Today's MM was spurred by this recent email from a friend: "Here's a juicy topic for you: artists who are famous, show at blue chip galleries, get museum shows, and are generally successful in every way imaginable who still apply for and receive grants. I'm not talking about life achievement grants like a Guggenheim or a Joan Mitchell, which are conferred, but the small state-supported grants that help supplement artists and open some doors for future advancement."
So subtitle this post The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat, But Mostly the Annoyance at Seeing Famous Names Receive the Small-Potatoes Grants Other Artists Really Need.
Let me say that I'm not a sour grapes-er. I rarely apply for grants. I don't like the odds or the hoops, and I particularly don't like having to ask people to write reference letters for me. (Disclaimer: Last year I did apply, unsuccessfully, for a Creative Capitol/Warhol grant for this blog, one of the readers I ask my readers to help me support it.)
But when the friend who sent the email noted some of the the names of artists listed as recipients for need-based grants, I did a little looking. It is surprising to see tenured professors and big-name artists on the lists of recipients for state-sponsored grants. For artists in academia, I suspect the grant getting is like the publish-or-perish mandate; it's something they have to do to get tenure and maintain faculty respect. And it doesn't hurt that they can use office hours to polish the application. For studio artists, I suspect that even the newly well-to-do retain the "povery mindset." When you've been indigent for so long, poverty becomes part of your persona.
I notice that academics seem to be habituated to applying for grants for everything--travel, conferences, additional study, exhibitions. Power to them if it's a professional development grant through their institution; that's what those grants are for. But I have heard $80,000-a-year, benefits-package, summers-off artists tell me, "I can't afford to participate if I don't get a grant." Everything's relative, I guess.
I don't have any answers here. But I do have questions:
. Do you have any qualms applying for need-based grants if you're not actually indigent?
. And what is indigent, anyway? Is it Qualifies-for-Welfare-indigent? Is it Working-Poor indigent? Is it I-Own-My-Own-Home-But-I'd-Like-A-Residency-In-Italy indigent? Is it I'm-Doing-OK-But-I'm-Not-As-Rich-As-Damien indigent?)
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