Songs for the Struggling Artist


Rejection Season Has Begun
May 5, 2017, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Rejections | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s that time of year when rejections pop up like pansies.

Four rejections* to follow..

 

Residency Rejection

On the application, it said something like, “This residency is for emerging artists. What is your definition of emerging and why do you identify as such.” (I’m paraphrasing. I don’t remember the exact wording) Now…I’ve written about Emerging Artist stuff before. And if you’ve read that, you know that I’m not so keen on being called an Emerging Artist.
However, this seemed like a great writer’s residency through the auspices of a writer’s advocacy group so I had to fill out the application.

I struggled with how to answer this dumb question. Because why are you asking me, Writer’s Organization? It doesn’t matter how I define it, since in order to qualify for your little prize, I have to fit YOUR definition, not mine. Why don’t you tell ME how YOU define Emerging Artist and THEN I can tell you if I qualify? If I don’t, I can save my time filling out your silly form.

I knew I was being asked to do some sort of explanation of my own emerging-ness. I felt like I was being asked to first define my lowliness and then sink into it, to somehow ingratiate myself to a panel. I’ve done this before. I have bent to the sense of the question. Tried to frame my answers to the likings of artistic committees. I do it all the time, in fact.

But because they so directly asked this question that I have answered truthfully and honestly for myself of how I define an emerging artist and whether I identify as such, I couldn’t resist just putting in an edit of that blog. The one in which I stated how definitely I do not like to be identified as an emerging artist and what I think it means. I just – laid it out. Because fuck it. I wasn’t going to get that residency anyway – and rather than just stop my application half way through, I thought – “Ah, what the hell. Maybe a little cold water truth telling in an application will feel good.”
And it did.

The rejection notice came a couple of months later. And maybe it was just my perception but that rejection letter was one of the most ingratiating I have ever seen. The two things are probably unrelated. But it somehow pleases me to think they are.

 

Nancy Quinn Fund Rejection 2017

 

The very first grant my theatre company ever applied for was this one for $500 and we got it. The restrictions of this grant now are such that you can only get a small percentage of your budget with it…so 16 years later, if we’d gotten this grant, it would have been less than the very first grant we ever got. It’s also one of the most extensive applications.

 

Why do I keep applying for these? Well I often don’t. But – it’s the sort of grant people ask you if you’ve applied for when they’re trying to be helpful. In a way, it seemed easier to go through the reams of paperwork than to explain to people how not worth it it was going to be. I figure, if we got it, it would be a good seed grant for others. We didn’t get it.

 

 

Edward Albee Residency 2017

 

I’ve been doing this rejection project long enough now that I have several annual rejections. It would be funny to mark time by rejections. Like – this isn’t April, it’s Edward Albee Residency Rejection month.

 

Another Residency Rejection

 

The rejection notice seemed to beg us to understand that they received 200 applications so we’re supposed to feel bad for the people who had to make this decision because they had so many things to read, I guess?

 

Anytime I read a rejection notice that tells me how many applications they received and how hard it was to make the decision, I just laugh and laugh.

 

Really? I’m supposed to feel better because 190 other people get rejected too? I’m supposed to feel less rejected because it was hard for you to do the rejecting? Please.

 

Imagine this were dating. And a person you asked out said no. And then they said, “I had 199 other people ask me out so you can understand that I had a hard time when there were so many other more attractive people than you.”

 

Um. Thanks?

 

This is not news, I’m sure, but almost every rejection letter I’ve ever seen is designed to make the person doing the rejecting feel better, not the rejectee. It’s logical. But it still sucks.

 

*Wondering why I’m telling you about all these rejections? Read my initial post about this here and my patron’s idea about that here.

 

You can support me through the season by becoming my patron on Patreon.

 kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



“A True Artist – the Perfect Candidate”

Last year, I received an award that was given to another person as well. We were both selected by the committee to receive the residency in question. I’m a white woman in my 40s from NYC and he’s a black man in his 20s from the mid-west. The residency was for emerging artists (see also my post on Can We Find Another Word for Emerging?) and I was surprised and delighted to receive it, even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t what most people meant when they signed up to support this award.

Throughout our time in residence, I could feel comparison happening between us – sometimes in my favor but mostly not. I thought perhaps I was imagining this sort of outside judgment. And then I saw a post on a Facebook page about my fellow award winner and someone in the organization commented on it, saying, he was “the perfect candidate” and “a true {*Name of the award} artist.”

It probably goes without saying that I did not receive a similar comment. And it probably also goes without saying that by saying someone is the perfect candidate and the true artist, they are also saying that someone else is NOT the perfect candidate or the true artist. In addition to making it plain that he had a clear preference for my colleague, the commenter (who is a leader in the award-giving organization,) wouldn’t even look at me whenever we were all in the same space.

I found myself furious – and frustrated. Like, if you didn’t think I was appropriate for the award, a) you didn’t have to give it to me and b) don’t take your opinion about my worthiness out on me.

And for a moment I was jealous of my co-award winner. But then I realized that this is an incredibly old pattern in the history of our country. Take two marginalized groups of people and pit them against each other. Especially white women and black men. I mean – the fight for suffrage got really reprehensible once white ladies, fighting for their rights, started throwing black folks under the bus. It is a giant stain on the early suffragists – many of whom got their start in abolitionism.

