The Business of Art: Fellowship Application Hints from NYFA’s Executive Director
NYFA recently hosted a mock fellowship panel for MFA students at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jon Cancro, Business Event Coordinator at NYFA, set up the projectors in our office’s large conference room, put on a pot of coffee, and seated the chairs around the slide screen— prepping the room as though NYFA fellow panelists were about to select the next round of grantees. Instead, 20 MFA students entered the room. The mock panel allowed the students to go through a faux grant panel process as though they were the panelists, deciding which students’ application presentations worked and which did not. After reviewing my notes from the mock panel process, I noticed five recurring points; hopefully, they will be of assistance to all artists applying for fellowships.
- Remember: Applications are reviewed in the real world. Projectors break, screen color fades, and files have trouble opening. Things happen that are out of the applicants’ control. The best way to guard your application from unforeseen difficulties is to…
- Talk to the foundations you are applying to. Understand how each foundation handles its application review process. Foundations want to help artists to get funding and are usually willing to speak with grant applicants. You should format your application correctly to make it as easy as possible to view your application and to minimize the possibility of viewing errors. Ask: How will the applications be viewed? What is the panelists’ procedure? Use these answers to structure your application.
- Make sense of your Artist Statement. Some people suggest getting a smart sixth grader to review your artist statement. Use one ten dollar word, and keep the rest simple. The statement should be grammatically correct with no spelling errors. Try to read it out loud, and then edit it.
- Depth not breadth. Learn how to edit down your body of work to show a cohesive application—applicants need not show their entire oeuvre to display their versatility and artistic prowess.
- Stay true to your vision. The applicant needs to balance his or her artistic vision with the attributes of a successful applicant. Sometimes, even panelists disagree on the best practices for grant applications (for example, individuals in the mock panel disagreed over the effectiveness of composite slides or videos). Do not compromise your vision, but make sure that vision comes across as clearly as possible in your application.
Michael Royce is the executive director of NYFA.