Saturday, March 17, 2018

Taken. ..For Granted

"Each year, individual artists and collaboratives are anonymously nominated by a geographically diverse and rotating group of scholars, critics, arts administrators, producers, curators, artists, field experts and other cultural professionals. Each nominated artist is then invited to submit an application and work samples. We then convene discipline-specific panels comprised of artists, curators, historians, experts, academics, and, and producers who review all applications and select the finalists, who are then approved by our Board of Trustees. Please note that the fellowship is not an open application and is by nomination only."

I spent a few hours looking into the United States Artists grants. I'd never heard of it, but they take tax deductible contributions and give $50,000 grants to artists, regardless of how the money will be used.

At first I internally groused at the very underlying hot-button fundamental of the idea -- that the country's tax burden is shifted ever lower down the economic ladder when society's "haves" are able to dodge their share of the tax burden ever downward to the have-nots by the tax-deductibility of contributions that gain those haves social status.

But that's never going to change, so why grouse? 

But the reason I couldn't let go of the research into this grant is the hope that I too could maybe apply next year because it -- the dollar amount...the need.... hits so close to home.  Why complain when maybe the system was actually meant to serve me, right?

I'm not the lone potter/craftsman who, after more than 30 years making a living solely from craft, took the double gut-punch of the 2008 economic collapse coupled to the feldspar debacle...and have tried to manage a survival that rarely breaks even, despite still having good, marketable, honorable work. 

I could click off 5 artists -- artists at the top of their game, craft-wise, for whom $50,000 would be an absolute game-changer -- would get them out of debt, would allow them to continue their market-tested (not academically intellectualized and vindicated) excellence in craft. 

In the case of these artist/craftspeople, $50,000 would allow them to actually be contributing members of the tax base, rather than subsidized by public programs.

Their work is that good and sells that well....but the burden of previously incurred debt is a task master worthy of the most ruthless, merciless pharaoh. The banker comes first. Interest must be paid. And then interest upon interest must be paid.

Any day now
Any day now
I shall be released

But the United States Artists grant requires nomination.

And as near as I can tell, it's like most grants -- that is -- the chief qualification for receiving the grant is providing evidence that you are at the top of your craft anyway, and therefore don't really need the grant. You're just looking for the leg up that life in the upper crust -- life among those who can afford to give away $50,000 a year -- would place you.

It's sort of a perverse mirror image to the old maxim: Sell to the classes and live with the masses, or sell to the masses and live with the classes.
If you want to both sell to AND live with the're gonna need a grant. A good job in addition to your craft is apparently not enough.

I wonder what could give working craftsmen access to such grants? I wonder if a group like the NAIA or a panel convened by some connection to ZAPP or some potter's guild could ever be one of those "rotating group of scholars, critics, arts administrators, producers, curators, artists, field experts and other cultural professionals" who could nominate working craftsmen for such a grant?

I wonder if there is such a grant for working craftsmen who don't have other means of financial support (like, craft isn't their avocation or a second income)?

I wonder if nominees could ever be named from a pool of craftsmen really in need of a grant -- rather than the current model of granting money to those who, by virtue of the quality of the work by which they are judged in the first place, have proven that they don't really need the grant -- who already have incomes well in excess of any working craftsman I'm aware of? (The "Catch 22" of the grant system -- prove your worthiness for the grant on the basis that your work is SO excellent that you don't actually need the grant)

I'll stop whining now.


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