Artists! This QCA Board Member has your back…

This article first appeared in Huffington Post.

Michelle Stoddart is a QCA board member with an inner artist.

As a child growing up surrounded by art, she was fortunate to see how her home and her life became a richer experience because of that.

No matter where her interests took her, Michelle has gravitated to art and found herself involved with the cultural scene in Queens.  She has spent close to 10 years being involved with Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) eventually joining the board of directors.

I was curious.  Why, exactly, is supporting QCA’s work in helping artists important to her?

Here’s our interview:

How does it make you feel to support the Queens Council on the Arts?

Personally, I believe in the arts, the value of art not only to individuals, but to people and the communities where they live.

To be involved with an organization that has a mission to support artists, arts & culture makes me feel I am doing work that is empowering on a multi-dimensional level.  My work with QCA gives an artist the opportunity to share their art, make a business of making art, help communities, inspire others – it supports so much more than 1 person and brings out all kinds of feelings for all involved.

For artists, there is a sense of accomplishment, for neighborhoods, there is a sense of joy when their art is displayed.  And when art contributes to the economic development of Queens and the city, the overall sense of pride cannot be underestimated.

My mom is an artist.

She is self taught and quite accomplished.  I grew up in a home where every inch was covered with artwork.  My bed was covered with her canvases.  She brought me all kinds of art shows, ceremonies and events.  Her work was recognized by the Governor General of Jamaica and presented to the Queen of England.  This is where my love and appreciation for the arts comes from.

When I was in school, many of my teachers were actually her students so I didn’t catch any breaks growing up. I probably rebelled against the artistic expectations people had for me being my mother’s daughter, which caused me to go in other directions.  I didn’t even know if I had any talent.  But just last month, I went to my first Paint & Sip class at a fundraiser and I showed my canvas to my mom who said, “Oh, this is lovely!  You painted this?”

Why was I running from this?  It made me want to delve more deeply into the arts on a personal and professional level.

How would you describe QCA to a friend?

I talk to a range of people everyday and I say 2 things about what QCA does:

  • It supports artists
  • It is a go-to for resources

At our recent board meeting, we talked about QCA being “an umbrella organization” that spurs the development of artist communities and the world of art & culture in Queens.  For me, the most important thing QCA does is provide grants for artists.  Once artists know about QCA, they discover the other resources: the grant writing workshops, the artist talks and networking events. QCA is good about being in different creative spaces around the borough and does a good job bringing creative minds together to share work and find out more information.  Artists can find out how to move forward with a project, how to develop a career as an artist building a successful business, what it takes to do a large city or state funded project.

The best first step for any artist is to go to the resource page on the QCA website and to look for specific topics. Pick up the phone or email for more information and to get some advice about where to go first. Everyone at QCA is very friendly!

What is the one particular thing QCA does that you feel the most strongly about?

I feel the ability for an artist to get a grant is a big draw.  It brings many artists together and shows them other ways they can build community and become more involved.  I believe this is the forefront of our mission.

As a board member, what is your vision for the future of QCA?

I think that our work with emerging artists is critical and must be celebrated in a larger way.

What if, for example, we worked on a project with LaGuardia Airport and committed our next grant cycle towards supporting artists from around Queens to create art that can be included in their new construction.  This could be a multiyear strategy to focus and celebrate the work of boroughwide artists in a specific area, rather than having their work dispersed throughout Queens.  You could think of this almost like a procurement process where you send out an RFP for work.  Over time, this could be done to bring the same concentrated artistic effort to different parts of the borough such as the Rockaways, Jackson Heights, Hollis, etc. until eventually all parts of the borough are involved. I know QCA is already working with developers to make the local artist community an important part of new construction and growth of communities.

In this scenario, QCA will be gathering, supporting, vetting the artists in a greater effort to celebrate the borough’s emerging artists for the benefit of the borough.

And what about working with the diversity in Queens?

I believe QCA must build strong partnerships and advocate with groups such as the Queens Theatre in the Park who champion work by Latin American artists, and Flushing Town Hall, a place known for presenting Asian art and the history of jazz and other American musical forms.  Here again, I see QCA as the “umbrella”, the one who starts, hosts and facilitates conversations.  We are the ones to host breakfast workshops for organizations, big and small, to come together to talk about diversity in our programming, our workforce, our audiences.

QCA’s work is filtered through our strategic plan which guides us to do more of one thing and less of another. Diversity is definitely a priority.

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In addition to serving as a board member for QCA, Michelle is a trustee of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning, the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens among others.  She is actively involved with the Queens Economic Development Corporation, the Queens Tourism Council, the Queens Museum and many more.

