Commissions & Grant Writing


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A career seminar presented by Impulse Artist Series and Spacetaker. By Dr. Michael Remson, American Festival for the Arts.

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Commissions & Grant Writing

  1. 1. Dr.  Michael  Remson,  American  Festival  for  the  Arts  
  2. 2.   In  October  of  1992  "when  Miss   Battle  opened  the  BSO  season,   she  reportedly  banned  an   assistant  conductor  and  other   musicians  from  her  rehearsals,   changed  hotels  several  times,   and  left  behind  what  a  report   called  a  froth  of  ill  will.’”     In  February  1994,  during   rehearsals  for  an  upcoming   production,  Battle  was  said  to   have  subjected  her  fellow   performers  to  "withering   criticism"  and  made  "almost   paranoid  demands  that  they  not   look  at  her."[  
  3. 3.   Be  on  time    Be  prepared    Be  pleasant  to  others    Be  grateful  for  opportunities    Deliver  on  your  promises    Be  as  good  a  business  person  as  you  are  an  artist    Remember…  ultimately,  people  will  not  work  with   someone  who  isn’t  the  above…  no  matter  how  good/ talented/famous  they  are…    Patiently  build  your  resume  with  the  experiences  that   will  make  people  want  to  work  with  you  
  4. 4.   Who  You  Work  With    Performances  &  Exhibitions    Competitions  and  Awards    Residency  Programs    Grants    Commissions  
  5. 5.   Obviously,  every  time  you  have  an  opportunity  to  work  with   someone  celebrated  in  your  field,  you  should  take  it.    Master  classes,  seminars,  classes,  etc.,  all  add  to  your  resume  and   show  others  where  your  interests  lie  (and  your  potential   influences).    Also  publicize  any  work  you’ve  been  able  to  do  with  established   artists,  organizations,  companies,  galleries,  etc.  —  each  one  will   help  others  get  to  know  you.    Keep  records,  photographs,  flyers,  recordings,  any  physical   documentation  of  the  events    Publicize  them  on  your  resume  and  any  other  promotional   materials  —  each  one  lets  people  know  you’re  serious,  you’re   professional  and  that  you  are  good  to  work  with  (it  gives  people  a   reason  to  ask  about  you).  
  6. 6.   Hopefully,  this  process  is  already  underway  –  performances  as  part   of  being  in  school  are  valuable  ways  to  build  your  resume.    In  school,  seek  out  ensemble  directors  (in  and  out  of  your  dept,   don’t  forget  about  ensembles  for  non-­‐majors)  as  well  as  your  fellow   students;  make  friends  with  those  you  would  like  to  work  with.    Talk  to  teachers  about  conferences  and  competitions  that  may   provide  performances  outside  of  school  environs.    After  school,  keep  up  your  network,  see  if  friends  are  still   interested  in  performing  or  showing  your  work  –  think  of  non-­‐ conventional  or  alternate  options.    Every  performance  or  show  will  impress  others.  Second   performances  and  exhibitions  of  the  same  work  mean  even  more.  
  7. 7.   Every  artistic  discipline  has  a  variety  of  competitions  that   you  can  enter.      These  are  best  found  through  the  service  organizations  that   exist  by  discipline  (for  composers,  includes  ASCAP,  American   Music  Center,  federal,  state  and  city  arts  agencies)    Also  note  that  many  performing  arts  organizations  have   competitions  for  people  to  work  with  them  (VOX)    While  some  have  entry  fees,  be  judicious  and  enter  the   competitions  that  you  feel  have  the  best  chance  of  showing    Competitions  that  give  you  performances  and  exhibitions   are  most  valuable  (versus  ones  that  provide  money)  
  8. 8.   Be  realistic  –  enter  ones  that  you  have  shot  at  (you  won’t  win   a  Pulitzer  if  you  are  just  starting  your  career)    Don’t  “pay  to  play”  —  you  can  spot  a  fake  at  fifty  yards  (and  if   you  do,  do  it  for  the  right  reasons)    Do  your  research;  look  for  competitions  that,  because  of   restrictions  on  who  can  apply,  might  favor  you    If  you  are  young  enough  to  enter  “young  artist”   competitions,  enter  as  many  as  you  can  while  you  can    Are  there  programs  through  your  school  programs  (or  for   alumni)?  Enter  as  many  as  you  can.  
