Filed under: art, business, Rejections, theatre | Tags: funding, instant rejection, NYC, patterns of art, patterns of funding
It’s 2:30 AM. This grant is only one page long but it’s taken forever. (The character limits keep cutting off my text, I can’t use much of anything I’ve written previously about this project, I have to track down a bunch of community board, senate, council and representative district numbers for my new neighborhood, etc.) Each time I’ve thought I was done, I discovered one more thing. Finally, at 2:30 AM, I click “Submit.”
I try to go to sleep but I find myself tossing and turning over funding. The grant I’ve just applied for would be $2500, which would pay for five performances for community organizations. I’ve been crowdfunding for this same project for the last month. At 17% of our goal, there’s only enough money in the bank to cover our fundraising costs and a rehearsal. It’s possible this project won’t be able to move forward. I spend a couple of hours staring at the ceiling crafting pleas for money.
That’s all just context for this, my second rejection blog in the series. And this one’s on a technicality. I felt it might make sense to give you the atmosphere in which I received this rejection. (i.e. sleep deprived and overwrought)
So, this afternoon, I received an email from the place I’d submitted my grant proposal, asking me to withdraw my application. This is due, it says, to my having applied to another granting agency with the same project.
And there is my first almost instant grant rejection. There are many things that are frustrating about this – the lack of information about this particular ineligibility in the guidelines, for example. (Something which, if it had been present, could have saved me days of work.)
But that aside, this little bump in the road speaks to a peculiarity in the arts funding culture of NYC. Local arts funding here cares about where you live if you’re an individual and where you are based if you are a company. City arts funding is parceled out by borough. The Manhattan council will only fund work that is based in and performed in Manhattan. The Brooklyn council will only fund work based in and performed in Brooklyn. Which, you know, that’s fair. Everyone has their territory. Especially when you’re dealing with governments and politicians.
What this funding structure doesn’t reflect is how art actually gets made in this city. For most artists, those boundaries don’t exist. We move like water and will flow where there are openings. With my company, for example, we’ll rehearse in any reasonably affordable location. When I was living in Washington Heights, Manhattan, I booked rehearsals in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, (which is over an hour away) with great regularity. We’ve rehearsed in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan so far. And if someone offered me a free space in the Bronx, I’d go there, too. The people we work with live all over the city and beyond. (Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, Long Island.) The current project aims to perform anywhere we can be of service. We’re not concerned with borders. Artists rarely are.
But governments are deeply concerned with borders – which is why the funding landscape is so full of little kingdoms, living side by side. Which, you know, fine, if they have to do it that way to get a little funding to artists, so be it. But I think this delineation may not be offering the best system for the people in those communities. If I make something in Queens that’s good, why shouldn’t people in the Bronx get to benefit from that good work? I live in Queens, but I don’t necessary want to have to go to Brooklyn to go see good dance. Couldn’t that cool Brooklyn dance piece come to me? Wouldn’t that be a good use of arts dollars? Sharing and commissioning good art for the communities that live in a place?
Anyway, I wasn’t eligible for this grant, that’s the long and the short of it. The email I got made me feel like I was somehow trying to pull one over on the arts council – like I was unfairly trying to double dip arts funding. When the truth of the matter is that I’m just trying to get some funding to share my work with whatever borough will have us, through whatever channels are available. And none of it is possible without a little more funding.
CODA A couple of hours after I wrote this post, I returned to my computer and discovered another email from the grant coordinator. I’d gone back and forth with her a couple of times, trying to clarify the ins and outs of what funding went where and what I was eligible for. And the upshot of this series of emails was that my instant rejection was, in fact, un-instant-rejected. My application will actually proceed to adjudication. This was not an outcome I expected. Not in the least. But I’m thrilled by investigating this rejection, I found myself in a much better position. So this may not be the last rejection post for the same application. Stay tuned!
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