Opportunities and Competition

Colourful Army by Flickr user Maistora. Click image to view source. Colourful Army by Flickr user Maistora. Click image to view source.

This summer has seen a handful of terrific opportunities for visual artists in Oklahoma. Among others, I have just applied for a brand new artist residency at the landmark Skirvin Hotel in downtown OKC.

S.P.A.C.E. - The Skirvin Paseo Artist Creativity Exposition

This is a beautiful program, the first of its kind in our area. The Paseo Arts Association has modeled it off of a similar residency at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It includes studio and gallery space, a stipend, even free lunches - for a year.

The application was not widely publicized. But when I heard about it, I told my friends, I posted it on Facebook, and otherwise helped spread the word. I wanted everyone I knew to apply along with me.

Why create more competition for myself?

The fact that OKC now has an artist-in-residence program of this kind is remarkable. It elevates our entire community. I couldn't possibly keep this to myself, because it's good for all of us.

Competition fosters quality.

I know several of the other applicants, and they are great artists! I had to step up my game to compete with them. If every applicant makes their proposal as strong as possible in order to be competetive, then the winning artist is going to be a truly shining example of visual arts in Oklahoma. They are going to make us all look good by creating excellent art in a public, professional space.

I wish we could all win. Because we'd all be awesome.

But what if I don't win?

My colleague Liz Roth often says that she gets about a 10% rate of return when applying for grants and residencies, meaning that about one in ten of her applications is accepted. That's why she encourages artists to pursue many different opportunities.

I put a lot of energy into my proposal, to make sure it looks professional, is easy to read, and communicates my ideas effectively. If my proposal for S.P.A.C.E. isn't accepted, I still have a great idea to shop to galleries, or use to apply for grants or other residencies. (Need I say that I'll make sure to adapt it as per other submission requirements? It almost, but not quite, goes without saying.)

And hey, there's always next year!

I will be speaking at two Artist Survival Kit workshops this fall about writing effective proposals. Visit the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's A.S.K. page for more information on dates and registration.

Bonus: There is a slew of good advice about proposal writing at the OVAC blog.