  9. 9.   Follow  all  instructions  and  reporting  requirements;  be  as   professional  as  possible  with  whomever  provides  the  award    Find  out  if  there  are  future  opportunities  through  the  same   sources  (additional  competitions,  can  you  re-­‐apply,  etc.)    If  there  are  performances  or  shows,  be  prepared!  Don’t  make   them  come  after  you  for  what  you  are  supposed  to  provide.   People  talk  (and  they  know  each  other)    Publicize,  publicize,  publicize!    Your  resume,  your  website,   Facebook,  other  competitions,  invite  as  many  as  possible  to   any  public  events  
  10. 10.   Two  types  of  residency  programs:     Short  or  long  term  involvement  with  an  organization  that  involves  studio   space  and  project  work  that  generally  results  in  an  exhibition  or  performance.   You  live  on  your  own  and  are  responsible  for  your  own  living  expenses     On-­‐site  residencies  (usually  no  more  than  3  months),  where,  in  addition  to   studio  space,  you  are  provided  with  room  and  board  and  a  creative   environment.  Usually,  you  travel  to  these  places.  Some  of  these  are   completely  free,  others  have  daily  or  weekly  fees.    These  programs  are  excellent  resume  builders  and  demonstrate  that  a   jury  of  peers  feel  that  you  should  be  given  time  and  space  to  do  your   work  (regardless  of  career  level)    They  are  also  excellent  opportunities  to  get  work  done  and  add   performances  or  exhibitions  to  your  resume    The  best  resource  for  finding  residencies  is  The  Alliance  of  Artist   Communities  (book  and  website)  
  11. 11.   Be  honest  about  your  career  level  (remember,  a  jury  reviews   your  application)    Be  realistic  about  what  you  plan  to  do  while  in  residence   (don’t  over  or  under  estimate)    Submit  work  examples  that  not  only  show  your  best  creative   output  but  that  are  also  relevant  to  what  you  are  proposing   to  do    Express  confidence  in  your  ability  to  get  the  job  done  (cite   other  examples  as  appropriate)    Be  honest  about  the  benefits  of  attending  (including  the  fact   that  it  is  a  resume  builder)  
  12. 12.   Actually  work…  if  you  are  not  working,  it  will  be  noticed    If  you  get  artist’s  block,  subtly  let  people  know  that  you  have   it,  people  won’t  talk  that  way    Get  to  know  the  staff,  they  are  often  a  wealth  of  resources  on   other  programs  and  resume  builders  (and  frequently  refer)    Network,  network,  network  with  other  artists  (at  the   appropriate  time)    Publicize  your  involvement  and  stay  in  touch  with  their   alumni  groups  and  newsletters    Enjoy  the  opportunity  for  uninterrupted  creative  time  
  13. 13.   Grants  are  money  that  are  given  to  you,  generally  for  the  purposes  of   carrying  out  a  specific  project.    Some  grants  (MacArthur,  Guggenheim,  Pew,  etc.)  are  given  just  because   you’re  a  good  artist,  but  they  are  much  harder  to  get  and  usually  carry   expectations  of  completing  some  type  of  work    There  is  no  expectation  that  you  will  repay  the  money  unless  you  fail  to   complete  the  project    You  will,  however,  be  expected  to  provide  status  reports  on  your  progress   and  some  kind  of  report  as  to  how  the  funds  granted  were  spent    Remember…  creative  projects  can  be  found  in  a  variety  of  settings,  you   can  write  music,  you  can  write  a  book,  you  can  curate,  there  are  lots  of   options  –  your  creative  AND  your  scholarly  background  can  be  sources  of   grants  (and  help  build  the  resume)  
