I was skimming some entries on the Americans for the Arts blog when a couple sentences made my eyes visually screech to a halt and shift into reverse because I wasn’t sure if I read what I thought I did.
Lawrence Brad Anderson, Executive Director City of Salina KS Department of Arts & Humanities related a story about a prospective grant applicant in a situation I think we can all empathize with–though with a very atypical ending.
Our new staff member did an excellent job reviewing the grant guidelines and preparing him for the process, but as the meeting was wrapping up, I saw that something was still missing.
“May I share an observation with you before you go?” I asked. “Sure,” the artist quietly replied.
“I sense that you feel you may not be worthy of funding for your expressed need. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You have prepared as a professional in your field, you are active in musical performances, and your passion for what you do is evident. In addition to your own individual expression, I want for you also to consider being a mentor and artistic leader in this community. We need people like you to be a positive voice as an artist and a valuable member of this town. We may not always be able to anticipate your exact needs, but you have my permission to push us, ask questions, and encourage your peers to step up their game and get engaged.”
As I completed my statement he lifted his head and I could see that he was silently weeping. Whether this recognition was the cause, or as a man of color in a largely white community, he was unaccustomed to being affirmed in such a strong way. The experience served as an important reminder of the role and responsibility arts administrators serve in their community.
As I say, I think we can all identify with feeling despondent that our programs or organization is not suited to the particular criteria of a funder.
But it is pretty dang rare for a funder to tell us explicitly that we are well suited for their program, challenge us to expand our leadership role in the community and encourage us to push them as funders.
I think we would all join the artist in silently weeping.