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About the Fellowship
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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.
We are committed to providing relatively unrestricted funding that incorporates a collaborative research component. Additionally, 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 A Blade of Grass staff and board (a requirement for the fellowship)
- Ongoing invitations to networking events for all A Blade of Grass Fellows and alumni twice annually (attendance voluntary)
- Ongoing promotion of fellow’s projects through A Blade of Grass 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. However, these content collaborations are not an obligation of the fellowship, and will be based on mutual interest under a separate contract.
Fellowship Projects may become the focus of A Blade of Grass content and programming including:
- Curriculum and advocacy that advance the field of socially engaged art
- Inclusion in our biannual magazine (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
Special Fellowships *New*
A Blade of Grass awards 8 Fellowships for Socially Engaged Art each year. Beginning in 2020, two of these eight will be granted to a Los Angeles-based artist (any age) and a New York City-based artist of color under the age of 30.
A Blade of Grass-SPArt Fellowship for Los Angeles
SPArt is a funding initiative that supports Social Practice Art projects that are located in and meaningfully engage with Los Angeles County communities. A Blade of Grass and SPArt are collaborating to offer one Los Angeles-based fellowship for each year from 2019-2021. Applicants who mark LA County as their project location in the online application are automatically considered, there is no separate application required.
A Blade of Grass Fellowship for POC Emerging Artists in NYC
For the first time this year, at least one of the fellowships will be awarded to a NYC-based artist of color under the age of 30 (as of May 1, 2020). A large number of our existing Fellowship applicants are established NYC-based artists—the POC Emerging Artist Fellowship will allow younger NYC artists to be competitive in the process. The POC Emerging Artist Fellowship will provide critical, comprehensive support that will make it possible for these artists to develop an ambitious project and the relationships that will help them build a sustainable career.
The POC Emerging Artist Fellowship period will be 18 months instead of 12, and emerging fellows will receive mentoring opportunities, project development assistance, and other professional development opportunities. The application process and timeline are the same, but a few additional questions will need to be answered in the form including: demographic information to ascertain NYC residency; age; race/ethnicity; and a narrative question about financial need and how the Fellowship resources would impact the applicant’s practice.
Eligibility and Fit with the Fellowship
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, we can only fund projects that are beyond the scope of your paid work for that organization. A Blade of Grass 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.
- 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 for all fellowships by May 1, 2020 with the exception of the POC Emerging Fellowships. POC Emerging Fellowships are for artists who are at least 20 and no older than 30 years by May 1, 2020.
- You are not eligible if you have received an A Blade of Grass Fellowship as an individual or as part of an artist collective in the last 3 years.
The Fellowship is designed to support artists that are using great art to enact a social change in the world. When reviewing proposals, we look at artistic value, a plan to enact social change, and the quality of the artist’s engagement practice.
For POC Emerging Fellows we will also take into account the applicant’s financial need based upon applicant’s explanation of annual income and expenses. Finalists may be asked to provide further financial documentation for clarification.
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 A Blade of Grass’s Director of 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
Open Call Deadline: October 16, 2019 at 11:59PM (EST)
All interested and eligible applicants will submit their full narrative application and supplementals through Submittable, with only semifinalists having to submit more detailed budgets and timelines upon later request from A Blade of Grass. Artist collectives are welcome to apply! They will need one member to submit a single application on behalf of the collective. Required application materials and timeline are below.
Submit the following materials by the Open Call deadline:
- A maximum 100-word project summary
- A maximum 2,000-word project narrative that describes your project
- Work Samples: A single PDF or Word document with up to 10 still images with captions and/or up to 2 video/audio links with captions and cue points
- Supplemental Materials: A single PDF or Word document with up to 5 supplemental documents or links (press clips, critic reviews, catalog text, your own creative or analytical writing samples). For longer documents, please provide key excerpts.
- A CV (or multiple CVs if applying as a collective)
- Contact information for three references
- An informational diagram that describes your stakeholder network and/or project participation. Click here to see examples.
Starting in 2019, 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 A Blade of Grass staff.
- September 10, 2019, 6-8:30PM (EST): Fellowship Workshop with A Blade of Grass Fellow Shaun Leonardo at ABOG offices (livestreamed on Facebook Live). Click here to learn more.
- October 16, 2019, 11:59 PM (EST): Open call closes
- January 14, 2020: Semi-Finalists selected, all applicants notified
- January 20, 2020: Semi-Finalist budgets & timelines due
- January 21-27, 2020: Phone calls with Semi-Finalists
- January 27-Feb 7, 2020: Finalist Interviews, in-person or video conference
- Mid-March, 2019: Selected Fellows notified
- May 7-9, 2020: First Feast (Fellows welcome reception) + orientation (mandatory)
Application Questions & Tips
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get back to you in 2-3 business days.
Please send us any questions about fit of proposed project by 5 PM (EST) on Friday, October 4, 2019.
Interested in joining a small working group? Let us know at email@example.com 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.
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 A Blade of Grass 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.
- 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.
Diagnosing the Competitiveness of Your Proposal
Transparency is a core value of A Blade of Grass —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.
Most proposals are deemed non-competitive because of a small handful of reasons:
- 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.