I know it’s taboo, but I’m going to talk about money.
In particular I’m going to talk about the money I received last week from the Ontario Art Council through it Exhibition Assistance program.
I’ve tentatively arrived at the “career” of artist as I navigate my middle years – a journey partly of necessity and partly of design. I’m emerging as an artist, so to be validated by the province’s premier arts granting body is cause for celebration. It’s a milestone coupled to my time as Kitchener’s Artist in Residence in 2014.
The grant is based on recommendations by local arts organizations, usually galleries or artist-run centres who assess applicants and suggest funding to the OAC. I applied through the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and its senior curator Crystal Mowry for support for the final exhibition of my Kitchener residency project called Neighbourhood Voices in the Rotunda Gallery at City Hall.
The exhibition of 16 photographic portraits of everyday Kitchener people along with of an interactive “Story Mixing Station” was a gateway into a collection of personal stories gathered over the residency. The work encapsulates the way in which our stories intersect to create a third narrative or meta narrative of community life. You can read more about the Story Mixer in my earlier post, “Mixing Messages in Kitchener.” The stories can be viewed outside the mixer on this YouTube playlist:
Although the application for exhibition assistance is quite simple, the idea of it was daunting.
Here’s the official description of the program: “This program is open to Ontario-based professional visual artists, craft artists, media artists and artist collectives who have a confirmed, upcoming public exhibition. Exhibitions in Ontario, in other Canadian provinces and in international locations are all eligible.”
Writing an application to someone you know, someone you see regularly at openings, someone who has THE creds in a world in which you are a newcomer, someone such as Crystal Mowry, is way harder than writing for a faceless, nameless jury – at least I thought so.
Since entering into the community of art makers in Waterloo Region, I’m surprised regularly by the generosity of my colleagues – a willingness to share ideas, experience and work. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the mentorship so willingly offered by Crystal in the application process.
Preparing the application was less work than other grant applications I’ve been involved with, but Crystal’s attention to detail and insistence on proper form gave me more valuable take-ways than any grant writing workshop I’ve attend.
Average income for Canadian artists from all sources is a little over $31,000 annually; so, funds granted by the Ontario Arts Council are crucial to enabling artists to create and exhibit their work. Equally important though, is the networks and development of art making in individual communities nurtured by these grants.
For me, there is much to be thankful for in the grant:
- The money, of course
- Validation as an artist
- And the mentorship of experienced artists