Private arts supporting foundations and the Arts Promotion Center of Finland offer grant writing workshops for individual artists and working groups. I’ve been to a few info-events and they are useful, particularly if you are new to the scene. I’ve learned that when you write for one organization you can easily reformat your texts to fit in the procedures of another. Many of them use the same web platform for application submissions, which means that mismatches are easily resolved. Only a paragraph here and there might need work. One organization might look for proposals which support local cultural practices (nationally defined) and an other seek to advance a particular artistic medium or field (design/performance). Adding emphasis is a cosmetic manoeuvre. My desire can be to work in public spaces and I can sincerely frame this as a “localized cultural practice” or an attempt to “make performance art more accessible”. This does not affect what I’m doing (making space public) or how I view my own work.
I understand why funding organizations call for proposals with specific goals. They serve their mission and align with policies that are set by the state or the city. The same cosmetic manoeuvres are at play on both sides. Understanding budgeting, project management and how to frame artistic aims within an organizations mission is good to learn. Writing an application is learning how institutions think. There is always a chaotic element involved. Even when you follow guidelines and your peers review a proposal, it can (and most likely will) get rejected. Organizations don’t offer feedback for individual artist (feedback is sometimes provided for associations which employ people). The best feedback I’ve received has been from peers who have worked in the proposal evaluation boards. Most of them say that short and easy to read texts work best. Most of them have also revealed that luck is very much involved in the process.
I enjoy developing proposals. The writing process sets a trajectory for my work and keeping my CV updated is good for maintaining an archive on where I’ve been and with whom I’ve traveled with. But recently I’ve begun to wonder who is teaching the foundations and the arts promotion centers to read applications? I don’t think it’s in anyone’s benefit that artists learn to make cosmetic maneuvers in aligning their desires with the vague organizational goals of exclusive institutions. A more beneficial cultural movement would be that applications would be written as the applicants pleases and the institutions would use their resources in learning how to read. How can we teach institutions to read? This is a naïve wish. I fear that people who have money get to decide what will happen next. I only have the power to make proposals. This is a good power but only sends weak signals.