Late night questions and night cap answers
I think we should wrap it up, it’s gotten late, so I just want add some thoughts to your question about rubrics and add a few of my own.
By what rubrics or categories are grants distributed? This can often seem mystifying to applicants. I work at a non-profit myself and we also have to raise money in order to run our programs, so I understand this issue well.
A few practical thoughts: I think granting organizations can do more to clarify the criteria by which they select grantees. Also offer feedback, etc, things I’ve mentioned previously. Categories should be reviewed carefully and regularly to make sure they are not divorced from the work they are intended to fund. Also, the granting categories should allow the grantee to still do his/her own work and not take over the project.
On the side of the applicant: I think in some cases applicants have to learn to be more accepting of the decisions made by the organization—accept that their proposal/work might simply not have fit the criteria of the organization they applied to.
It is always important to not only look for blame in others but also to check in with yourself—this applies to both applicants and to granting organization. As I started out saying, it is important to respect the other party. And for that matter: to respect yourself. Going back to charity vs. investment, to understand grant giving as an investment and not as charity is also a matter of self-respect. And part of that is being self-critical.
Some questions of mine to end with:
I think there is room to approach the question of granting categories more generally: What philosophical thought is our kind of granting system based on? Are there maybe entirely different categories by which to judge? Who should be setting them up? Is there an entirely different way distribution can function? How is value determined/created in the existing system?
I am also kind of disappointed that we were (or at least I was) not able to leave the dichotomy of granter/grantee. As “joint enterprise” implies, there exists a longing to move beyond this form of separation. But I don’t know if it is possible within the system that we are operating in. Is it? Maybe this is where our conversation should have started.
And finally and because I am bit tipsy from that night cap and am feeling clairvoyant:
Maybe this all doesn’t need to be taken apart as much I just did. Maybe the structure is fine as it is. Maybe a bit of chance and mystification is okay. (Sure artists can’t rely on arts granting for financial support alone, other forms are needed as we mentioned earlier in the evening.) But just as all kinds of arts making are part and parcel of culture as a whole, so maybe are all kinds of grant making part of the equation. Some work for you, some don’t.
Maybe the “dichotomy” is actually a great way to divvy up the work at hand and lets us all do what we are best at and get on with it. As much as artists don’t appreciate granters meddling in the affairs, there might also be some truth to it in the reverse.
As my colleague at Artadia, who is also an artist, put it: What’s really the problem?
So with this I’d like to say goodnight, it’s been great wining and dining with you, Theaster, and with all of you who have read along and participated.