Feedback Loop: Houston Arts Alliance Offers Face Time to Unlucky Losers

by Bill Davenport April 21, 2012

“By this time, you should have received a letter from the Houston Arts Alliance regarding your Individual Artist Grant Application, and the process for following up regarding reconsideration and/or review of specific panel comments. Whereas, it is always our policy here at the Houston Arts Alliance to engage our grant applicants and grantees, we are here to support and encourage your growth and development as an artist. Thus, we are offering you a unique opportunity to meet with the Grants Department and discuss your application and the specific panelist comments you received in the review. If you do have time in your schedule and wish to meet with our staff, this will only strengthen and empower your next endeavor to apply for Houston Art Alliance Grant funding.”

For several years, Houston Arts Alliance has included written comments with individual artist grant rejections. These explanations, while sometimes helpful, are often silly, and usually humiliating, especially given the fact that the primary reason for most grant rejections is unspoken: there simply isn’t enough money for everyone, and someone else got it.   If I’m reading this aright, losing artists now have the opportunity to be humiliated in person, if they, in HAA’s words “choose to take advantage of an opportunity to empower yourselves.”

Last year, Culturemap‘s Joel Luks reported on his experience as an HAA panelist, reporting on the caring but clueless process of selecting artists for support based, for fairness,  primarily on the quality of their grant applications, rather than the quality of their works.


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mayb next time it'll b u April 21, 2012 - 10:59

Keep your chin up Bill. Many great opportunities are HANDED to you b/c of your position at glasstire. Such is life but allow others to enjoy their moment.

Bill Davenport April 22, 2012 - 10:28

Full disclosure: I have neither applied for, been rejected, or served on a panel for this round of HAA’s Individual Artist Grants; precisely why I thought now was an appropriate time for me to comment!

Agreed April 22, 2012 - 12:55

With 25% of the points awarded according to the works potential to encourage tourism and the fact that the application asks for 3 digital images it’s implied from the start that artistic merit is less than all-important. No doubt the jurors have opportunity to creatively interpret the point system but with such an area-specific grant they should find some way to look at actual work if non-digital and minimize the role of paperwork, credentialism, and skills often not common, even distasteful to, artists.

Judging from the linked article it doesn’t sound as if they are so flooded with applicants as to make this impossible or even difficult.

Jenni Rebecca April 24, 2012 - 13:33

To play devil’s advocate, is it better to leave them 100% in the dark? Having sat on these panels before, I know some very well-respected artists and entities who have been docked for phoning the application in, so to speak. If the work is worthy (and capable of receiving grants from a wide variety of funders), should mediocre grant-writing efforts be rewarded by an agency answering to city officials and the general public all too eager to drain this funding in its entirety? And should panel decisions be called into question, wouldn’t it be beneficial to know that it was not due to the quality of the work samples, but rather, that the narrative is incomprehensible or the budget unreasonable?


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