  14. 14.   When  you  find  a  grant  that  looks  interesting,  check   eligibility  and  how  they  give  money.     Some  groups  will  give  money  directly  to  artists     Others  prefer  that  you  apply  under  the  rubric  of  a   sponsoring  organization  —almost  always  must  be  a  non-­‐ profit  501(c)(3)     If  you  can,  cultivate  relationships  with  area  arts   organizations  who  might  be  willing  to  apply  on  your  behalf     Check  factors  like  age,  gender,  ethnicity,  location,  etc.  —   many  grant  programs  have  restrictions  in  these  areas   (which  can  be  a  plus  or  minus)  
  15. 15.   City  and  state  arts  agencies  (not  only  their  own  programs  but   also  list  opportunities  from  other)     Houston  Arts  Alliance,  Texas  Commission  on  the  Arts,  Mid-­‐America   Arts  Alliance,  National  Endowment  for  the  Arts,  National  Endowment   for  the  Humanities    Service  organizations  that  serve  as  clearing  houses  for   available  grants     American  Music  Center,  Aaron  Copland  Fund  for  New  Music,  College   Music  Society,  Nat’l  Association  of  Composers  USA  (NACUSA),  Opera   America,  ARTS-­‐USA,  Springboard  for  the  Arts,  Warhol  Foundation    Arts  organizations  in  the  area  you  want  to  work  or  with   whom  you  want  to  work     Look  for  groups  with  similar  “artistic  values”,  if  you  are  a  performance   artist  a  la  Karen  Finley,  chances  are  the  local  Gilbert  &  Sullivan  Society   is  not  going  to  be  receptive  to  collaboration  
  16. 16.   Arts  groups  that  have  short  and  long-­‐term  residency   programs     In  Houston,  look  at  Diverse  Works,  Lawndale  Arts  Center,  Mitchell   Center  for  Interdisciplinary  Arts,  Center  for  Contemporary  Craft    Local  Foundations  and  Endowments     While  generally  difficult  to  obtain  as  most  don’t  fund  individuals,  some   may  be  approachable  for  certain  types  of  projects.     Think  of  ways  you  could  collaborate  with  an  arts  organization  that   could  apply  on  your  behalf  with  you  as  primary  artist    Professional  membership  organizations  and/or  unions     Houston  Musicians  Union,  ASCAP,  BMI,  Dramatist’s  Guild,  Author’s   League,  Visual  Artist  Guild    Web-­‐based  resources     Simple  web  searches  might  lead  you  to  a  variety  of  programs  and   opportunities  
  17. 17.   Complete  the  application  fully,  honestly  and  on  time!    Answer  the  questions  that  are  asked,  don’t  provide  lots  of   ancillary  information    Follow  the  instructions  (if  they  ask  for  a  one  page  summary,   give  them  one  page,  not  three)    Be  candid  about  your  career  stage  (remember,  these  are   judged  by  peers)    Be  realistic  about  your  project  and  goals    Are  there  grants  that  might  fund  specific  areas  of  your   project  (e.g.,  composing,  scoring,  performance)?    Give  a  realistic  time  frame  
  18. 18. With  the  Funder    Be  sure  you  understand  what  is  expected  (no  shame  in  asking  questions)    Do  what  is  expected  –  you  will  not  get  a  second  chance    Be  competent,  collegial  and,  if  needed,  ask  for  help    Stay  in  your  budget  —  there  is  no  more  money!    Do  updates  as  they  are  requested    File  all  final  reports  completely,  accurately  and  with  gratitude  Beyond  that…    Promote  the  fact  that  you  received  it  (if  allowed),  press  releases,  web   site,  bio,  facebook    If  there’s  a  performance/exhibition,  make  it  successful    Invite  other  grant-­‐givers  (even  if  they  don’t  come,  it’s  publicity)    Document,  document,  document    Watch  your  taxes  (get  a  good  accountant  if  you  need  one)  
