AFCY’s Grant Writing Workshop

by Laura Rojas
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As part of AFCY’s workshops for emerging artists working in education, I attended a very thorough and informative grant writing workshop on Tuesday night. Presented by Mural Routes and facilitated by Julia Chang, the workshop outlined the ins-and-outs of successfully applying for a grant, including getting around tricky obstacles like writing a proper artist statement and organizing the application in a way that makes it more appealing to the judges.
AFCY's Grant Writing Workshop

Pretty much everyone involved in the arts, whether it be working with an organization or planning an individual project, will at some point have to apply for a grant. Obtaining one of these can mean thousands of dollars towards community art projects, materials, new working spaces, or having the funds to work on a freelance project. With thousands of applicants each term, a well-written grant can greatly increase your chances of earning some very coveted free money.

Julia Chan, a freelance writer, reader, and editor, and former artistic director of Diaspora Dialogues, has been actively involved in grant writing for a number of years. Having written many successful applications in conjunction with different foundations and organizations, her input is one that resonates with emerging and experienced artists alike. During the workshop, she stressed how important it is to follow all grant guidelines to the letter, to write clearly and persuasively, to keep in mind the person who will be reading the application, and to pay close attention to detail. The workshop was mostly geared towards artists applying as individuals, but the rules are transferable towards community and collective grant applications as well.

One of the most important aspects of grant-writing is unarguably the artist statement. This paragraph defines your artistic vision and reflects it back to the things that you do. It also provides background information about the artist and their past projects, and ties together what you do with what you are going to do once you get the grant. You could say the artist statement is the bait that the judges will bite, convincing them that you are the perfect applicant and your project deserves every bit of cash it can get. For this reason, a good portion of the workshop was dedicated to reviewing successful artist statements and what it was that made them so good. The best ones were those which used clear language, no jargon or “international artist speak”, technical terms which only other artists are able to understand. They were clear, concise, transparent and convincing.

AFCY's Grant Writing Workshop - Fresh Print Magazine

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Unfortunately, most grants are aimed towards established artists (those who have been involved in their practice for a minimum of three years) and those currently in their graduate studies. There is a chance that those completing their undergraduate degrees may have to wait a couple of years to apply. However, there are hundreds of online resources which can keep you updated on upcoming grant application deadlines and community projects that are looking for artists to get involved. A few of these include Akimbo, WorkInCulture, Neighbourhood Arts Network, and Artreach Toronto. Of course, there is also the Toronto Arts Council, and the Ontario Arts Council, which distribute most of the grants.

Thanks to the informative nature of this workshop, I feel ready to apply for a grant once I’m eligible, and know exactly how to go about it. It’s a good skill to have and definitely something I encourage all artists, established or aspiring, to look into.

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