 

Artists, take note. Michelle has big plans for QCA to make it even easier for you to get grants and get your work out there in a big visionary way.
Hoong Yee

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About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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How Thinking Small Can Win You Big Grants

My Indianapolis panelist posse 

 

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post

It was the first time I had ever sat in front of a roomful of people applying for grants, board members, funders and the curious public who were hanging on every word I said as if their lives depended on it.

Why was this so unnerving?

Well, usually a grant review takes place privately so that the panelists can have an open discussion or sometimes an argument about the proposals sitting on the table.

This was not the case at this Arts Council of Indianapolis grant panel I was invited to be on.

It forced me, as well as the other panelists, to really think about what I felt was truly important to share and how to say it in a public setting before opening my mouth.

I began to notice that all of us were reacting to the same things as we reviewed the stack of grants. For anyone who took notes during the session, there was probably a goldmine of insights they could put to good use in the next grant they wrote.

One particular thing kept coming up over and over again for us.  When we ran across proposals that did this well, you could see our faces light up. And you could see our appreciation reflected in the scores.

Many people think of their proposals as their one shot to do something really big and meaningful.  To reach the widest audience with something for everyone.

Big mistake.

Why? This makes their focus vague.  It makes me wonder how well can you do something if you are doing so much?  And for so many people?

Yet, you want your project to have a big impact.  You feel like you are leaving out so many people and potential audiences when you start to limit who and what your project is for.  You start to wonder if your proposal will not be as appealing if you do less and for less people.

What was that one thing we all liked?

It was the courage to go small and be specific.

Not small in impact, but small in knowing exactly what the project’s intentions are and who they are for.  By going small, I mean setting boundaries around what the single focus of your project is and who it is for.

Jeff Goins, a writer and the creator of Intentional Blogging, a course for writers, offers this advice:

“And if I were to ask you, what do you write about? You might have an answer. But if I were to ask you, what’s the point? What’s your argument? Would you have an answer? This is important. This is something that all great bloggers do is whether it’s explicit or implicit. They’re not just saying something that they believe in. They’re trying to prove a point. They’re trying to convince you of something even if it’s memoir. Even if they’re telling a story, there is some lesson to it. And that’s the objective.

And, so, the question isn’t just, “What are you writing about?” Or, “How are you focusing?” It’s, “What’s the point?” What are you trying to say? What are you trying to convince the reader of?”

The rule of thumb is this: The more you narrow your focus, the more you broaden your audience.

Feels counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

It actually wins you more points because it forces you to go in deep rather that wide.  You will be able to sharpen your focus and give greater detail and specificity to why it is so important, who it is for and how it will happen.

Think about it.

Here we are, a group of 5 people from around the country who don’t know much about the art scene in Indiana, making decisions about who gets a grant and who doesn’t.  This is something many people don’t think about – it is so important for you to always assume nobody knows who you are.  Write your proposal with a few simple, clear goals and a distinct audience we can see in our mind.  The more specific you can be, the more detailed a picture you can paint for us, the better.

Here’s 3 things to help you get started:

Pick 1 outcome

Ask yourself a tough question:  Why are you doing this?

Here’s a hint: Your answer should be about making life better or more beautiful for someone.

Do you create art to awaken a sense of wonder in your viewer?  Will the story you write encourage someone to open their mind to new experiences?

A person looking at your painting or listening to your music must feel something that changes them.

See the change

Think of what you want someone to look like, sound like and talk like after experiencing your art.  Are they inspired?  Do they see colors differently?  Will they go home and think about all of the journeys made by people to make it possible for them to call this place their home?

Once you know this, you can create a project that best delivers this outcome to these people.

Do less, better

Everything you do must move you closer to delivering this outcome.  To making it possible for people to change. Do more of this.  Anything else is not necessary.

 

Hoong Yee

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About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

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3 Secrets of Artists Who Get Grants & Residencies

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

Erin Treacy, visual artist

Erin is a painter.

She is currently the artist-in-residence at the Paper Factory Hotel, a new program of the Queens Council on the Arts.  Actually, she is in the lobby where there is a constant stream of curious guests and visitors.

Offbeat? Yes.

Untraditional? Yes.

Intentional? Absolutely.

Like many artists in New York City, Erin supports her creative career by seeking residencies and grants.  Sometimes the number of people she is competing against is small, say 50 – 60.  Sometimes the competition for a limited number of grant dollars can be fierce with over 1000 people in the mix.

