Arts grants for dummies

The world of free money might not always be easy to wade through, but there are resources

Manitoba Music’s Sean McManus works with artists to help them find grants Mark Reimer

If you’re a musician or painter in Manitoba, there’s no shortage of grants available for you. The world of arts grants is a complicated one though, and it can often be difficult to navigate.

Artists in the city can obtain grants from several organizations, such as the Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC). The council provides funding to artists and non-profit arts organizations through a variety of programs, said Tamara Biebrich, program officer for WAC.

The Individual Artist Grant program supports the creation of new work in any art form, or development, curation, exhibition or presentation of works of art by Winnipeg artists. The organization also provides ongoing annual support to well-established arts organizations and project funding to new and developing arts organizations for a broad range of activities reflecting different cultural traditions, art forms and practices.

Applications for grants usually have to meet guidelines, including detailed proposals and a relevant portfolio of work. Artists and other professionals working in the arts are in turn invited to form a panel to assess applications against specific criteria related to the grant, advise on priorities, and make recommendations to WAC on the awarding of grants.

A lot of art graduates learn creative skills but don’t learn the business side of the arts and how to write a grant.

Jaimie Isaac, Arts and Culture Industries Association of Manitoba

“Through peer assessment, [WAC] involves the arts community directly in its operations,” Biebrich said. “Applicants can be confident that they have been assessed by people with the knowledge and expertise to make sound qualitative judgments in the arts.”

Other organizations work on the same principle. One example is Manitoba Film and Sound, which offers sound recording, marketing assistance and touring support grants for musicians who have lived in the province for over a year.

“As a government funding agency, we encourage music recording artists and songwriters in the province to develop and promote their skills through [our] programs,” Barbara Sedun, music programs manager, wrote in an e-mail.

Like the Winnipeg Arts Council, grant applications are vetted and awarded by those in the community.

“We have a random selection of jurors that changes every time as much as possible based on qualifications [such as] current industry involvement and knowledge of specific categories and availability,” Sedun said. “I am always looking to expand my base of jurors.”

Grants are competitive by nature, and several organizations in the city exist to help artists learn the skills necessary to write effective grant proposals, and get them through the gatekeepers - a diverse panel of jurors.

Sean McManus, training co-ordinator for Manitoba Music, said he works with artists through a series of workshops and one-on-one consultations to help them find grants applicable to their goals.

“We help them understand what the jury process is like. When people understand the system, it helps them to better prepare their application,” McManus said. “We show them how to submit the right information in the right format that the jury will respond to most positively.”

Other organizations, like the Arts and Cultural Industries Association of Manitoba (ACI), organize forums for artists and organizations to interact with each other.

“In fine arts, they don’t teach you the business aspect of the arts world,” said Jaimie Isaac, Aboriginal programs manager for ACI. “A lot of art graduates learn creative skills but don’t learn the business side of the arts and how to write a grant. It’s hard to immerse yourself when you don’t know about the resources that are available.”

Isaac, who graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2005 with degrees in art history and theatre, said that she works with artists to provide professional development training and network opportunities through consultations and forums.

“We’re connecting the arts community with the funding community and putting a face to the organization,” Isaac said. “We want to keep the lines of communication open between the two.”

Published in Volume 63, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 5, 2009)

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