in creating exchanges, experiences, and structures to enact social change
Click here to meet the A Blade of Grass Fellows for Socially Engaged Art,
and stay tuned for the 2020 Fellowship Open Call this summer
About the Fellowship
We believe in the power of socially engaged artists to participate meaningfully in creating a more just, equitable, sustainable, joyful, and compassionate future. We know this means that artists must take time and care to develop relationships built on mutual trust, as well as work with diverse non-arts partners and communities. We understand there are no ready-made roadmaps or guaranteed outcomes for this type of work, and are committed to learning how artists navigate these processes and relationships.
Our fellowship program is meant to support courageous artists in creating exchanges, experiences, and structures that highlight seemingly intractable social problems, inspire audiences, and energize folks to participate in and sustain long-term social change work. This is hard and time-consuming organizational, intellectual, and emotional work.
For these reasons, beginning this year we are separating our financial support to fellows from our content and audience-building work for the field into two separate programs. This decision reflects our dual commitment to supporting artists who engage in high risk and high trust work that wouldn’t benefit from increased visibility of the process, as well as to producing high quality video, web, and print content, and experiences that push the discourse and expand audience for the field of socially engaged art.
We are committed to providing relatively unrestricted funding that incorporates a collaborative research component. Field research conducted by ABOG’s Director of Field Research replaces grant reporting written by the artist, and is grounded in the goals and areas of inquiry defined by the artist and the perspective of project participants.
Selected Fellows will receive:
- $20,000 in minimally restricted support
- Comprehensive written Field Research Reports that utilize action research methodology
- Expenses Paid 2-day Orientation Retreat in NYC to engage a cohort of peer artists and ABOG staff and board (a requirement for the fellowship)
- Ongoing invitations to networking events for all ABOG Fellows and Alumni twice annually (attendance voluntary)
- Ongoing promotion of fellow’s projects through ABOG social media networks and website
In addition to direct artist support, another primary goal of ABOG is to make the “invisible” parts of socially engaged art visible. We do this through documentary films, publications, web content, and public programming.
Fellowship Projects may become the focus of ABOG content and programming including:
- Curriculum and advocacy that advance the field of socially engaged art
- Inclusion in our new biannual periodical (available in print and free online)
- Participation in documentary videos focused on curatorial themes of interest to the field
- Other web content (podcasts, interviews, critical essays)
- Participation in ongoing public programs
Eligibility and Fit with the Fellowship
Art and artists are vitally important, so we encourage you to take a moment to consider fit and eligibility before committing your valuable time and energy to the application process.
- Our intention is to provide direct financial support to artists rather than to organizations. If you are working within a 501c3 nonprofit organization, then we can only fund projects that are beyond the scope of your paid work for that organization. ABOG can pay artists directly as individuals, through LLCs, or through a fiscal sponsor.
- If you are a collective, you must submit one application. Multiple applications for collectives are not permitted.
- Anyone registered as a student at the time of applying is not eligible.
- Lead applicants must be US citizens or US residents with legal work status, but projects may take place globally.
- Lead applicants must be at least 25 years of age.
- You are not eligible if you have received an ABOG Fellowship as an individual or as part of an artist collective in the last 3 years.
Fit with Fellowship
To figure out if your project is a good fit, ask yourself:
- Can I describe my project’s capacity to enact social change?
- Does the project somehow challenge, change, or invert inequitable power dynamics?
- Does it increase the possibility for greater humility, collectivity, communication and/or care in an increasingly polarized political moment?
- Does the project help participants or audience members engage in imaginative or restorative ways of looking and acting?
- Does the project propose forms of action in which participants feel like they can positively affect entrenched social structures and create greater hope for the future?
Do I, and do my partners, want to collaborate with ABOG’s Director of Public Programs and Director of Field Research to provide the following?:
- Regular, open communication regarding project status, planned events, timeline changes, and other relevant issues
- Some access to project partners and meetings
- Collected data necessary for meaningful reporting of the project
How To Apply
This year we streamlined the application process and are no longer asking for preliminary Letters of Interest. All interested and eligible applicants will submit their full narrative application and supplementals, with only finalists having to submit more detailed budgets and timelines. Full application details and timeline are below.
You will need to submit the following materials by the Open Call deadline:
- A max 2000-word project narrative that describes your project
- Up to 10 images
- Up to 5 supplemental documents or links (press clips, critic reviews, catalog text, videos, your own creative or analytical writing samples)
- A CV (or multiple CV’s if applying as a collective)
- An informational diagram that describes your stakeholder network and/or project participation
Starting in 2018 this is a two-step application process. Semi-finalists from the first round will be invited to participate in a phone call to determine finalists. Finalists will be asked to provide a budget and a timeline, and be invited to an in-person or video conference interview with ABOG staff.