It can be really tough to put together a life around being artist. Many emerging artists run from one freelance job to another so they can carve out precious studio time leaving almost no time to write proposals and grant applications or cook dinner.

How do you land residencies and get grants?  Is there a closely guarded secret that other artists know and won’t share? Does someone have the perfect proposal that sails to the top of the YES pile over and over?

What Erin and other successfully funded artists have in common is a different approach to being an artist in the world. This approach and way of thinking is common to every successful artist and creative entrepreneur I have seen over the past decade as an arts funder.

If you are asking to yourself, “What if I’m not a writer, will that knock me right out of the running?” or “Who’s going to take me seriously? I’m just a beginner, nobody knows who I am.” or “Wow, this is a lot of work, where do I start?”

I have good news for you.  Everyone has the same concerns, no matter how cool or smart they look.  And these questions have very little to do with whether or not you will succeed.

When you are applying for a grant, a residency or pitching a project, what makes people say YES to you is your mindset.

Here are 3 simple mindsets that will immediately set you apart from the rest:

Your poetry, your music, your art is for someone else. Not you.

Think of yourself as part of the service industry and place the needs of the customer before your own. Talk about how someone will feel listening to your poems or music. Paint a picture of what effect or change will happen to a person experiencing your art. This is a subtle but powerful shift in how you position yourself to your audience and to your funders.  Show a funder you care about who they care about by creating art for them.  That you can be a great partner, not just a great grant applicant.

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Brian Sonia-Wallace, poet

Brian Sonia-Wallace, the recent winner of the Mall of America’s writer-in-residence, says that his poetry is for someone – someone other than him.  He plans to write 125 poems on an old school Corona typewriter that will be inspired by the mall shoppers and their experiences.  The mall representatives said this idea “stood out as creative and engaging.”  For his Amtrak residency, he proposed the idea of sharing his work by setting himself up with his typewriter in areas where people could talk to him and using social media platforms.

Go for delight.

There is a wonderful Jewish word, Dayenu, which means, “that would have been enough”. It is also a Passover song that expresses greater appreciation for blessings.

Don’t stop at Dayenu.  Go for delight.  Make something that startles people by going beyond what they expected.  People are attracted to joyful experiences.  They want that in their lives and if you are the one who can deliver this, they will want more of you which can often open up unexpected opportunities.

An artist applying for a major public art commission had an idea that was very similar to another finalist. He presented a vision of how people walking past his piece, a wall of colored glass, would be bathed in constantly moving colors as day moved into night transforming their everyday commute into a journey of light.  Then he actually lifted a sheet of glass to the window and instantly put all of us in that moment he described for us.

That was amazing.  We were so delighted we gave him the commission on the spot.

Write for YES.

Which means don’t stop at NO. Go for everything. There are so many reasons behind a NO that have absolutely nothing to do with you as a talented, qualified artist.

For example, you may be a composer who lives in the midwest with a terrific project that checks all the boxes, pushes all the right buttons and doesn’t get funded because last year they funded midwest artists and this year they want to fund east coast artists.  Or they want to fund sculptors. If it is a private or family foundation, sometimes it is simply because Uncle Phil started kayaking and decided to fund water conservation projects this round instead of music.

My advice? Toss NO over your shoulder, save your draft for another time and keep going. Again, it is not about you. It is about them.

You will find yourself in much more creative and positive places if you embrace these mindsets.  Like a hotel, or a mall or an awards ceremony.

But whereever you are, your career will attract all kinds of opportunities, success and people who want to be part of what you do because your energy is different.

Believe me, people will notice.

Hoong Yee

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About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

Follow HoongYee on Instagram

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Creating Joy is Not About You. It is Because of You.

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

Four artists.

Four dreams.

Four proposals.

Sometimes you can just tell from the first few lines of what they have written, or what they say in the first few minutes, whether their project will succeed or not.

And when I say success, I mean that as something that defines an artist’s entire career, not just one grant proposal even though many of the same contributing factors can affect both.

One of the artists in a recent proposal writing workshop said,

“I really want to give people a hands on experience that can change their perspective by directly participating in my project.  This will help me grow as and artist and develop my creative process.  And the grant will help me create new projects and help me develop new experiences based on traditional art forms.”

Her proposal had been turned down by another foundation and she wanted to know how she could make it better.

My answer was really a question.

“Better for whom?”

Why this is important

No one likes rejection.

Or the feeling that you have invested so much time and energy for something that has been turned down.

You start to question your work, you start listening to that pesky demon whispering in your ear at 2:00 am, you wonder if you really have what it takes.

