I Was Once Like You, Part 2: Before the Panel

You’ve probably run across this entry while taking a break from fine-tuning your Local Arts Support and Community Arts Fund grant applications. Because those deadlines are right around the corner, and you’re not waiting until the very last minute, right? Right?

As both a former BAC grant applicant and panelist, I’ve got some more advice for you, prospective grantees, and this time it’s got to do with your relationship to the people deciding who gets the dollars (hint: they’re not the BAC staff) — You’ve got to know your audience.

  1. Face your peers. Once your application is complete, it will be read and evaluated by a panel. The panelists aren’t BAC staff members and they’re not dispassionate so-and-sos. Each panel is composed of artists with first-hand knowledge of your artistic discipline. They’re cultural professionals who are invested in the Brooklyn arts scene. These passionate volunteers come together for a day, review your application, and either give you the thumbs up or the thumbs down. When I was a panelist last winter, I ran into someone I knew from the wide world of theatre at the panelist orientation. It’s not uncommon. If you’ve been making work for a while, you probably know some panelists, too.
  2. Winter is coming. I know it’s still gorgeous outside and we’ve got plenty of sunshine now, but don’t forget that the majority of our funding panels will meet in November and December. It will be cold. It will be dark. And there are no windows in our conference rooms. Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to understand the conditions under which our panels meet. Our volunteer panelists work very hard in our BAC office. So help them help you by keeping your application narrative on-track. There’s no need to use up the entire character limit when something more concise to the point will do. Be specific about your vision. And please, please, please check for spelling and grammatical errors.
  3. Make it work! Can we just talk about your work sample for a minute? The ideal work sample gets the panel as close to being in the same room as your proposed event as possible. If you’ve made similar work before, send them evidence of that (pictures, video, audio). And if you’re planning on submitting a video, remember that every moment counts. When the panel watches a video, they start either at the beginning or from the cue point you’ve indicated, and proceed until there’s consensus that they’ve seen enough. It’s very possible they won’t watch all 3.5 minutes of your video, so it’s best not to try to build to a moment or save the good stuff for last.

So, applicants, I’ll stop here and let you do your thing. Boot up those word processors. It’s time to shine!

For those of you who aren’t applying for a BAC grant this year, are you interested in sitting on a panel? Check out this page to find out more about how you can nominate yourself or somebody else to be a panelist.

Azure Osborne-Lee is a theatre maker, writer, and arts administrator. He joined BAC as a Grants Associate in July of 2014. Azure holds a BA in English and Spanish and an MA in Women’s and Gender Studies from The University of Texas at Austin as well as an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He is writer for Fringe Review US and he has a website somewhere. Oh, here it is: azureosbornelee.com

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