Applying for grants and residencies

I thought I’d start a topic about applying to grants and residencies, at home and abroad.

Maybe we can share resources for how to find opportunites, as well as strategies for how to approach the application process in general…?

Some thoughts come immediately to mind:

I keep seeing residencies come up in various places, and I think “Oh, maybe that idea I had last year would be good for this.” But I don’t have a proposal written up, and it seems daunting to do so at the last minute. SO. I thought, why not make a folder where I document my ideas by summarizing them (as though I was applying for a grant) so all I need to do is cut, paste, and edit accordingly? Thoughts?

Also, how do you feel about grants and residencies that charge a fee? And what about application fees?

I know about this site: http://www.resartis.org/en/
And I’ve been a resident at Signal Culture in Upstate NY and a very DIY residency in Fairfield, Iowa.
Any other good resources for connecting with opportunities?

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I work at a small grant-maker ($2-20K range, not in the arts though). I evaluate grants and work closely with applicants and grantees. The following points may seem basic, but I feel they need to be said anyway:

  • Professionalism and self-awareness go a long way.
  • Make sure to read the guidelines carefully, particularly before discussing the proposal with a grants officer.
  • Don’t overlook the financials - a budget tells a story as much as any narrative material, example material, etc. and provides real insight into whether the applicant actually has the capacity to execute a project.
  • Pay attention to deadlines.
  • Understand the organization’s mission/goals and how yours can align.
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Great topic.

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:

  1. 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!)

  2. 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!

Good Luck!

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Another signal culture alumnus here! I love that place.
And I’m on a residency right now in Muncie, Indiana: https://www.plyspace.org/

In general, having a set of projects ready to go is a good idea. You need to tailor your proposal to the specifics of a place, but you can sometimes spread a project out over a couple of years and a handful of residencies.

Also, while the residencies with the immediate deadline are really tempting, giving myself a month or more to prepare a proposal has garnered more acceptance rates.

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I would check out the Alliance of Artists Communities site.
It is a vast resource of listings.

https://www.artistcommunities.org

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@wheelersounds Just want to say thanks for this thread. As an experimental composer, performer and recent new dad—the grant world has always interested and alluded me, and I’m so excited for the resources and advice that’s already been provided.

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I’ve been extremely fortunate to receive funding from the arts council and prs in the uk.

One interesting insight i gleaned from an advisor, is that there is an assumption that a) there is very little to go around and so there is no point in applying (this is true to an extent in the uk, but it’s absolutely untrue to say ‘there is no arts funding anymore’, which I have heard on occasion) or b) I’m not good enough / what I do is too weird to apply. There are a huge variety of funding options around, from larger institutions like ACE or prs, to smaller ones like Wellcome trust, Aldeburgh music or Helpmusicians.org.

Many of these institutions are - finally - making a concerted effort to reach out to and support women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ and the differently abled as well, to try and amplify the presence of those voices in the culture.

When it comes to writing the forms, yes they are a pain, and yes, you often are assumed to have a fairly high level of education; to know the right things to say and how to say them. But, the advisors are generally upfront about what the judiciary boards are looking for, and forthcoming with advice about writing styles and phrasing. Having a strong idea that you’re passionate about is four-fifths of the challenge.

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I have never applied to any residencies, but I came across this tweet from an artist I really enjoy about their applications, acceptance and rejections. I think it could be useful info for those actively trying to participate in them:

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Oh look, a topic I know something about!

Like @kirklandish I also work for a grant maker, not in the arts, and more for organisations than individuals. The only things I’d add to his excellent advice are

  • to pay attention to the supporting documentation you are asked to provide. The quickest way for a busy grants officer to weed through applications for an oversubscribed fund is to immediately discard the ones that don’t have the paperwork that is asked for. I remember once rescuing an application where the potential grantee had attached their accounts, but forgotten to supply the password to unlock the PDF, and had immediately been put in the ‘red’ pile.

  • make it as easy for them as possible - if there are a list of criteria, then organise your application against those criteria

  • don’t attach your CV / strategic plan / other information and say ‘please see CV/strategic plan’.

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Sorry for my ignorance, but what is it possible to apply for grants for? (I’m also in the UK and am looking to do an MA in music research at Huddersfield in January, which I’d love to take further beyond the remit of the MA)

For example - https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/funding-finder

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Thank you, that’s most insightful

oooo - here’s a question I’ve got.

