The Art of the Application | Key Takeaways from the 2021 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Application Cycle

The Art of the Application | Key Takeaways from the 2021 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Application Cycle
Image Detail: Amy Bennett (Fellow in Painting '21); "Cereal Boxes;" 2020; oil on panel; Courtesy Galleri Magnus Karlsson, Stockholm

The NYFA Grants team shares tips from 2021 panelists to help make future applications stronger.

The 2021 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship concluded in July 2021 with 92 New York State-based artists (including three collaborations) being recognized with $7,000 awards in Fiction, Folk/Traditional Arts, Interdisciplinary Work, Painting, and Video/Film. Courtesy of the NYFA Grants team, we’re sharing advice from last year’s panelists.


Across all disciplines, panelists emphasized the importance of clarity. It is important to make sure that you are not only showcasing your artistic practice, but that you are also presenting something that is easily digestible. Your application is the only information the panel has to know more about your vision, so make it count!

  • Review your written statements several times to ensure that there aren’t errors or inconsistencies.
  • Share your written statements with a peer before submitting; a fresh pair of eyes can help immensely.
  • Avoid using jargon or language that may not be familiar to the panel. 
  • Take advantage of the metadata section for your uploads. Include any information that will give the panel a better sense of your creations. For example, share the size and materials used for each piece.
  • Did your work samples involve a process or technique that may not be apparent to the panel? Make sure to share this information in your written statement. 
Image: WANG Chen's "In the Woods" reveals the artist’s concerns and anxiety about the (im)possibility of the future during the COVID-19 pandemic. The dark woods become a metaphor for the chaos of contemporary politics and its violent fractions as well as an exploration into either utopia or dystopia. In addition, the work examines issues such as power structures, politics, and gender.
Image Detail: WANG Chen (Fellow in Interdisciplinary Arts ’21), “In the Woods,” 2021, HD color video with sound

Vision and Voice

Some of our panelists underscored that the strongest applications they reviewed had a clear vision and voice. Before submitting, take a step back from your application materials to ensure that you are submitting a cohesive application.

  • First and foremost, make sure that you are selecting the correct application for the discipline you wish to apply in as they are listed separately in Submittable
  • Submit work samples that are consistent with your current artistic vision.
  • If you plan to apply in two discipline categories, craft your written statements accordingly so that they align with the category you are applying in.
  • Review the optional statements for your desired category and consider whether or not you have more information you would like to share with the panel.

-Eleysha Sajous, Program Officer, NYFA Grants

The 2022 cycle of the NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship is open and will close on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at 5:00 PM EST. We are accepting applications in the following categories: Architecture/Environmental Structures/Design, Choreography, Music/Sound, Photography, and Playwriting/Screenwriting. NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowships are administered with leadership support from New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Find out about additional awards and grants here. Sign up for our free bi-weekly newsletter NYFA News to receive announcements about future NYFA events and programs.

Amy Aronoff
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