Emily Davis

Oct 1, 2021

4 min read

A Grant Ain’t One

A Grant Ain’t One

September 30, 2021, 10:17 pm
Filed under: art, art institutions, Rejections, writing | Tags: 5k, artists, blogging, City Corp Arts Grants, funding, grants, NYC, pathologically positive, rejection, the hand that feeds, theatre

You may not be shocked to learn that the City did not give me one of its 5k City Artist Corps Grants. I did end up applying for it, after all that sturm und drang — and two days after my birthday — I got a rejection email from them. Happy Birthday to me!

Well, I guess I got 99 problems but a grant ain’t one.

You may be saying to yourself — “Well, Emily, perhaps if you hadn’t publicly complained about this grant in two previous blog posts, maybe they would have given it to you! Maybe badmouthing grantmakers is not a great strategy for receiving their bounty.” And you would be absolutely right about that. I know I’m saying stuff that does not endear me to people who give those things out. This is why most artists don’t say anything. This is why they can be pathologically POSITIVE! OPTIMISTIC! Because, yes, it’s true, talking about our challenges with these things is probably not a great way to get these grants.

The thing is, though, I have a kind of freedom, as a marginal artist, to say whatever I want. I know that very few people are listening and that the odds of my grant panel actually reading a single word of this blog are very very slim. After all these years of doing this, I feel even more comfortable in my relative anonymity than I did when I started. I’ve had only a very small handful of blog posts land in front of arts folk with power and if they do end up there, it’s because I said whatever I said in such a way that it spoke to those folks and got passed around between them.

I can almost guarantee you that no one from that City Corps committee read either of my posts about their grant. I doubt, very highly, that it was a factor in my rejection. It’s much more likely that my project just didn’t sound like what they had in mind for this thing. Or that they were turned off by the fact that I have a company when they’re trying to help individual artists. But — of course, despite the odds, I still wonder if these posts somehow tanked my chances. It’s hard not to guess at things when you know nothing. It won’t stop me telling these sorts of truths in the future, though.

In fact, the only way I can see myself stopping talking about these uncomfortable nitty gritty arts realities is if they gave me one of the big grants. That is the most reliable way to shut up a troublesome artist — just give them your resources and the criticism will likely dry right up. It’s the artists with something to lose who will keep quiet, blow smoke or do whatever they have to do to remain within the good graces of the goods givers. I’d like to believe I would continue to speak my truths no matter what resources were given to me — but I also recognize that part of the reason I can do it is that I have absolutely nothing to lose. I can see how easy it would become to say nothing when to say something might actually register with the people I was receiving grants or funding from. I know this is true because I’ve already done it. If a hand is feeding me, I do not bite it. Grants like these, however, are not hands that feed me — just hands that might feed me one day if I got extremely lucky. God willing and the creek don’t rise, which the creek always does, so, you know, it’s unlikely to happen. This blog, on the other hand, is a hand that actually feeds me (through Patreon) and so the choice feels very clear. I write for the hand that actually feeds me, not the one that MIGHT.

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Originally published at http://artiststruggle.wordpress.com on October 1, 2021.

Theatre Artist, writer, blogger, podcaster, singer, dreamer, hoper

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