Let’s say you applied for an arts grant. Or any opportunity, really, artist or otherwise. When you hear back—if you hear back—the feedback is probably a binary. You either got it, or you didn’t. An email congratulating you, or a mass email of the “we regret to inform you” variety.
Often, the latter email doesn’t give you any substantial information about you or your application. So not only are you disappointed by the outcome, but you’re left without any constructive steps to move forward. If you’re like me, you guess what led to this turn of events, obsess about it for a couple of days, and then move on.
But what if we shared feedback as professional development? What if you could actually hear what people said about your application, in real time?
In the context of artists’ applications, I was actually first introduced to this idea by Heather Pontonio, a leader in artists’ professional development and the Art Program Director of the Tremaine Foundation. It’s crazy to me that these arts organizations that pride themselves on artists’ professional development send artists blanket rejection emails with no detail on their applications, she told me over coffee at the College Art Association conference in NYC last year. That is a perfect opportunity for a learning moment, for direct feedback! she continued.
And of course it is. It was one of those things that became so obvious… after she said it. Why just teach hypothetical workshops about best practices in grantwriting when you can actually give them real, direct advice on grants they already wrote?
QCA does give applicants direct feedback on their applications in all our grant programs: artists & organizations can call our staff and hear us relay the panelists’ comments. But we think it could go further. Not only is having to call an extra step, but I can’t help but worry about things that may get lost in translation: a richness of information that inevitably escaped the transition from panelists’ comments, to our notes, to that phone call.
A NEW DIRECTION
For our new Artist Commissioning Program, we wanted to make the panel process more transparent, so we recorded the panel sessions. This was a first for us: our other grant-making programs—the Queens Art Fund, SU-CASA, ArtHotel Residency—have never recorded its panel sessions. Despite our Executive Director’s fearless encouragement, the prospect made me nervous: A live recording would share names—of the artists, of the art producers serving as panelists. The artists hadn’t agreed to that. And the art producers were new to it too. What if the art producers held back during the panel? What if the giant microphone in their face inhibited them from having a dynamic discussion, the very thing we were trying to encourage?
Ultimately, we came up with an arrangement that would sort of let us have our cake and eat it too: our recording partner, Clocktower, would record all the audio, but we wouldn’t broadcast it live. After we captured all the information, we could figure out what to do with it. We could review it, process it, and edit out any sensitive material, such as names and project titles.
We’re now in the process of developing this podcast series, and would like to share the first episode, What Are The Gaps in American Culture? In this segment, I talk with our Executive Director, Hoong Yee Krakauer, about the impetus for establishing the program.
We then hear from Art Producers Brendez Wineglass, Margot Yale, Jacqueline Dugal, and Adele Eisenstein, who discuss their experience selecting the artists for the program, and how they decided what works are not visible in American culture.
Next month, we will publish audio content directly from the Artist Commissioning Program. I’ll then walk you through our thought process – what I think this accomplishes, and how we could potentially go further.
In the meantime, we’d like to hear what you think.
- Artists: if arts organizations started giving applicants more feedback, how would it impact your practice?
- Arts administrators, cultural leaders: do you have any reservations about sharing this information?