The Art of the Application | Work Statements and Cultural Statements
We’re sharing insider tips for your NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Application.
The NYFA Grants team has created a series of blog posts with information to help you prepare the materials needed for your application(s). In this edition of The Art of the Application, we’ll share tips on writing a Work Statement and guidance in helping you decide if you should include a Cultural Statement.
How Do I Write a Work Statement?
This may be a new term to you, but the concept will be familiar. The Work Statement is like an Artist Statement, in that it should describe the primary interests of your practice. Whereas an Artist Statement is often broad and overarching, your Work Statement needs to be specific to the work you are presenting within your application.
Your NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Work Statement can be up to 100 words in length and is required. It may seem daunting to distill your work down to 100 words or less, but trust that it’s a worthwhile challenge! However, be mindful when you condense your statement into a short format; don’t let your ideas devolve into vague sentences or generalizations. Instead, hone in on some of the key factors that inspired the work in your application, and describe how these elements relate to some of the larger ideas within your artistic practice.
As an exercise, consider this question: How would you explain your work to someone who has never experienced it before?
Keep it simple. It’s best to avoid language that is overly theoretical or philosophical. You don’t want to make your statement so complex that someone has to read it two or three times in order to understand it. Keep in mind that the panel is reviewing hundreds of Work Statements. Statements that speak clearly and provide concrete examples allow the panel to access your ideas more quickly. And remember, with only 100 words, you should never stop at the first draft!
Should You Supply a Cultural Statement?
Another aspect of the NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship application is the Cultural Statement. This statement gives applicants the opportunity to describe how their practice relates to, or is rooted in, a cultural technique, tradition, or community.
The Cultural Statement should give the panel insight into a specific cultural community or practice, and highlight any techniques that may need further context.
- Describe how your background in a cultural community has shaped your work.
- Share any relevant cultural history or stories that influenced your work.
- Provide more detail about the techniques you use, where they originated, and why you choose to continue this tradition.
It’s good to take advantage of any opportunity an application gives you to describe your work, but you should only submit information that is appropriate to your practice. Supply a Cultural Statement only if your connection to a cultural community, technique, and/or tradition is integral to your work. If not, don’t spend your time trying to argue an angle. Instead, focus your attention on strengthening other components of your application. Keeping your materials relevant, informative, and focused is key when submitting an application to an artist opportunity in general.
Depending on the discipline you’re applying in, you may have the opportunity to also provide a Technical Statement and/or Excerpt Explanation. These statements will allow you to go into further detail, so don’t feel like you have to say everything in your Work Statement or Cultural Statement.
– Hannah Berry, Program Associate, NYFA Grants
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.
Images, from top: Ginny Casey (Fellow in Painting ‘18), Balancing Act, 2017, oil on canvas; Wafa Ghnaim (Fellow in Folk/Traditional Arts ‘18), Floral Bookmarks, 1988-2001, cross-stitch on fabric