Is it normal for artists’ grants to cover things like rent/living expenses ? generally projects of mine will be pretty light in terms of material costs (wood, printer ink, paper, powering a computer), but moving forward as a part-time freelancer just having time in the form of money would equate to the existence of a project. can I convey that in a proposal without sounding b.s. ?

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Yes there are grants for time and space*! Although not all support it by default, you’ll need to read what they are willing to fund.

I’ve received grants to cover my studio rent for a year and received others for time to pursue a new line of project research / ideation that was purely speculative.

*I’ve not seen a grant that directly offsets typical living expenses like rent, food, etc. but if you pay yourself a fee / income with the grant, you can use your money however you like. (I hope this distinction makes sense)

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This would be covered under artist fees. For most project I calculate my artist fee as: base salary x percentage of time spent on project. If you’re applying as a part of a collective you would do this for every artist involved in the project. For some smaller project grants this number might end up being too high, but it’s helpful to know for yourself what the artist fee should be, even if you aren’t getting the full amount.
Also ALWAYS include an administrative fee no matter how small the project/grant. Even if the grant only covers certain kinds of expenses (lets say a travel grant) you should still have a full budget that includes all of these line items so the panelists can see that you understand the true costs of your project.

I’m running out the door I’m going to write a longer response later - I have quite a bit of experience applying for (and getting grants) and have also sat on a number of grant panels so can offer some insight there as well.

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I never thought about this before and it makes complete sense. Thanks for blowing my mind a little.

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Some great advice here already!

Additional thoughts from the residencies I’ve participated, and also from my time as a Gallery Coordinator at a local art gallery where we ran artist residencies:

  • Make sure that your residency proposal is relevant to the residency’s general themes and also will be beneficial for your practice, otherwise it’s a waste of time for all parties.
  • The STAR system is a useful starting point when describing your work and your proposal - Situation, Task, Action, Result.
  • Most residencies will have some sort of fee attached to attend because it does cost money to run things. Some places might be able to subsidise some of your costs, depending on how much funding they receive. So you have to consider whether a particular residency is in your budget, and how likely you are to obtain funding and/or be okay with self-funding.
  • Follow all instructions, they are not a serving suggestion!
  • Make sure you read about what equipment is provided - this can be highly variable depending on the residency. I’ve seen people enter residencies expecting certain equipment only to be disappointed because they didn’t properly read what’s available.
  • Another advocate for pre-writing here, it makes the process much easier when you have something prepared.
  • For total newbies - check out websites and artist pages to see how people structure their artist CV, because its format is different to non-artistic CVs. The general structure for an artist CV is usually: artist details, education, exhibitions/performances, residencies, media/published writing, other field-relevant experiences.

In Australia, nationally there is the Australia Council, then each state also has their own Arts funding (i.e. in my state of Western Australia, it’s DCA). Artshub is also a good place to look for residency opportunities and funding.

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I wanted to raise the possibility of a discrepancy between US and European proposals, both for grants and residencies.

I was discussing this with a friend of mine who said that European reviewers often talk about how “businesslike” American artists are – that we tend to provide a finished product as a proposal, with all the artistic and pragmatic questions already answered. According to my friend’s observations, European reviewers are more likely to approve applicants who are asking questions as opposed to answering them… Basically, if I’m applying for something in Europe, that I should have a clear plan for what questions I want to ask, and be able to demonstrate an ability to complete the proposal, but that I don’t need to have a finished product already when I go into it.

We also discussed the tendency for very academic artists to use what I call “extended jargon” to try and reflect expertise, whereas many of the proposals I’ve seen accepted are very simple wording, not overly conceptual, and rather short.

Does that make sense? Can anyone verify or refute? I suppose it might just be reflected in the nature of the grant or residency, where some are more open-ended than others, but I wanted to ask in case a certain proposal style was more or less likely to get accepted.

I appreciate the feedback, and also all the responses so far, this community really is wonderful!

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A decent amount of the US residencies I’ve been in stress that they are about process and exploration, and are unconcerned with finished products (Signal Culture, Arctic Circle). Others like the LMCC want a definite plan of action. And still others, like Plyspace, are a mix, in that they want me to do 3 public/community engagement events that have to be fully realized, but they also expect me to just work on my own things, whatever that means to me. Most grants are probably different.

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Just came across my radar. Wasn’t sure to put it here or on the NYC events hub thread or if this particular thread is a even good place to list open grants/residencies or just the process thereof.

https://www.nyfa.org/Content/Show/NYC-Womens-Fund

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