I’ve applied and been successful with many residencies and grants in the visual arts context, but I believe that sound/visual art likely have similar processes for grants and residencies most of the time.
@kirklandish’s advice is excellent. Here are a few more things I’d add to that list to think about.
- Keep the writing short and concise.
- Try to avoid jargon in most cases for panel reviewed grants, some panelists might not know the jargon and making folks work to understand is a quick way to get the grant set aside.
- You can be more playful and poetic in arts oriented grant writing that you might think, dry writing for a grant is still dry writing.
- Think about who is going to be reviewing the application and how many applications they are going to read. Are there strategies that you can take to make this a more pleasant review experience for them?
- Proofread. At a minimum – read the writing out loud to catch cadence issues.
- Include relevant work samples. If you’re fortunate enough to have a wide ranging portfolio, tailor it to the specific opportunity with writing that supports it.
- Granting bodies often will look to previous grants to see if you can deliver. It’s unlikely (not impossible) to get a 25K grand before getting a 10K grant, etc. So start off with a smaller one and show that you can make a project / use the money in the way that you said you would.
- Quality of the documentation of the work is critical. Make high quality photographs & video of the work or performance (I suppose in a sound context this would be recordings). It’s worth it to have a professional do this if you are not good at it. (There are even grants out there for this sort of thing.)
- Have a goal and a purpose. It’s really unlikely for someone to give you a grant for open-ended time to just explore. You’ll need a clear project, motivations, and often demonstrated hurdles that this grant will help you overcome. Figure out what those are and write about them first. Seek a grant to match your project.
- Some grants have feedback as part of the process. If they offer this to you, take advantage of it. You might not want to read or listen to it right away, but it will be valuable to hear what resonated with those gatekeepers in that context before applying again. Utilize those feedback moments as they can be rare. If you’re unsure if this is an option (its not listed anywhere), ask the grant officer or program director.
- Try to apply at least a day before the deadline. A lot of grants use hand rolled online submission platforms and because of the quantity of applicants the submission portals often crash. Apply early to avoid this headache and uncertainty if possible. (This happened to creative capital this year (twice))
For 4 years, I co-ran a small residency in western Wisconsin (http://wzfr.org). When reviewing applications there (and I can only speak to my experience), I was always trying to keep things to a respectful & minimal amount of work for the artists and myself. We asked only for two work samples and two paragraphs of writing. One paragraph about their practice and one about themselves. Even with this, we had a really clear ability to cut the applicants down to a pool of folks who would be compatible with one another and who would be good candidates for our space and program.
I recently applied for Creative Capital, and I can say that that is an insane application process. The first round of the application took my collaborator and I some double digit amount hours to compile (and we both have quite a bit of experience). One of the reasons that CC one was a bit easier for us to put together is a similar strategy to what @wheelersounds mentioned. Pre-writing. I’m constantly writing about my work. Even just short one paragraph descriptions. This way when an opportunity comes up, I can copy paste a few things together, make some edits, join some things together – and boom, a worthy proposal.
You can treat your grant writing like modules that you are piecing together to create a more comprehensive whole narrative.
I personally try to steer clear of all opportunities that require application fees. There are very few situations where I think that it’s ethical to have to pay to apply. Especially in cases where the application money is being re-distributed as grant or prize money. This is a biased lottery.
As for paying to attend residencies, I feel that this is reasonable. There are hard infrastructure costs and it’s really difficult to run a free residency (Our’s was free for 2/4 years and residents paid for 2/4 years of operation. Somebody’s got to pay for it. In our case it was a grant that we wrote and secured to fund the residents). I think residencies that offer scholarship, or equity assistance are good places to look. I did a residency with https://www.blasttheory.co.uk and they had a scholarship program for the housing portion. Given that I had to fly to the UK to do it, this was the difference in being able to do it or not, so that alone went a long way. Places that have these types of ideas/programs/attitudes tend to be more legit in my experience.
Check your local surroundings for local grants! Here in Minnesota we’ve got a few major granting bodies. Minnesota State Arts Board ($10K), Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Next Step ( $5K), Jerome ($10K), Mcknight ($25K / $50K), Visual Arts Fund ($10K / $5K), and more. These are only open to Minnesota residents, so the applicant pool is much smaller. These local grants are much easier to get than national competitive grants and in some cases are larger. Check out what is around you, look especially at relevant foundation and state programs.
I will say that there are 2 things I always try to keep in mind when applying to grants and residencies:
You will not get them all. You shouldn’t take it personally or take it as an indicator that your work is not good. There are dozens and dozens of reasons that your application might not make it. All the way from an unrealistic proposal to a panel of jurors with a hidden agenda that you don’t fit into. Applications feel personal and vulnerable (especially when you are starting out with them), but they are not. Don’t let a denial prevent your from trying again (even for the same grant!)
If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute! (No, but seriously, start the putting your proposal together well ahead of time!)
Maybe I will write more later, but if you have any specific questions, I’m happy to respond having been on almost every angle of this process as a recipient, gate keeper, writer, and constant grant seeker!