LivingArts: NOT TAKEN FOR GRANTED

 

It happens to us all as artists, the dreaded grant application. Somewhat akin to summing up one’s entire personality in 300 words for an online dating site we are asked to sum up our passion, experience and dreams with full knowledge that we will be judged by what we write. It is stressful, confusing and time consuming, but ultimately it can be the key that unlocks the resources to make our artistic dreams possible.

My own personal experience tackling this beast left me with questions: Are there enough resources available to support artists through the application process? Are artists in Hamilton applying for grants? What is a ‘grant seeking culture’ and do we have it here in Hamilton? If we could encourage more artists to seek grants could we help to support the growth in this community?

In an effort to get some answers I contacted several Hamilton theatre artists and opened up a dialogue about grants, grant application and the business side of art. I spoke to ten theatre artists at various stages in their careers and here is what I learned. Half of all the artists I spoke to felt that there was support available to them, from organizations directly or from the community, to assist in the grant application process.  However only one third had ever applied for a grant and none of them had ever been successful in receiving funding. Two of the artists who had never applied said that the application process was a deterrent for them. Most of the artists who had chosen never to apply expressed a desire to create projects that were self-supporting without outside funding.

When I asked what they felt a ‘grant seeking culture’ was and whether they thought we had it here in Hamilton I got quite a variety of interpretations. Most felt that the term ‘grant seeking’ was not a positive description.  Many artists expressed a concern that ‘grant seeking’ could lead to grant dependence and again expressed the desire to be self-supported. Only one of the artists I spoke to believed that Hamilton currently has a ‘grant seeking’ theatre culture. When I asked if having more grants in our community could help to support growth most agreed that it would. Many interesting conversations about what types of artists and artistic projects should be supported by grants resulted from these questions, with some artists wanting funding to be given to projects that were less risky and more likely to generate income for artists and create audiences while others hoped that projects that were more provocative and less likely to find other revenue streams would be funded.  One artist summed up the discussion of arts funding as simply as possible: “There are no easy answers in art”

My discussions with these artists have left me with many new unanswered questions but a strong feeling that the Hamilton Arts community has a desire to create something strong and lasting. There is definitely a need for the support that grants can offer but this support should be the spark that ignites a creative career or project - not the fuel that sustains it.

 

Crystal Jonasson is a writer, director, producer and actor who has appeared on stages in Toronto, Ottawa and throughout the Hamilton area. Recently she had the opportunity to work as the Assistant Director on Tribes by Nina Raine for Canadian Stage and Theatre Aquarius. Crystal was the Associate Producer of the 2014 Hamilton Fringe Festival, a mentorship position made possible through the support of Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program. In 2013 she received the Emerging Artist Award in Theatre at the Hamilton Arts Awards. Crystal is a lifelong Hamiltonian, a McMaster University Alumni and the founder of 11th Year Productions, a Hamilton based theatre company focused on working with emerging artists. @crystalinhammer