‘We live in a very competitive, nepotistic society’

The “starving artist” is a long-suffering and unhelpful trope. Ask any artist and I’m sure they will tell you that they like to eat as much as the next person. Why has society normalized the idea that economic sacrifice and art-making should go hand in hand? Where does art funding go, and to whom, how can artists make money and not be pale in asking for it, and how can institutions support new artists so they do not burn out and give up?

Aoife Scott is a graphic artist and painter from Dublin. “The Arts Council’s awards are notoriously hard to win,” she says. “I found out that the people who get them have been trying and applying for a long time – they’ve been talked down,” she says. “There are online workshops to give you the application details and how to fill out a form. But I would love to see examples of previously successful applicants who have won large sums. That would be really important. I would love to hear from some of the people.”

Scott received an Agility Award through the Arts Council earlier this year, after missing out on funding on three previous occasions. For Scott, the securing of funding this time was due to a few things: practice, practice, practice, along with approaching and asking for feedback from the financiers. “I find it quite intimidating or intimidating to approach funding agencies,” she says, “but they give really good feedback. For example, you can not just give a general idea of ​​a project, they want to know the details. I’ve gotten better with time, and I force myself to write and write. ”

The Agility Awards was a pilot awarding to applicants who had never received support from the Arts Council before. “I think the Arts Council was easier for people this year,” Scott says. “I think they may have realized that it was the same people who won awards. They wanted to reach out to those who might not be so confident, not because they did not have a good project.

Agility Awards

“There was a huge buzz around the Agility Awards, about how easily people found the whole process,” says Monica Corcoran, Strategic Development Manager at the Arts Council. “We were happy to hear that. We made the material much more accessible and user-friendly. We got it translated into plain English by the National Adult Literacy Agency. We divided the material into smaller sections and we tried to disseminate it more widely,” she says. The Agility Award was the first time artists like Scott had a chance to be recognized – but did it extend to the societies that tend to be underrepresented in the arts?

Chinedum Muotto is a self-taught poet and multidisciplinary artist who is currently completing her residency at IMMA and the Dublin City Culture Company. Originally from Biafra, Nigeria, Muotto moved to Ireland when he was 10. He studied business and then sociology before turning into the art world, but as a black person in Ireland he is constantly reminded that historically no funding has been awarded. to people such as Hi m.

“We live in a very competitive, nepotistic society. How funding is distributed is competitive,” he says. under-represented society, I’m basically poor, I have no money.If I have no money and I have not had access to these powerful institutions, then how can I do anything beyond the confines of my own society? What about single mothers who want to seek funding, they may need help caring for children – or people on social assistance? How do people like the Arts Council diversify so that they can reach these people? ‘

Marginalized societies

Corcoran and her team have been pursuing their policies on gender equality, human rights and diversity over the last 18 months. She discusses some of the work being done to address the lack of access to funding for marginalized communities. “Last year we ran a consultation process with artists from a wide range of backgrounds and there was a strong perception that art in Ireland was a closed shop, especially for people who did not come from Ireland. That the decisions were made by the middle class, “white people who appointed those who looked like themselves. There are a lot of complex institutionalized things that need to be addressed over time. We do not want people to feel that there is any kind of institutional barrier,” she says.

Poet and multidisciplinary artist Chinedum Muotto: “We live in a very competitive, nepotistic society.  How the funding is distributed is competitive.  It's all about money and finances. ”

Poet and multidisciplinary artist Chinedum Muotto: “We live in a very competitive, nepotistic society. How the funding is distributed is competitive. It’s all about money and finances. ”

Time – or lack of it – is also a huge barrier for artists. Artists are timeless, without money they are a one-person show running their own business, ranging from budget management, to producing projects and being aware of social media to networking, writing proposals and pitching their work. “That’s before you get to making any art,” Muotto says.

“These applications are so tedious that I spend 75 percent of my time applying for these things. The whole process is so time consuming,” he says. “We work in a corporate structure where you have to deliver the art on time at a specific time. , art does not always work that way – it is process driven as opposed to product and result driven. You have to sit with it. “

Fingal County Councilor Rory O’Byrne emphasizes the importance of giving people space and time. He explains how his office does not always seek to reward artists with a fully conceptualized project, but they want to give artists the opportunity to reflect on their practice of developing their projects. “I seek to give people a chance to be creative – it takes time and peace and quiet,” he says. Along with Arts Council funding, Scott successfully secured funding from the Fingal Arts Office, which is tasked with distributing money to its local artists. She talked to artist friends and peers and learned that local art offices provide amazing support to new and emerging local artists. “I approached Fingal to discuss my project plans with them and the whole process was very easy,” she says.

Solo exhibition

Thanks to this funding, Scott was, for the very first time, able to hire people to help her produce and host her first solo exhibition. Along with financial support, Scott was also awarded a stay at the Loughshinny Boat House – an art studio in North Dublin and the perfect place to create his work, which explores themes of the sea and nature. “I was looking for the purpose of preparing my work there, it was the perfect place for me – to be by the sea.” The studio gave her time and space to make her art.

There are other art offices in the country that understand the importance of giving a project time. Ann Marie McGing, acting arts worker at Mayo County Council, operates a tight ship in partnership with arts and disability coordinator Damien O’Connor. For nearly two decades, the Mayo Arts Office has fostered a county-wide culture to support people with disabilities to produce new work. This has resulted in heritage projects such as Upstart, which since its inception in 2010 has led to 51 partnership projects involving 116 artists and facilitators around the county. “The upstart program has been running for 11 years now. We award 90 percent of our applicants. It’s a small pot of money, but it’s the difference between a project happening and it not happening, ”says McGing.

Aoife Scott:

Aoife Scott: “I find it quite intimidating or intimidating to approach funding agencies, but they give very good feedback.”

‘The groups we work with now are quite established, they’ve been doing this for a number of years. We would be a very accessible resource – we run clinics around the application process to explain what we are looking for and what kind of support material makes it a better application. I would encourage anyone applying for support, regardless of ability, to make sure you go back. Financing agencies are more than happy to give you that support. We want people to make better applications. “

‘Artists as clowns’

“Our success has been two decades in the making. These things do not happen overnight,” she says. While Mayo and Fingal are representative of a number of dedicated local art offices around the country, there are still big gaps to fill. “We’re still trying to reach places that do not have easy access to art,” says Corcoran. “It’s crucial that this happens in childhood – this is where people develop their cultural capital and their comfort with art and culture.”

“What is culture for the Irish?” asks O’Byrne. “It probably has more to do with traditional music and sports. Change must take place in education. See how it is reported in the media. You hear a whimsical story about some strange piece of art, then people see artists as clowns. Art colleges must offer courses on ‘How to present yourself to the art world’, to arm artists with the skills to survive. The great success for Irish artists is to be able to survive, ”he says.

Just surviving for artists should not be the status quo. “I have tremendous respect for artists in their 50s and 60s who survived, some gave up having families or secured housing,” O’Byrne says.

This level of commitment to their art form may be commendable, but it is not acceptable. Institutions need to help artists so they can do more, with more, so that they can not only survive but thrive.

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