  19. 19.   Similar  to  grants,  which  come  from  foundations  or  public   funding  entities,  commissions  are  when  a  private  company   or  individual  provide  money  to  fund  a  specific  project  or   performance    Commissions  are  specifically  designed  to  help  artists  with   living  expenses  (and  as  appropriate,  materials)  to   successfully  complete  the  project  in  a  given  timeframe    Depending  on  the  size  of  the  commission,  several  individuals   or  groups  may  be  involved    The  artist  or  artists  receiving  the  commission  are  responsible   for  all  aspects  of  getting  the  project  done.  More  funds  may   be  available  but  only  under  very  specific  circumstances  
  20. 20.   Commissions  are  difficult  to  get.    In  general,  you  can  not  directly  apply  for  commissions    How  do  you  get  them?       Resume  building.  Win  awards,  go  to  residencies,  win  grants,  etc.     Publicize  yourself  and  your  accomplishments…  regularly!     Take  every  opportunity  to  publicize  yourself  that  you  can…  it’s  almost   a  separate  career  to  keep  yourself  in  the  public  eye  so  choose   judiciously     Cultivate  relationships  with  organizations,  artists,  performers,  etc.,   anyone  who  is  in  a  position  to  commission  you     Remember  that  anyone  you  meet  could  be  the  next  person  to   commission  you  (or  recommend  you).       Develop  a  reputation  as  a  professional  and  as  someone  that  people   want  to  work  with  
  21. 21.   Recognize  that  your  first  commissions  may  be  for  very  little   money  –  every  artist  has  to  decide  what  they  are  and  aren’t  willing   to  do  in  order  to  gain  exposure    Explore  the  possibility  of  creating  works  for  free  if  there  is  a   guaranteed  show  or  performance  involved  (since  a  performance  or   show  is  worth  something)  and  if  you  can  say  it  was  a  “commission”    Consider  beginning  a  piece  on  spec  in  the  hopes  of  obtaining   additional  funding  for  it    Market  yourself  to  your  rolodex  —  make  sure  people  know  you   receive  commissions  and  are  open  to  the  process  (which  in  many   situations  involves  collaborative  processes)    Price  yourself  accordingly.  Several  organizations  produce   guidelines  for  commissions  from  which  you  can  scale  yourself   accordingly  (see  Meet  the  Composer)    Ultimately,  it’s  all  about  getting  noticed!  
  22. 22.   Be  honest  about:     Who  you  are  and  what  you’ve  done     What  kind  of  artist  you  are     What  stage  of  your  career  you  are  in      Don’t  over-­‐sell  yourself  or  shoot  too  high    Build  accomplishments  step  by  step    The  big  things  will  come  
  23. 23.   Resume     Advertising  (given  budget)    Work  your  network  (including     Appearances  of  local  media   friends,  fellow  artists,   (KUHF,  etc.)   teachers,  colleagues,  etc.)     Alumni  groups  (school)    Website  and  other  internet     Newsletters  (for  organizations   resources   you’ve  been  involved  with)    Social  media     Membership  organizations      Performances  and  exhibitions     Other  aspects  of  your  career    Press  releases/articles  in  local   or  job  that  can  promote  your   papers   work  
  24. 24.   Find  the  resources:  it’s  almost  a  certainty  that  someone  has   done  the  research  for  you    Start  local:  where  possible,  local  grants,  residencies,   performances,  etc.  will  be  easier  to  obtain  and  will  help  build   the  resume    Start  small:  Look  for  lesser  known  groups,  agencies,   residencies  where  your  application  is  more  likely  to  be   successful    Work  your  network:  Your  colleagues  and  friends  are  going  to   be  your  best  source  of  work,  referrals  and  new  contacts    Know  Your  Limits:  All  of  this  can  become  a  full  time  job,   allocate  your  time  to  the  most  important  and  focus  on  your   art!  
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