Semi-Annual Art Grants: How do they work?

Huggable Meps

Huggable Meps

My name is Meps Schulte, known to my Burner friends as Huggable. I’m a long-time Black Rock City Burner from Seattle who’s making a new home in Florida. This summer, I’ve been working with Burnt Oranges to establish a lasting process for administering art grants.

The first time I applied for an art grant, in 2016, I was confused and anxious. There were forms and spreadsheets, and when I hit “submit,” it was like sticking my hand into a scary black box. Who was going to look at my submission? What were they looking for?

Much to my surprise and delight, I received a grant for my project, Choose ART. I was able to transport the installation from Oregon to Florida, with a stop in Ohio to refurbish it. It was displayed at two Florida events, and the components, which live on a little trailer in Clearwater, are becoming a new interactive art piece.

Here’s the big thing I didn’t expect from my art grant experience: When I received that money from Burnt Oranges, I got a lot more than a check. What I got, and you can get, too, was permission to make art.

I’ve written this step-by-step guide to help you understand the art grant process, because I want you to experience that encouragement and permission. I want to see what you create!

Here’s what you’ll find in the guide:

  • A description of the process: How to apply for a grant, and what happens when you receive it
  • A list of the information you’ll need for the process, and at what point you’ll need it
  • Resources and contacts to help you succeed

The Art Grant Process: A Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Come up with an idea. Get it out of your head and down on paper.

Lots of times, inspiration for the next Burn starts at the last one. Did you see something at AfterBurn that got your creative juices flowing, and you can’t stop thinking about it? (Two words: Fire tornado.) Have you made something small that could be scaled up? Do you have any napkin sketches from the last time you and your Burner friends went out for beers?

El Pulpo Mecanico

El Pulpo Mecanico

If you’ve ever seen El Pulpo Mecanico, the giant fire-breathing octopus at Burning Man, you might be surprised to know that it started with a 12-inch sculpture made out of trash found in Mexico. Duane Flatmo made the little one on vacation, then scaled it up to enormous with the help of friends.

Step 2: Figure out your team

Setting up an art project

Setting up an art project

Think about what skillsets are needed to complete your project. If you don’t have them, never fear! Our community is full of talented people, and the art grant committee will do what they can to help you find resources.

Choose ART started out with a team of four, but eventually involved about 20 people, including 2-D artists from all over the world and experts in programming, electrical engineering, woodworking, wiring, painting, trench-digging, and logistics (aka shopping).

Step 3: Figure out how you’re going to make it and write a budget

Soldering Choose ART

Soldering little fussy parts

In order for the Art Grant Committee to review your application, they need to know what the money will be used for. For this, you’ll have to figure out what materials you’ll be using and what facilities you’ll need.

You’ll need to make a list of everything you expect to use to complete the project, even the parts that won’t be funded by this grant. There are two reasons for this: One is to demonstrate that you’ve planned it out well enough to succeed. The second reason is that your Burnt Oranges grant will not cover 100% of the cost, so you’ll want to show where the rest comes from. That might be materials you already have on hand or things you’re expecting to get donated; it doesn’t have to be cash.

Take a look at the BOI Art Grant Line Item Submissions, which lists what can and can’t be paid for by an art grant. Then turn your list into a spreadsheet, showing what you plan to buy, where you plan to buy it, and how much you expect it to cost. You’ll need a dollar total for the entire project, as well as what percentage of that amount you’re asking for.

Step 4 (optional): Got questions? Contact the Art Grant Committee!

Seriously, the Committee exists to help artists and facilitate projects. So if you have any questions or concerns, reach out with an email, and someone will help you figure it out. Remember, this is not a panel of judges. It’s a group of your peers who want to help you get your art to the Burn. They respond well to emails with “Help, help!” in the subject line.

Step 5: Submit your application (Google form).

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to complete the online application:

    • Contact full name
    • Contact playa name (optional)
    • Contact email address
    • Contact phone
    • Contact mailing address
    • Name of the art team/organization (optional)
    • Name of lead artist (if different from contact person)
    • Have any members of this team attended a prior Burnt Oranges event?
    • Have any members of this team received an art grant in the past?
    • Have any members of this team created something like this before? If so, what and where?
    • Name of Project or Installation
    • Summary of Project or Installation
    • Physical Description of Project or Installation
    • What makes this art project interactive? How will participants interact with it?
    • What is the philosophy or mission of this project?
    • What are your plans for lighting and safety?
    • What are your plans for LNT?
    • Do you plan to display this piece at additional venues? If so, where?
    • What is the project status?
    • Estimated Total Budget for the Project (enter a dollar amount, not a range)
    • Amount Requested for this Grant (enter a percentage of the total, not a range)
    • What other funding sources do you have? (include amounts and description of both monetary and in-kind support)
    • Planned Budget — this is where you upload the budget spreadsheet from Step 3
    • URL or FB page for the Project (optional)
    • Primary image (upload a JPG or PDF)
    • Secondary images (up to 5 JPGs, optional)

Submit the form and then sit back and wait while the Art Grant Committee reviews it. They should get back to you in a few days, even if it’s just to let you know they’ve received your application.

Step 6: Answer questions.

The Art Grant Committee may contact you with questions about your application. They’re not trying to challenge you, they’re trying to figure out how your project fits within the parameters of their grants.

Once that all gets worked out, they’ll notify you about your grant. They’ll congratulate you, tell you how much you’ve been awarded, and they’ll direct you to the next step…

Step 7: Complete the Art Grant Agreement (Google form).

Here’s a list of what you need to complete the Art Grant Agreement:

  • Contact full name
  • Name of lead artist (if different from contact person)
  • Contact email address
  • Contact phone
  • Name of the project or installation
  • Dollar amount of the art grant
  • Your fire safety plan (if applicable)
  • Your LNT plan

By submitting the Art Grant Agreement form, you agree to use the funds according to the agreement. If your grant is for $600 or more, you’ll also have to submit an IRS W-9 to Burnt Oranges to receive your funding.

Step 8: Get the first half of the grant.

Art is not a thing, art is a way.

Back panel from Choose ART

Have you started creating yet? If not, you have the funds now, and it’s time to get started.

Step 9: Complete the mid-term progress report (Google form).

Here’s what you’ll need to complete the mid-term progress report:

  • Name of project or installation
  • Contact full name
  • Contact email address
  • Contact phone
  • What is the status of the project? (percentage completed)
  • A description of the work completed so far
  • A description of the work left to complete the project
  • Is there anything we can do to help you complete the project?

Step 10: Get the remainder of the grant.

Build, build, build!

Step 11: Bring your art to the Burn.

Nest of Secrets

Nest of Secrets, AfterBurn 2016

The process of bringing the art will involve the Placement Team, who will figure out where to put it, and the Archival Team, who will document it and interview you about it. We also encourage you to create a display for the Indaba Project, which is our community shared space. The Indaba will have a somewhat protected space where you can share pictures of the creation process and in-depth information about your project.