Grantees honored at the 2015 BAC Grants Ceremony

On Wednesday, March 18th, Brooklyn Arts Council celebrated the culmination of our 2015 Grant Season. Hundreds of public officials, performers, panelists, and grantees descended on Brooklyn Borough Hall to commemorate the occasion.

Brooklyn Arts Council Grantee Ceremony Program against Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom background. Photo Credit: Marvin Roberts Photography, 2015.

Brooklyn Arts Council Grantee Ceremony Program against Brooklyn Borough Hall Courtroom background. Photo Credit: Marvin Roberts Photography, 2015.

No BAC ceremony is complete without performers, and this year we were graced with some truly amazing talent. Truthworker Theatre Company opened the festivities with a 7 minute compilation of scenes from their two current productions: BARCODE and IN|PRISM: Boxed In and Blacked Out in America. A social justice based, hip hop theatre company based in Brooklyn, Truthworker provides free programming and professional stipends for young visionaries and performers to receive rigorous training. Each production deals with a different need for social and societal change. IN|PRISM examines the impacts and practices of solitary confinement in prisons, while BARCODE addresses the school to prison pipeline in America. For more information about the program, please visit:

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So you want to be a Panel Assistant…

Hello, there! Yes, you there. Hello!

If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, my co-workers have you informed as to the inner workings of the application process, but you might find yourself wondering what happens to all those precious applications, full of hard work and sometimes tears, once you hand them over?

You weren’t? Oh, I’m sorry! Please accept this picture of kittens as my apology.

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In the Works: Notes from the Grants Department

Around this time last month, many of you triumphantly completed and submitted applications for our Local Arts Support and Community Arts Fund regrant programs. Because we accepted in-office submissions, I can personally attest to the fact that some of you looked like this after you handed off those big manila envelopes:


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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:

I Was Once Like You, Part 1: An Applicant Prepares

It’s that time of year again! The weather’s going crazy as we approach the autumnal equinox, and the BAC grants department is hard at work as our deadlines approach. And you? Well if you’re thinking about applying to one of our grants, you are likely doing your own fair share of running around. Or you should be. Because let me know tell you something – I was once like you.
Before I started working at BAC, I was both a grant applicant and a grantee. I filled out all those boxes and agonized over my budgets. And through this experience I learned one very important thing, and I’m here to share it with you. Starting early with make your life easier. Now I know that might seem both once obvious and useless to the skeptics out there, but I’ll break it down into four tips:

Phone a friend
It’s a great idea to get somebody else to read over your application before you send it to us. Give it to your friend, the one who’s not an artist. Do they know what you’re talking about? Can they follow your narrative? It’s true that your application will be sent to a panel of your peers, but you don’t want to assume prior knowledge. Your writing shouldn’t be too academic or packed full of jargon. And it should include the basic who, what, when, where, why of it all. So send your application to a friend and ask for feedback. And maybe bake them some cookies to sweeten the deal.

Does this thing even work?
My first year as a BAC grant applicant, I assumed that because I was in physical possession of a printer, I was all set. I spent most of my time preparing my narrative, my budget, and my work sample, ensuring that everything was just so. And I left the preparation of the actual, physical application until the last day because I assumed it would be quick and easy. What a fool I was! When I plugged my printer into my laptop and pressed print, nothing happened. I laughed! I cried! I freaked all the way out! Then I ended up visiting not just one but two different Brooklyn public libraries so I could print out my application. It was a complete and total nightmare. Don’t be like me. Have a printing plan in place.

Gather your materials
Another reason why my application took so long to print was that I was emailing people asking for their resumes, letters of support, etc. the day of the deadline. In hindsight, I realize that I wasn’t clear enough with my colleagues about when I needed those documents from them, and so I found myself hounding them via email and straining to remain polite. Don’t do what I did. Communicate with your collaborators clearly, often, and early.

Note the time
Don’t forget that once you get your application printed, collated, and packed, you still have to get if to us on time. That means you’ll either need to bring it to the BAC office by 6pm sharp on the day of the deadline (9/16 for LAS and 9/23 for CAF), or you’ll need to get your application packet postmarked by the USPS on the appropriate date. Know how you’re going to get your application to us! Because it took me so long to print and prepare my application my first year as an applicant, the BAC offices and most of the post offices were closed. I was forced to make a mad dash via subway to the big post office at 421 8th Avenue to get that puppy postmarked.

I’ll say one last thing, and then I’ll sign off. We’re already receiving the first grant applications of the year. And we’re lovingly filing them to await processing. If you’ve got everything together and you’ve looked your application over, it’s okay to turn it in early. If you can avoid turning your applications in at the last possible moment, you’ll save yourself a ton a stress.

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:

You Got This: Thoughts From A Grant Program Officer Before Deadlines

Things are heating up over here now that we’re about a month to deadline. I thought it may be helpful to address some things that usually come up this time of year. I won’t speak for my fellow grant officers (I’d love to have them weigh in!), but I have a feeling some of these apply to many funding programs.

You will not be denied funding for marking an X next to your name on the seminar sign in sheet instead of signing your initials.
I’m not sure if it’s back-to-school trauma or what, but starting around now there seems to be a sense that every step you make from now until January goes on your permanent record, and could be taken into consideration for whether or not you get funded.  The panel doesn’t see the seminar sign in sheets, so they don’t know how you made your mark on them. If there’s something next to your name, we see that you came. (PS – it becomes pretty clear closer to deadline who didn’t come to a seminar.)