- October 9, 2018, 6-8PM (EST): Fellowship Workshop with ABOG Fellow Miguel Luciano (Brooklyn, NY)
- November 16, 2018, 11:59 PM (EST): Open call closes
- February 4, 2019: Semi-Finalists selected, all applicants notified
- February 5-12, 2019: Semi-Finalist short phone interviews/feedback
- February 19, 2019: Finalist budgets & timelines due
- February 22-28, 2019: Finalist Interviews, in-person or video conference
- Mid-March, 2019: Selected Fellows notified
- May 9-11, 2019: Fellows’ orientation (mandatory)
Issue-based Fellowship: ABOG-David Rockefeller Joint Fellowship in Criminal Justice
This fellowship examines the transformational roles artists play in a criminal justice context. Applicants working in criminal justice are automatically considered, there is no separate application required.
Interested in joining a small working group? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll introduce you via email to two other artists interested in independently reviewing each other’s proposals. All applications benefit from being reviewed for clarity by people not associated with the project.
Not sure whether your project is a good fit? Have questions about the application process? Send us a short 3-5 sentence description of your project via email (not your full proposal) to: email@example.com. We will get back to you in 2-3 business days.
Please send us final questions by 5 PM (EST) on Friday, November 9, 2018.
Writing about a socially engaged art project is difficult! Here are some helpful tips:
- Don’t rely on jargon or name recognition! There is a community organizer on the committee that reviews your proposal who does not primarily function in the art world.
- Be sure to balance a strong articulation of your artistic vision and a clear “who-what-when- where” description of the process and outcomes.
- Address how you and your partners would collaborate with ABOG in field research.
- Get feedback! Make sure your application reads clearly to someone who doesn’t know about the project.
- Click here to download two sample applications written by 2018 Fellows Rachel Barnard and Miguel Luciano.
How do we evaluate the artistic value of the project?
- We understand that artistic value is subjective, which is why we strive for a diversity of perspectives amongst our selection committee. However, it is helpful for the applicant to articulate “where the art is” in the project.
- Does the artist have a strong track record?
- Is it aesthetically compelling or formally innovative?
- Can it act as a leading example in the field of socially engaged art?
- Do the work samples and supplementals give us a good idea of the artist(s)’ approach to the proposed project? If not, can the applicant explain why?
- Is the project ambitious? If this project is ongoing, does this proposal represent meaningful growth in the project?
Most socially engaged projects benefit from being represented in a sketch that clarifies participation and process. There is no single way to do this! Just make sure you’re clearly representing your project’s process and relationships.
Consider looking at models for inspiration such as stakeholder maps, flow charts, blocking diagrams, or taxonomies. This is not an art project. Legibility is much more important than drafting skill or artistic expressiveness.
Diagnosing the Competitiveness of Your Proposal
Transparency is a core value of ABOG—we want to give as much information as we possibly can to artists who are applying for the Fellowship. At the same time, we have a small staff and more than 500 people apply to the Fellowship every year, so we simply lack the capacity to offer individual feedback.
In lieu of individualized feedback, we can offer specific diagnostic criteria that you, or a trusted colleague, can apply to your proposal. Some of these are a matter of fit between your project and what we are looking for, and others are about how your project is being described in the proposal.
The Fellowship is designed to support artists that are using great art to enact a social change in the world. Our criteria for reviewing proposals are therefore looking at artistic value, a plan to enact social change, and the quality of the artist’s engagement practice.
Most non-competitive proposals reveal themselves in one of the following ways:
- The project identified a social problem but did not propose an inventive, ambitious, or aesthetically compelling response to it.
- The proposal reflects a gap between the project’s intentions or goals, and the artist’s training, relevant experience, or preparation.
- The artist(s) proposed to work with a community or partner without indicating how they have been (or plan to be) invited to work with it.
- The project lacked a sense of reciprocity or generosity–it involved participants investing significant time and labor to implement the project without their meaningful engagement throughout the creative process or tangible benefit at the end (eg new skills, resources, or connections).
- The artist(s) didn’t communicate an awareness of their bias and privilege in relationship to their collaborators.
- The proposal added a small community engagement component to an otherwise static public art project.
- The project conflated providing greater access to art with social change.
- Many social practice projects take the form of workshops, dialogues, gardens, mobile units, or education. Proposals that do not distinguish this project from many others like it are not competitive.
- The project’s primary impact was limited to the art world.