I just finished the third of three grant applications and my brain hurts. I haven’t felt this way since high school, when I put off my term paper until two days before it was due. Nonstop manicuring of text and ideas is hard, and I wanted to complain, but instead I stayed at my desk and did the work.
I’m excited about my proposals – one for the Transgender Performance Project, which I did last year for free, as a pilot project. I was working with transwomen in the Bailey House STARS program. I’d like to take it further, but can’t afford to put in as much time as would be required without some kind of compensation. It’s a very worthy project though, and serves a marginalized community, so it stands a good chance of getting at least some funding.
My other proposal is for my Left Out Festival, an LGBTQ theater festival, which I have produced for eight years. It’s going strong but I’d love to be able to pay the artists, and to cover some of my expenses. My deep investment in these labors of love may be part of why these current rising rents in NYC have me in a bind. I should perhaps have spent less time working on benefits and community projects and more time chasing dollars. But these are pet projects, and they have a lot of value for a lot of people. I won’t give them up, so I seek help from New York State.
I don’t want to write grant proposals. I’d much rather write a play or a sketch, or even copy for my website. But rising rents here in NYC (Oh, how I tire of singing that same old tune) are forcing me to find new ways to create income. This for-profit woman is now trying to belly up to the funding bar.
I have more clarity now about why it is that I have been a for-profit company for the past nine years. It’s easier to jump through the hoops that I set up than to jump through those set up by a committee whose job it is to manage money and distribute it to worthy individuals and groups. Yet, as a curator and artistic director, I can also appreciate the value of those hoops. They forced me to be clear about what I want to do, how I intend to do it, and how much it will cost. I had to evaluate my previous work, and put it in context. I had to explain who I’m doing it for and why that audience would want to see it. These are the explanations I demand of my clients who are creating solo shows, and when they have no answers, I insist that they find them. It’s instructive to face the rigor of a grant application, and to manage my reluctance to engage in the process. It also has given me more faith in my ability to write, to manicure text, to re-word my thoughts. I may not be awarded a grant, but I do know exactly how I want to achieve the goals in my grant proposals.
And now I can move into the rest of my day with a sense of relief, and satisfaction. Whether or not I get the grants, I have made progress as an artist and artistic director.