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

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: azureosbornelee.com

REPOST: 6 tips on getting a head start on your BAC Grants proposal

This post is updated with info on our current grant cycle – hope you enjoy! – mlt 

Out of town working or playing this summer? Planning your 2016 funding calendar? Whatever the reason, we’ve received a lot of inquiry as to what artists and organizations can do to start prepping for their 2016 application now.

Taking the main aspects of the application into consideration, I’ve gathered some tips on what you can do now to get a head start on your 2016 application. So familiarize yourself with our program & get ready for some creative planning.

1. Project Narrative: dream big
This is a great time to dream big about your 2016 project. While September is the time for brevity (we only allow 500 words in the application’s main project description), now is the time for being passionate and illustrious! This is a great time to brainstorm and expound on what you intend to do. Write at length about your dream project; who you want to work with, where you want it to occur, and why it would be the best thing for someone to fund – just go for it! Whether you’ve applied to our program successfully or unsuccessfully before, take out your previous application, shake the dust out, write & re-write. Think big & edit later. Spring is also a good time to polish your grant writing skills: take a workshop, or read a grant writing book.

just - serenity now.

just – serenity now.

2. Project budget: plan your resources
While you’re in dream state about your upcoming project, start thinking about using the budget as a different tool to tell the same story as the project narrative. They benefit from being created together. While I suggest holding off on the nitty-gritty bubble-bursting line items until at least the second draft of your narrative, start planning your resources: where else you will go for funding support? Are you planning on supplementing with a crowd funding campaign? What are your options for earned income or in-kind donations? Will you have to rent space? Will you be working in conjunction with another organization? What resources can they provide? Thinking of your budget as another tool to help craft your dream project may help curb some anxiety later on.

3. Work sample: document now
Always Be Documenting! Spring & Summer are busy months that provide great opportunity to build on or begin creating your work sample. Take pics and video of your spring & summer shows, or make arrangements to get copies of the work if someone else is documenting it. There is no such thing as documenting too much. NYFA has put together a great three part blog series on video samples; check it out.

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