Back in the summer a friend of mine pointed out a grant she was thinking of applying for with the Sustainable Arts Foundation. I had just finished the block of paperwork surrounding my application for a show at a local gallery and I thought, “What the heck! It’s not that much more work to apply for this.”
So I jumped in and applied. I went in knowing ahead of time that they were increasing their payouts to minorities to half of the available money, thereby shrinking my chances even further. But again, I already had so much of the written work done that it seemed silly to let the opportunity pass me by.
I got word on Tuesday that I didn’t get even the lowest tier of grant. I took a moment to be sad about the things I had made tentative plans about using the grant money for. But the email had this to say:
Earlier this year, we were proud to make public our commitment to racial equity. Confirming a direction we had been heading for over a year, we promised to make at least half of our grants to writers and artists of color. The response to this announcement was tremendous: we received over 3,600 applications, more than three times our average response. Applications from people of color increased from 20% to 41%. We are so proud to have extended the foundation’s reach.
Wow, does that take the sting out. Because the truth is, while I would have used the money for really fun things, specifically I would have furthered my education with it, that money wasn’t going to be the difference between me working on my art or me working a job to support my family. That’s more often than not a choice a person of color might have to make. I feel really, really good about a fellow artist of color getting to pursue their art AND provide for their family.
I’m struck again by how much I’ve learned over the past four years. Things, that even a year ago, I would have thought would be devastating to how I feel about myself and my art turns out are things that I tried and didn’t work out. And what I’m learning is that you have to try a lot of things to get a few things to actually work out. I started this year so sure that a gallery show would be the thing that I needed to happen. It turns out, that’s not actually true. I still want to have a gallery show, don’t get me wrong, but a show isn’t the magic bullet that will prove that I am a “real” artist.
My husband and I joke all the time that it takes ten years to become an overnight success. There’s just so much of success that is continually plugging away at the thing you love and surviving the various setbacks that crop up along the way. I have much to be thankful for this year even with my share of disappointments.