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The Queens Arts Fund awards grants to individual artists and organizations to fund the creation of new works and distinctive arts and cultural programming that directly serves the citizens of Queens. 

Applications are now open, and we've asked some members of the arts community who have gone through the QAF cycle to share some insights about the grant program and the panel selection process.

Sherese Francis has been involved with many different programs here at Queens Council on the Arts, taking part in Creative Conversations, the Emerging Leaders Artists Peer Circle with our Executive Director Hoong Yee (read her views on the circle here) and has been a QAF grantee both with her own project, one for J. Expressions - a pop-up bookstore that hosted a series of literary events - as well as a leading member of the Southeast Queens Artists Alliance (SEQAA) for their upcoming (C)Art Festival. But what makes Sherese's point of view especially insightful when it comes to talking about QAF is that she has also served on a grant panel, where she and 6 other members of the Queens arts community reviewed artist applications and recommended them for funding.

We asked Sherese some questions about her experience with the Queens Arts Fund, and some advice she has for potential applicants.


QCA: Tell us about yourself and your practice.

I wear several hats! I am a poet, speculative fiction writer, blogger, workshop facilitator and literary curator. Much of my practice involves unconventional and interdisciplinary approaches to the literary field as well as creating platforms for underrepresented communities. For example, my blog, Futuristically Ancient, is an afrofuturist-inspired site that explores speculative fiction culture and tropes (science fiction, fantasy, mythology, spirituality, etc.) from an African Diasporic lens. My other project is J. Expressions, a mobile library and pop-up bookshop dedicated to promoting the work of authors and writers from Southeast Queens (books, handmade books, zines, broadsides, etc.) and cultivating the literary community in the area.

QCA: What was your QAF project last year? 

My project was J. Expressions' first event series, Reading (W)Riting Remedy, which was a series of events each Thursday night in October 2017. The events were a writing workshop ("Poetic Inventions: Word Empowerment"), a book exhibition for the mobile library, a poetry reading ("Revelations & Restoration"), and a panel discussion ("Eat a Scroll: Art & Health"). All of the events were centered around art, writing and healing. 

QCA: How did the QAF grant help you grow in your practice?

Before I received the grant, I only did a few popups with the mobile library, showcasing the books I had collected. But the grant allowed me to expand the mobile library from not just showcasing the books but into curating programming for it. From doing the events and receiving encouraging feedback from those who attended, I could see a larger scope of possibility for the project. The grant also gave the project more credibility, which I could use to apply for other grants and awards, and in engaging other arts organizations and the arts community. 

QCA: Were you able to take anything away from being a panelist?

Not to take rejections so personally when it comes to grant applications or any kind of submission process. Sometimes it's not a reflection of the value of your work, but a responsoe to how the application was written, such as an issue of clarity in its explanation or budget, or your work not fitting with what the current objectives of an organization is. 

QCA: Do you have any advice for anyone applying for a QAF grant? 

When writing your grant, be as clear and direct as possible. Treat it as if the people who will be reading it are not artists who are in your field and are instead a person who is coming to view your work for the first time. How would you explain your work to them? How is your work relevant to the QAF's mission? Also, be aware of how your project can be interpreted -- how do you fit in the project and what relation do you and your project have to the community and how is the project relevant to the time in which you are doing it? Last, always make sure to follow the rules of the grant. A few people had good ideas but we immediately had to disqualify them because they didn't follow the guidelines. 


Applications for the Queens Arts Fund are now open. To learn more about the grants, visit the site here

Interested in serving on a QAF Panel? Learn more here

Any questions? Contact Dan Bamba, Grants and Residencies Manager at dbamba@queenscouncilarts.org

For more information on SEQAA and their artists, you can check out their website here, instagram: @southeastqueensartists and their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SEQAA/

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