Last week I stumbled across an essay titled “Let Them Eat Steak: Arts Funding, US-Style” by poet Linda Besner. She published the piece in December 2013, following her stay at the MacDowell Colony, a competitive artists’ residency that is almost completely funded by private donors. Besner expressed amazement over the elaborate meals, the solicitous staff, and the estimated $400.00 daily cost of her stay. She was surprised at all of this because, as a Canadian poet, she comes from a different funding paradigm -- one where there are publicly funded programs with fewer fabulous prizes, but more to go around. She reports that most of the writers she knows received enough grant money in government funding to quit their jobs for six months to a year as they wrote their first books, and continue to find publicly funded grants easily enough later on in their careers. She was struck by American artists’ entrepreneurial approach to funding, so different from the approach of Canadian artists. Besner writes:
She has a good point. MFA programs in the states tend to work the same way: there are a few richly funded programs with endowments, and then there are the majority of programs, where students compete for a small number of teaching assistant positions, and/or scrap together funding from various sources. An artist in the states is an entrepreneur from the day she declares her major in fine arts, or begins waiting tables while writing on the side. We are always required to defend the value of what we do, in a country where rapidly diminishing funding for the arts demonstrates how little our society respects artistic endeavors. While I’m skeptical of any rhetoric that would depict Canada and the United States as exact opposites, I did have to wonder if I made a mistake turning down my acceptance to a Canadian university in 2004. I might have qualified for Canadian citizenship by now. Like Besner, I’m not a great waitress.
How should an emerging American writer function in an economy of abundance for a few? The application fees add up and the rejection letters are plentiful. We have MFA day jobs and late-night writing schedules, and those of us who manage to publish our books may find that the advance doesn’t cover much. New articles about time management for writers crop up every day, claiming that time-budgeting wisdom is the key to success, and still we all hope for more than a stolen lunch hour or a pre-breakfast scribble. The Stegner Fellowship is well publicized, but that’s cake for ten writers a year. I’ve been trying to find a smaller grant -- more of the brown bread -- to cover the remaining cost of a residency I’ll be attending in November. In alphabetical order, here are a few resources I found that I didn’t previously know about:
A list of funding opportunities and resources to support the creation of more art and healing work in the world.
$1,000 awarded on a monthly basis to “awesome” projects. This is a micro-funded organization with local chapters; artists apply within their area.
Small grants ($500 - $1500) for individual feminists in the arts whose work in some way focuses on women. Applicable genres rotate annually.
Accepts applications for project funding from artists with at least five years professional experience. Genres rotate on an annual basis.
Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers newsletter and website lists upcoming deadlines for grants, contests, and calls for freelance submissions.
A crowdfunding platform with a 75% success rate and an opportunity for matched funds. There are many platforms for crowdfunding, but Hatchfund is focused on artists.
Grants, fellowships, residencies, resources and more. The blog is finished as of October 2013, but Mira is still listing opportunities on her Facebook Page.
Lists resources for students finishing their MFA degree, including fellowships and residencies.
This organization has compiled many resources, including funding advice and lists of grants and fellowships.
There are also grants for artists by locale: Artist Trust is good for writers in Washington State, and NYFA is available for writers in New York. I suppose the silver lining to the privately funded approach is that we have many options. If one source can’t fund our efforts, we can be innovative enough to find another way. Do you have other brown bread grants and resources to share? Please list them in the comments, and I will add them to my links page as well.