You Don’t Have to Do It Alone: A Conversation with Dan Bamba
Flushing Town Hall’s Director of Arts Services shares takeaways from the NYFA and Flushing Town Hall Artist As Entrepreneur program and upcoming opportunities.
Flushing Town Hall (FTH) is a global arts presenter in the heart of Flushing, Queens that also provides resources to support artists. FTH has also been a Cultural Partner of NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program for many years. We spoke with Dan Bamba, FTH’s Director of Arts Services, about the arts service program that took place at FTH this summer, and upcoming fall opportunities.
New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA): You have many years of experience supporting artists in Queens as Grants and Residencies Director at Queens Council of the Arts (QCA) and currently as the Director of Arts Services at FTH. What connects you to the artist community in Queens?
Dan Bamba (DB): I am lucky to be able to work with and support the artist community in Queens. I started at QCA in 2017, and that was my first introduction to the community in the borough. I came from a commercial gallery in Manhattan, but really fell into my passion of working directly with local and emerging artists when I started administering the Queens Arts Fund grant program.
Through my work with QCA and at FTH, I’ve been able to connect and work with hundreds of artists working in the borough. As a Queens resident myself, it’s rewarding to see that my community is filled with some of the most creative, passionate, and enthusiastic artists in the city. There is so much happening in Queens (not just the other boroughs!)—and the artists, organizations, and programs that we get to work with highlight how rich the arts and culture are in Queens. I love that the projects that get funded are happening in our borough, for and by our neighbors, and it’s especially great to see artists I’ve worked with out in the neighborhood at local events.
NYFA: Over the summer, FTH presented NYFA’s Artist As Entrepreneur program. Artists from all disciplines participated in it. What were some of the takeaways from the program?
DB: We were grateful to be a partner for the Artist As Entrepreneur! At our core, FTH is an arts council, so the opportunity to connect and serve local artists and support their practice was such a rewarding experience. I was moved by how the group formed bonds and relationships with each other over just four days. Before the end of the program, some artists already had an idea to form a collective—which we’d love to host at FTH!
I hope it was encouraging for the cohort to see that even with such a diverse group of artists each at different stages of their careers, they still come up against the same struggles and challenges. Like social media: very few people understand social media (myself included).
While there were many different topics and discussions throughout the program, the underlying sentiment was one of perseverance, encouragement, and collaboration. It was great to be a part of a program where artists in the community lift each other up on their artistic path. Being an artist is hard and can be lonely, but programs like Artist as Entrepreneur are invaluable to show that artists don’t have to go at it alone.
NYFA: What are programs and opportunities at FTH that artists and arts organizations should know or look out for?
DB: Our Arts Services Department offers Professional Development Workshops, Artist Talks, one-on-one grant writing help—anything we can do to make your journey as an artist easier. We have two exciting opportunities coming up for the fall.
This will be the third year that we will administer the Arts Grants for Queens,* funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). The program funds Queens-based artists and organizations with grants of up to $5,000 for arts and culture projects and programs taking place in the borough. The grant is open to artists and organizations of all artistic disciplines, and applications will open at the end of the month.
Our newest opportunity is our most exciting one. Also launching at the end of August, we will be administering a new program funded by the Howard Gilman Foundation. The GO Queens Grant will award 25 $10,000 grants to small Queens-based arts and culture organizations. The unique part about this program is all funding can be used for general operating expenses, instead of the grant being project-based. General operating support is so hard for organizations to come by (particularly in Queens). We feel it is often the most effective form of support they can receive, as it enables organizations to direct funding wherever it is needed most. With this new program, we look to help sustain local nonprofits and further promote their growth and creativity as they recover from the impacts of COVID and its economic fallout.
Both of these grants will open for application at the end of August, with submission deadlines in December 2023. You can learn more about our offerings as an Arts Services Organization on our website.
*NYFA Note: Through the Queens Arts Fund (QAF), NYFA offers project-based grants to Queens-based artists, artist collectives, and small non-profit organizations to support the local production of artwork and cultural programs that highlight, engage, and bolster the diverse communities of the Queens borough. Eligible artists, collectives, and organizations are encouraged to apply to both!
NYFA: You have a lot of experience reviewing grant applications by artists and arts organizations, can you share one or two grant writing tips?
DB: Don’t sell yourself short! I’ve found that when artists write grant applications, they often undersell what they do. They take for granted what they do as an artist or organization as a “given,” that everyone else does it that way as well. But that is rarely the case! We once had an artist propose a community project that involved workshops, conversations, meet-ups, and interviews with local residents, and in their application they just said they would “connect with community members.” Applications are your chance to put your best foot forward, and if you’re not giving yourself enough shine, no one else will.
If there is something about your practice, your organization’s mission, or your proposal that sets you apart from other applicants, make sure it shows! You can never rely on panelists already knowing about you and your practice—you will always be your own biggest advocate. For some people, it’s uncomfortable to show off and highlight their accomplishments, but writing grant applications is a time where elevating yourself and what you do is paramount!
You can never rely on panelists already knowing about you and your practice—you will always be your own biggest advocate.Dan Bamba
About Dan Bamba
Dan Bamba is the Director of Arts Services at Flushing Town Hall, a multidisciplinary arts organization serving the borough of Queens and NYC. He oversees and manages the Arts Grants for Queens regrant program funded by the New York State Council on the Arts and the GO Queens regrant program funded by the Howard Gilman Foundation, as well as supporting the artist community in NYC through artist residencies, space grants, professional development programs, and workshops.
Bamba began his arts administration career as the Grants Assistant at Queens Council on the Arts (QCA), later becoming QCA’s Grants and Residencies Director. Prior to this, Bamba worked as an artist liaison and exhibitions assistant at Galerie Perrotin in New York City and has managed multiple artist studios. He holds a B.A. degree in Economics and Art History from Amherst College.
GO Queens Grant: General Operating Support Grant for Queens-based Arts Organizations, administered by Flushing Town Hall, will be open in late August.
NYFA’s Immigrant Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program for Visual and Multidisciplinary Artists 2024 open call is open August 29 – October 6, 2023.
–Ya Yun Teng, Program Officer, Immigrant Artist Resource Center (NYC)
This post is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #163. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events. Learn more about NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program.