The panel sees your proposal: your narrative, budget, work sample and supplemental materials. Read the guidelines and instructions and try to focus your energies there.

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BAC Grants: 5 new things for 2015

This year marks BAC’s 35th year of funding. Such an established program needs some fine tuning every few years – here are just a few things that are new in 2015.

new year, new logo 1. More application resources
We’ve expanded the resources we make available to our applicants. Make sure you check out the Application Resources page as you’re creating your proposal. It includes grant writing links and info we think will be useful, as well as links to find your legislative information and a panel discipline guideline that has info about previously successful projects.

2. We’re accepting online work samples!
It’s 2015! We’re accepting online work samples! We can’t express how excited we are for this. If you’re not quite up on the digital yet, don’t worry – we’re still accepting CDs & DVDs. Check out the updated instructions for full submission details.
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Friends with Money: Rina Kleege of PLG Arts

Rina Kleege

Rina Kleege

Name: Rina Kleege
AKA: Co-President, PLG Arts; band member, Axiom Addicts Hometown: Brooklyn
Neighborhood: Prospect-Lefferts Gardens
Favorite thing about neighborhood: Diversity of people and cultural activities
What did you get funded for: Jazz @the Inkwell

What’s that all about? Twice-monthly performances at the Inkwell Jazz Café by up-and-coming and established jazz musicians are a vital component of PLG Arts, a local nonprofit arts group with the mission of cultivating creativity in the community. Performances on the second and fourth Friday of each month (except August, since we all need a break) provide an opportunity for neighborhood musicians and audiences to gather at a local ven ue, where music becomes an active force for the neighborhood spirit of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens (the PLG of PLG Arts) as performers and music fans get to know one another. Suggested (not required) $5 donation at the door allows attendance regardless of ability to pay.
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Music of Pakistan in Brooklyn with Eric Ki Beithak

I am four-months into Kings County as it’s Folk Arts Director. During this time, I have teetered between exhilaration and exhaustion. This was most obvious during the Sweetest Song Festival. Exhilaration– brought to me by the committed and brilliant expressions of cultural heritage I have been honored to be in the presence of. See evidence of this here. Exhaustion—brought to me by the promotion, presentation, and documentation of the nineteen Sweetest Song programs that occurred over a one month period. I have walked away wiser for the time and in awe of Dr.Kay Turner’s physical stamina. How did she do it? I have come to realize that the exhaustion is quickly extinguished when you work with people like Eric Alabaster.

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Friends with Money: Nicki Miller of Only Child Aerial Theatre


Roping at Circus Warehouse. Photo by Carrie Firestone.

Name: Nicki Miller
Hometown: Northampton, MA
How long have you lived in Brooklyn? 6 1/2 years
Neighborhood: Williamsburg

Favorite thing about neighborhood: Within a 8 block radius live more than 10 of my dearest friends which makes it feel like real neighborhood. Also the West Cafe and Cheers Thai see a lot of me.

What did you get funded for? Only Child Aerial Theatre’s ASYLUM

Tell us a bit about your funded project: I am artistic director of an aerial theatre company called Only Child, and ASYLUM is our first full length piece. It is a work of devised theatre using aerial and acrobatic choreography as our primary vocabulary against projected photographs and voiceover to tell the story of five people living in an asylum in the 1970s as the mass closings of American asylums was underway. It began at Circus Warehouse in 2013 and is having it’s first run June 26-28, 2014 at The Muse Brooklyn.

What else are you working on: I just finished doing the aerial choreography for Ripe Time’s The World is Round at BAM in April which was an amazing experience. I’m also working with Circus Now to develop an online resource to raise awareness of safe aerial practices for theatre artists interested in integrating it into their work.

What’s next after ASYLUM is over? Two weeks in Montreal for the Completement Cirque Festival!

What’s inspiring you right now? I have total artist crushes on Codhi Harrell and Laura Stokes of Ricochet, a New Mexico based duo. I also love the work of James and Aureila Thierree, Kneehigh Theatre, Double Edge Theatre and Vesturport.

Anything you’re you totally over? I moved to New York to be an actress and have increasingly found that less and less desirable as a lifestyle for me. Aerial Theatre is where I’m at; and training, performing, creating, directing, producing and choreographing for it where I’m going to be for a long time…

When not making art you are: Meditating in the mornings, coffee with friends, making collage pendants called PopFace, and working as a personal trainer and aerial instructor.

Nicki Miller‘s fascination with aerial sparked in London in 2005 after seeing theatre that seamlessly integrated aerial and acrobatics into its storytelling. After graduating from Syracuse University with an Acting degree, Nicki discovered NYC’s aerial community and began training circus skills. She has performed, taught, produced, curated and choreographed for aerial theatre in NYC since 2010. In 2011, she co-founded aerial theatre company Only Child, which explores aerial acrobatics as a vocabulary for heightened storytelling in theatrical productions. Credit Highlights include: aerial choreography and performance for Rachel Klein Productions (Symphony of Shadows), aerial choreography for Ripe Time (The World is Round) at BAM Fisher, a supporting role in feature film “Art Machine”, Circus Now Community Project “Aerial For Theatres 101.”