It’s Not Necessarily Your Fault You Are Not Receiving Grant Awards
Funding your project takes a multitude of methods, one of which is applying for grants. Artists apply for grant funding constantly, and it takes great effort to get through the application process. Narratives need to be well-written and concise, budgets must tell a comprehensive financial story of your project, and you’re probably applying for more than one grant application at a time. Given the challenges, it can be tough when you don’t see the results – whether it’s because you haven’t been successful yet or you had one big win but haven’t been able to replicate it. It’s really tough and honestly, it’s probably not your fault.
The System Isn’t Working
The financial system that we all participate in isn't working for everyone. While there are other methods of producing art projects such as bartering that don’t require direct exchange of cash money, for many funds themselves still are required to actualize projects. Also, there are so many artists with great ideas who are in need of funding. Not all funding bodies will be able to award money to every artist, and there are often strings attached to the money disbursed (though some funders are changing their ways). To complicate matters, staff at arts organizations that disburse funds are often underpaid and overworked, making it hard to actualize the changes they probably do want to see in the funding landscape.
All of this results in a broken economic system that isn’t working for many in the arts sector. It’s important to acknowledge these larger systemic issues that are at play in addition to the individual work that you complete when you’re filling out these grant applications. Of course there are also ways to improve your application to make it stronger, but it’s also important to understand how you fit into the system.
Take Care of Yourself and Celebrate Your Achievements So Far
We all participate in this funding ecosystem, so what can we do to fortify ourselves for the challenges we face? Sometimes, the best answer is to rest. Grant opportunities return in cycles so there will be future opportunities to apply. Also, the constant race of churning out narrative answers and budgets can affect you and your creative practice. We forget that the grants management process for many at the organization level is a full-time job in itself, so practicing grace and care for yourself is just as important.
Applying for grants is just one part of a larger funding system that generally rewards those who are the most productive – the ones who apply the most, network the most, and produce the most work. It’s important to identify that we are all part of this system. Rest is a mode of resistance and taking care of ourselves makes our practices more sustainable. In addition to rest, taking time to celebrate the wins you’ve experienced so far is equally important. You deserve it!
Be Strategic About Applying for Grants
Not every grant opportunity is built for your practice, and it’s important to discern what the best fit is for you. If you try to apply to everything and anything, it’ll make it more difficult for you and highly likely that you’ll burn out before you get to the goals you want to reach.
Make sure to set goals and give yourself time to achieve them. Treat the grants process like a project management task for yourself. For example, creating a calendar where you can write down the opportunities that you want to apply to and a small overview of what the prerequisites are can go a long way even if there is some time spent setting it all up. You can use tools like Google Calendar or Airtable to get started.
Dream and Help Build a Future Beyond the Grants System
There is a lot of conversation nowadays about the funding system within the arts ecosystem. There are initiatives like Art Coop and Creatives Rebuild New York that are trying to work towards a more just funding system that does not rely solely on the extractive capitalist system that we are all too familiar with.
With this in mind, it’s critical that we ask the larger questions that extend beyond grant funding. What are alternative ways to support your work that may not rely on larger institutions? What are more radical methods of community support that can fund your work? Crowdfunding does offer one alternative that we are familiar with, but there are new, interesting experiments taking place like the Unnamed Fund, which is reimagining what equitable distribution of capital can look like.
New models offer much hope in the face of the day to day of trying to fund your creative practice or a specific project you’d like to actualize. We believe it is possible to continue improving the grant applications that you need to finish and imagine what other support structures can look like for the future.
About Sophia Park
Sophia Park (she/her) is a writer, curator, and arts administrator whose interests lie in how intimacy, communal care practices, and support systems influence curatorial and art practice. She is based between Brooklyn, NY and Gumi, South Korea. She received her B.A. in Neuroscience from Oberlin College and M.A. in Curatorial Practice from the School of Visual Arts. She currently works as the Director of External Relations at Fractured Atlas and teaches entrepreneurship and the arts at New York University. She is part of slow cook, a curatorial collaboration, and is a co-founder of Jip Gallery. You can also find her running some silly distance, trying to get back into tennis, or dancing somewhere.