Free money sounds good, right? For artists with the talent, gumption, planning skills and the discipline necessary to do the work, the money is out there. Most people start with arts grants. The City of Tacoma has a few, as does the State of Washington. But that's just the beginning. There are cash grants, residencies, allowances, foundation grants and more. Getting your hands on this kind of boon is hard work. Writing about it is hard work too. So this will be a two-part column.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. There are a few things you need to know and a few things you need to have in your possession before you go looking for free money.
First, you need a plan. Know where your art is going, and have at least a rudimentary plan for how you want to get there. If you have money, but need space to create, there are opportunities for funding or finding studio space. If you have space but need money to tide you over while you complete your work, there are cash grants available. Knowing what your needs are will help you narrow your list of organizations and opportunities to reach toward.
Get an agenda together. Plan a series of paintings, sculptures, a book of poetry - whatever it is you want to accomplish. Break your work down - how much time will you need? How much money will you need for materials? How much can you contribute to the financing of the project? What purpose will it serve? All of these questions will come up in the process of applying for free money. Be prepared to answer them.
Next, make sure you have a consistent body of work to present, and make sure it's a quality body of work. Do not send a mish-mash of your favorite projects. What you like and what will impress a panel of judges deciding whether or not to give you several thousand dollars are probably vastly different.
Next, your body of work should be able to convey a focus, your intentions as an artist, where you're going, and what you're capable of. Judges want to know you can conceive an idea, organize production, and follow through with accomplishing what you set out to do. You can get money to help you manifest a great project idea, but you'll need to show you have a history of making ideas into reality. If you can't, don't expect a professional organization to take a chance on you. Have an artist resume prepared that shows what you've accomplished, previous grants or awards, honors, and shows and exhibitions you've been part of.
The goal, at this stage, is to make sure you have the basics down. You must be able to show you have discipline as well as talent. You must be able to show dedication as well as inspiration. Basically, you have to be able to show that you've got you're shit together. Then, and only then, should you begin the application process.
More on that next week.