How do some people make it through?  What are they doing that makes that all important difference between getting a grant and getting a rejection letter?  Is their success unique or a sequence of strategies that you can learn?

And, what are reviewers really looking for?

What you can learn from your competition

You have a creative dream and a passion to share it.  It is something that will make a tremendous difference for the people who experience it.  You need moral and financial support to bring this to life and to build a life around your creative work.

I have been thinking a lot about how to create spaces and opportunities for artists to make life more beautiful and vibrant and all of the reasons we choose to create.

After spending a lot of time reviewing grants on the city, state and national level, I have seen patterns of success in the proposals of artists who get grants and go on to build great careers.

There is one thing that makes grant reviewers like me sit up and pay attention.

My dear friend and colleague, David Johnston, said it best, at the end of a long panel session:

“I just want to be delighted.”

 

How do you do this?

Create from a sense of joy.

It will fill you with energy, motivation and a sense of purpose and the work you produce will often be more successful in the market or with your audiences whether they are ticket buyers, fans or grant panels.  These 2 values – creating work you are passionate about that is successful – are not always closely linked but there is a way to find that sweet spot.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Think about framing joy as your intention.
  2. Then take yourself out of the equation.

That’s right.

Creating Joy is Not About You. It is Because of You.

My answer to the artist was an invitation to rethink why she was doing her project.
If the intent is to help her to grow as an artist, who really benefits besides herself?  If it is to change a person’s perspective, and perhaps in a joyful way, the world will benefit, one person at a time.
Never underestimate the power of delight.

Hoong Yee

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About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.

What’s In Your Pockabook?

the Kelly bag

This article originally appeared in Huffington Post.

“The bag is at once, the simplest, the most complicated and the most emotion laden of accessories… because in one of its key manifestations, the handbag, it can be deeply expressive of a woman’s life – serving as a companion, a receptacle of secrets, a status object and a means of self display.”

from Fifty Bags That Changed the World: Design Museum Fifty by Robert Anderson

Well, that certainly makes everything in my bag much more significant so I am only going to have things in mine that are the best representation of me, and so should you.

I discovered the mysteries of a woman’s handbag with my Jewish babysitter.  Standing on my tiptoes, I watched her clutch her bag, thrust her solid fingers into the deep silky recesses and emerge with a toffee or a shiny nickel for me.

More revealing than her medicine cabinet, which was a formidable cabinet of curiousities, her handbag was a rare peek into her everyday soul. One that was fed by a scramble of assorted candies, cough drops, tissues, a Helena Rubinstein lipstick – always a brilliant red, loose change and bakery string.

I waited for those moments.  The ones where she would peer through her glasses and sigh, “Kindeleh, gib mir mein pockabook.”  And I would stand on my toes to peek into the deep universe of her handbag.  Her pockabook.

Pockabook!

How I longed to have one of my own.

And what would I put in my pockabook?  What precious items, things I wanted near me, things I would feel incomplete leaving the house without?

I consider everything I carry in my bag as urban survival tools.  They are everything I need to navigate my way through my daily jungle.

Here’s what I have in my bag today and why:

  • keys – can’t drive without them
  • wallet – can’t buy coffee or get into buildings in the city without little pieces of plastic with my name and face on them
  • phone – can’t deal with the ridiculous anxiety I get when I don’t have my phone. I know, that’s hardly a good reason but I can’t help it.
  • pencil case – yes, i still carry No. 2 pencils.
  • sketchbook – I love to draw people. And trees and conversations and attitudes.
  • a story to work on – there are always those unexpected snatches of time – sometimes just a few minutes, sometimes a 25 minute train ride – where I can get some thinking and writing done.  It adds up.

That’s it.

These are things I carry through my day but they actually carry my artistic vision closer to reality everyday.

Some people carry earphones to listen to music.  I will carry earphones to block out any sounds that distract me from what I am doing.

Some people load up their phones with games and movies to entertain them.  I load up my drawing apps with sketches.

Some people read e books.  I write ebooks.

I carry only what I need to get through my day and to capture it at a moment’s notice.

I am not a carrier of stuff.  I am a gatherer of images.

I do not need toys.  I need tools.

I am not a consumer.  I am a creator.

What are you doing and what is in your pockabook?

 

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Hoong Yee

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About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer helps artists & creative people grow their careers with great grant writing strategies & mindsets she has developed over 15 years as an veteran grant panelist, grant maker & grant writer. Get her FREE Master Grant Strategy Worksheet and a weekly dose of insights from a grant reviewer’s point of view.