So…in the face of realizing that I was about to do the same, starting to somehow feel competitive with my colleague – well, I reached out to him and asked him to let me know how I could support him. Not because he needs it (he’s doing very well) but because I needed to. I needed to make sure that the prevailing winds of dividing and separating didn’t win, even in my own psyche.

The whole experience has been an excellent exhibit of how complex things become when resources are scarce. I am not at all competitive generally. But I know when I’ve been placed a competitive environment. And I found myself stuck in a strange race I didn’t sign up for. I remember thinking “I would have chosen him, too!”

But…that’s not fair, really. There were two places and we were both chosen. We were selected together. There’s enough of whatever there is there to go around. I feel like this is important to remember in this moment, when we are all fighting for the rights we thought were ours to keep. There’s a way where we could splinter easily into my rights, your rights. I could only fight for the NEA or reproductive rights because those have an impact on me. But we will make a bigger difference by fighting for it all, by fighting for Black Lives, for immigrants, for Muslims, for the poor, for the environment, for everyone under attack.

It will always be easy to make us compete, if we are under attack, if our resources are few and we feel we don’t have enough. But I hope the resistance continues to make the more unifying choice of reaching out to those we are being set up against. My commitment to myself is to reach out as soon I notice a sense of competition this way. I’m telling you now so I don’t forget.

Help me resist the pitfalls of scarcity,

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message*

This blog is also a Podcast. You can find it on iTunes. If you’d like to listen to me read a previous blog on Soundcloud, click here.screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist



Can We Find Another Word for Emerging?
July 29, 2016, 9:51 pm
Filed under: art | Tags: , , ,

Listen. If you want to help me and give me opportunities, you can call me whatever you want. I’m happy to receive your beneficence as a “young” artist (I’m 42) or as a unicorn (a magical, majestic creature, certainly) or as an “emerging artist.” It’s really, like, all semantics at a certain point – if also inaccurate. Since I can no longer technically be called a “young artist,” I am, most often, called this “emerging artist” thing when I apply or receive artistic opportunities. But what does emerging really mean?

To me “emerging” calls to mind a little green sprout in the springtime, maybe the hint of a flower bud. It makes me think of an artist who is on the cusp of becoming themselves – someone about to discover their craft – a world of potential. The idea of supporting emerging artists, I think, is to help someone at the beginning of their career to bloom, to discover their artistic practice, to unleash their aesthetic. My sense is that funders like to fund this sort of thing. I think they like to feel like they had a hand in the magic fertilizer that feeds a growing artist. It’s a little bit sexy, perhaps, to be a part of a new artist’s journey of self/artistic discovery.

Now, in my case, I am a grown up woman. I have a clear aesthetic. I know what I am and how I work. I have bloomed, y’all. Many times. And I do not feel like I’m emerging. If I’m a plant, I have popped my head above the soil, seen the whole landscape, grown tall and bloomed. It’s just that you probably missed it.

The reason I’m considered an emerging artist is because most people have missed it. I’ve been doing all the blooming in gardens no one visits. So very few people have experienced my particular brand of emergence. This does not mean I am not an awesome plant. I am. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but since you probably haven’t seen it, I sort of have to. I am a rare interesting kick ass flower, y’all. I don’t need help blooming. So I don’t dig being seen as “emerging” because I ain’t. I am emerged.

What I AM is under-resourced. Underexposed. Underfunded. Under-acknowledged. Under-recognized. The problem isn’t with me (which is what emerging implies, as emerging is something I’m doing) the problem is with the establishment that is not giving me its resources. I’m looking for a word that puts the focus where it belongs, which is on the culture and the field. Because I do need the support of all the structures that want to help artists in need but I always feel slightly uncomfortable when the grant or residency or award or whatever is geared toward emergence. I feel like they meant to fund someone else – someone younger, someone they could mold and guide a little bit, not this big old sunflower just searching for some sun, soil and rain.

Do any of you emerging administrators have a better word for emerging artist? How do you think “emerging” looks next to “administrator”? Funny, right? If you’re an administrator, you administrate – whether you’re starting or finishing. That’s how I feel about the “emerging:” before “artist.” I’m an artist. In need of opportunities, without a doubt. But the “emerging” always feels a little bit condescending.

That said, I will reiterate that I will accept any label that comes attached to resources I need. I will be your Magical Unicorn Artist in exchange for rehearsal space. I’d just like to challenge all of us to find a better word than “emerging.:” We can do it. We’re creative people, right? We work with words. We can shift how we talk about the arts. And I think, for the benefit of everyone (the emerged, the emerging, the unicorns, the young, the old,) we should.

sprout-1147803_1280

You can give me sun, rain and soil by becoming my patron on Patreon.

 kaGh5_patreon_name_and_message

Click HERE  to Check out my Patreon Page

*

This blog is also a Podcast. If you’d like to listen to me read this, click here.

*

Writing on the internet is a little bit like busking on the street. This is the part where I pass the hat. If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist




%d bloggers like this: