successful with grants for my own artwork.
Grants are an odd pillar in the career of an artist. A majority of artists who make a living from their art have never received a grant. Many artists who have received grants, after a time, stop making art. Receiving a grant does promote one to a higher status within the art world, yet it often has little significant long term impact. Granted (pun intended), some recipients have had their lives changed. Their grant opportunity led to other opportunities or the grant allowed them to focus on their art, propelling them to a more professional approach. It would be great if that happened with every grant recipient. It would be great if every artist had that opportunity in their career.
Writing the grant is the tricky part. Some grants have guidelines that are very thorough while others are minimal, giving very little direction to the applicant. I have been on grant panels and I have to share that the panels are not consistent in how they interpret the proposals. On one such panel it was mentioned that we should not take an approach of selecting an artist because of their ethnicity or feel that we need to represent every ethnicity in our selections. Within a minute, a panel member suggested selecting an artist solely because of their ethnicity and most of the rest of the panel agreed. Guidelines are sometimes bent or broken. Other times, panels have ended the discussion of a particular proposal with a vague sense of what the artist was about, yet they felt that the work was powerful so they voted for it. Then, of course, sometimes artists will have a champion on the selection panel who supports them and tries to positively counter panelist's concerns about the artist. In light of all this subjectivity, how do you write a successful grant proposal?
I have always found that writing the proposal is onerous because it is asking me to define my art. I much prefer to leave the communication of my creative process a bit loose in order to let the viewer bring their own interpretation to the work. Also, there are many facets to the thoughts and feelings that go into a painting. I can't possibly relate all of these in a one page proposal, much less a three hundred word artist statement. How do you put an ocean in a bottle?
This is my problem, I don't know how to organize so much information into its most efficient form. My proposals, even short ones, meander because my art process is integrative, communal and extensive. It is not about doing one thing that is easily understood. My art making is layered and complex because that is how my creative brain creates. That brain, which is expected to write a concise proposal, just don't work that way.
This year I have decided to take a new approach. Since I have trouble organizing all that could go into my proposal, I am going to impose an exterior structure onto my writing. No, it will not be a sonnet or a haiku. When I was writing short stories for The Book of Bartholomew, I would use a structure familiar to short story writers where key events happen at certain points in the narrative. There is the point of despair, the overcoming of obstacles, the catalyst, etc. For my next grant proposal I will use this familiar structure to write about my art. The advantage of a structure is that it takes away some decision-making, which is my difficulty. Now, should I write the grant for my landscape paintings or my food paintings?