Last week, I revealed the structure behind our latest podcast: a 5-part audio series that takes listeners behind the scenes our first Artist Commissioning Program panel. If you missed it, check out that blog.
In short, this new podcast series alternate between excerpts from live panel sessions and interviews from our art producers, who were responsible for reviewing and selecting the ultimate artist awardees.
The latest podcast, How do you tell an untold story? reveals exclusive, behind-the-scenes excerpts of our ACP panels.
In the last blog, I promised to share my uncensored opinion about this approach, so here it goes:
I do like this format. I think it’s interesting and digestible and it will help pull behind the curtain of what takes place in a grant panel. But, listening to the audio itself, so much of the content is specific to the individual applications. Is something lost by taking out the application-specific comments? It’s more universal, sure, and it does a good job of documenting the program in an interesting way. But for the artists that applied, would it be better if:
We just took the audio, spliced it into individual segments (97 applicants, 97 .mp3 files), and sent all the artists their individual comments, recorded live from the panel? That way, you get immediate, unadulterated feedback specific to you and your application.
The problem with this is pretty obvious. When I was in art school, I watched many a classmate cry in critique, devastated from blunt feedback. It became such an issue that our weekly sessions became to resemble a reality TV show. Even when artists called me this year to listen to me relay the panelists’ comments, I could hear some of their voices breaking, their frustration surging.
This is not to say that artists are fragile beings incapable of hearing feedback—quite the opposite. I think it takes an incredible amount of resilience and self-efficacy to make things without the any reasonable promise of security, safety, or recognition. But it’s not hard to imagine how something like this could go wrong. Even if the artists are able to listen to strangers evaluate their work silently and seemingly objectively, would panelists—some of whom have never done this before—realistically be able to talk about the work with this type of audience?
Apparently, it’s been done before. A few weeks ago, our Executive Director, Hoong Yee Krakauer, came back from one of her many arts trips all excited. She ushered me into her office:
Did you know that Indiana Arts Council conducts their panel live in front of anyone who wants to watch? The artists can come in and watch their applications be scored! People just come and go as they wish.
Really?, I asked, almost shocked. I pictured an indifferent cast of characters, lined up in folding chairs feet from the panel session, as bored and unaffected as if they were at the DMV.
Yes, and it works; it’s fine. I think that’s where we should go eventually.