The Art of the Application | Advice from 2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Panelists

The Art of the Application | Advice from 2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Panelists

Key takeaways from each of 2019′s review panels to help you with future applications.

In 2019, NYFA received more than 2,500 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship applications across the disciplines of Architecture/Environmental Structures/Design, Music/Sound, Choreography, Photography, and Playwriting/Screenwriting. While we are unable to provide individual feedback based on the tremendous response, we have summarized general feedback from our panelists and provided a few specific takeaways from each discipline.

General Comments:

  • Panelists agreed that the order in which work samples were presented made for a strong first impression. So think about how you are ordering the samples and what you want them to communicate about you as an artist.
  • Ensuring images were in focus and framed well and audio/video excerpts started at the climax of each piece was a plus.
  • Less is more! Applications that presented two to three bodies of work made more of an impact than applications highlighting more than four bodies of work.

Image:"Afterimage" by Sonya Blesofsky (Fellow Architecture /Environmental Structures/Design ’19)

Discipline-Specific Feedback:

Architecture/Environmental Structures/Design:

  • Make sure images are clear of foreign objects or distractions.
  • Show the scale of your work.
  • Consider the way your work samples are being reviewed; images of detailed presentation boards do not translate well in a fast-paced review environment. Stick to highlighting certain aspects of your design in individual images.


  • Make sure your submitted recordings are the final version; out-of-tune instruments stand out like a sore thumb!
  • Use your metadata. Make sure you tell the panel where the climaxes are in your work and what instruments/techniques you are using to create your sounds.
  • If you have a music score, include it, and highlight where your selected excerpts fall.


  • For submissions of full-length performances, make sure you indicate breaks or intermissions in your metadata or edit them out.
  • Invest time and effort into making quality recordings of your performances.
  • Not all performances provide the same experience when not viewed live, so make sure you give insight into how the work is to be experienced in your Technical statement.


  • Number your works correctly before uploading them so that they are viewed in the order you would like panelists to see them.
  • Make sure to document your work only and not the work of others in installation shots. Be mindful of what other objects are in the frame.
  • Aim for depth, not breadth. Avoid including too many bodies of work.


  • Focus on quality over quantity—you don’t need to submit the maximum 20 pages.
  • Not all written works can shine in just 20 pages. Select works that move quickly and can be understood without the panel having to know too much of the backstory.
  • The beginning of the script might not always be the best place to start, so start at a place that will capture the panelists on the first page!
  • Submit completed works to ensure your are showcasing your best work.

Final Reminders!

The panel review process is thorough, but quick. So make sure you are presenting your strongest works.

  • Share your story to make a connection.
  • Title your work samples! This can help panelists understand you, your story, and what you are presenting.
  • Curate your work samples.
  • Submit completed recent works.
  • Tell a consistent story through your application in both your written statements and visuals.

Good luck!

The next NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship application cycle begins on September 24, 2019. For the discipline categories listed above, the next application cycle will open in Fall 2021. For more information about the NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship, visit our website and view our Fellowships FAQ. NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowships are administered with leadership support from New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo 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.

Images: Rehan Miskci (Fellow in Photography ’19), Hollow, 2015, and Sonya Blesofsky (Fellow Architecture /Environmental Structures/Design ’19), Afterimage, 2017

Amy Aronoff
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