Grants and Residencies

Just apply. Rejection doesn't hurt once you get used to it.

Learning Objectives

  1. Consider your possible career paths and the role that grants and residencies might play in a variety of scenarios.  
  2. Apply your previous activities to the process of applying for a grant, residency, or other funding possibility.
  3. Learn about the experiences of successful artists.   

Career Paths and the Role of Grants & Residencies

There will come a time when your artistic road forks and you’ll have to make a decision about you career path as an artist. Applying for grants and residencies is a different issue depending on the paths you take. Here are some common scenarios:

A day job that provides an income and healthcare.

The pros for option 1 (the path I’ve chosen) is that I always have an income and I’m able to afford my supplies. I also have healthcare and retirement. An artist friend of mine eventually went back to work because of her need for social contact. Also, there’s a benefit of not facing the pressure of making work that “sells”, a factor that can sometimes force artists into making the same type of work over and over again.

One of the cons of this path (for me at least) is that I rarely have enough time to make art, and I have to sacrifice things like time with friends and cleaning my house in order to make the work. My ability to exhibit or attend residencies is also limited in this scenario because of time constraints. I have less contact with other professional artists due to my time constraints as well. However, despite having a day job, you should still continue to engage in the occasional residency or grant opportunity to ensure that your resume is diverse.

Supporting yourself through your art.

On this path, you’ll spend most of your time managing gallery and online sales, licensing your work to vendors or publishers, art fairs and/or craft shows, commissions and freelance gigs, grants, and residencies.

The pros are that you’re able to focus on your work in a way that provides deep and meaningful growth and your time is your own. You may be more well regarded in gallery and museum circles. You’re likely to be part of a community of other artists who are working towards the same goals.

The cons are that you will need to fund your own healthcare, retirement, and the costs of your studio through the sales of your art or through grants and residencies. Applications take time and energy as does managing your art as what is essentially a retail business. This can put a much strain on the kind of work you do and the time you spend on your work.

Independent financial support.

Some of you may be able to find a patron (spouses can be patrons) and some artists are rely on an inheritance or even retirement income. These artists have the time AND the financial support to make and exhibit art. There are fewer artists in this category.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on this path, be present for a moment each day and allow yourself to feel gratitude for the rare gift of making art with fewer financial pressures to distract you. Share what you know and learn about making art with young or emerging artists and pay it forward a little when you can. Be selective about the grants and residencies you apply for and only apply for the things that move your art in directions that you’re passionate about.

No matter the path you find yourself on, remember that you’re part of a community and that a rising tide lifts all boats. There’s enough room in the world for your art AND your neighbor’s art. If you find yourself surrounded by cagey, competitive artists, remember that they’re not operating out of a collaborative mindset, but out of fear. Seek out the artists who want community and collegiality and collaboration and engage with them.

An Example of a Residency Application

Below is an example of an application (along with some great advice) to a residency from Alaskan artist Sara Tabbert.

The videos are general advice about the value and process of applying for residencies. 

Sara Tabbert, Alaskan Artist

Artist Sara Tabbert
Application Materials
Advice from Sara
“The ITE application required some strategy and planning. Here’s a few things that I did that ended up working for me that might be worth passing on to your students.
  1. Waited until I was ready. I found this residency in 2017 – they only take applications every other year and pick all the people for two consecutive summers. I knew my work was changing in some important ways and I wanted to wait until I felt like I had a better chance.
  2. Looked at the successful past applicants. I felt I was a decent candidate as they accepted people with a wide range of different skills and interests – from traditional furniture to pretty wild sculpture. I am somewhere in the middle.
  3. Made sure to keep track of the dates. This application requires references, which means asking favors, which means being aware of other people’s schedules.
  4. Asked for reference letters WELL in advance and had a couple of backup folks in mind in case someone declined. I provided the people writing for me with information about the residency and some “talking points” or things I hoped they would address. Also, I had my references send the letters directly. The organization was good about letting me know when they arrived, but if they hadn’t been, I would have followed up with the folks writing the letters.
  5. Read the instructions carefully and formatted my materials accordingly. I usually break down the application requirements and make a list of what they want and how they want it. Sadly EVERY application is completely different, and it is always easy to make mistakes. (And I do sometimes.)
  6. Ran all my written materials and image selections past a “trusted reader” and took criticism and corrected weak spots. There is nothing here that is not true or is inflated. The only change in circumstance is that in the time since the application I came to realize I can’t go to school for three months so I’ll only be taking a one-month course. I don’t ever fluff up my applications. Seems like it could bite you.
  7. Submitted with time for something to go wrong.
  8. Did not expect to be successful and was very surprised when I was. I OFTEN do all of these things just as carefully and am unsuccessful.”
More About Sara

Sara Tabbert is a printmaker and mixed media artist from Fairbanks, Alaska. With an MFA in printmaking from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, her love of woodblock printing has led to the creation of carved, painted wooden panels. In addition to smaller work, Tabbert’s large-scale public art commissions can be found throughout Alaska. Her work is housed in public collections through the state and far beyond. In early 2020, the Alaska State Museum presented a solo exhibit of her recent work.

Tabbert has been awarded grants from the Rasmuson Foundation and the Alaska State Council on the Arts. In addition to residencies in the US, Canada, Argentina, and Italy, Tabbert has been a summer and winter artist in residence through the National Park Service in Denali, Zion and Isle Royale National Parks, as well as on the Chilkoot Trail in a joint residency hosted by NPS and Parks Canada. She was recently selected as a 2021 Windgate Fellow at the Center for Art in Wood in Philadelphia.

Sharing art with young people is one of Tabbert’s priorities and she has worked actively over the past ten years as a teaching artist with schools throughout Alaska. When not in the workshop, she enjoys skiing and hiking with her 4 dogs.

Example of a Rasmuson Grant Application

Below is Alaska musician John Ingman’s successful application for a Rasmuson Project Award. The videos were made by the Rasmuson Foundation and provide great advice. 


John Ingman, Alaskan Artist

John Ingman with a traditional Irish instrument
Advice from John

This was for an emerging artist award. I made sure that my emphasis was on advancing my playing, and so everything I put in my application showed why this is important

Question 1 Describe what do you plan to do if you receive an award. 

I had three distinct parts of the plan – 

  • 1st part showed that the person helping me was totally qualified to advance my craft,
  • 2nd part showed that I wanted to be part of a larger community of people who do what I do, 
  • 3rd part showed that I want to become more immersed my craft in Alaska 

Question 2 Describe how will your plan advance/enrich your artistic development and/or career.

  • In this question I showed that my craft is rare world wide, and that I am the only one practicing in Alaska,
  • I then showed how my plan would advance my abilities and the benefit to Alaska,
  • I also made the point that I could not do this without the award.

Question 3 Why is it important for you to undertake this opportunity at this point in your career?

I start this section saying that I personally feel like I could not advance without help from others,and that I could not advance my career without the award.

The Timeline
I made sure that my timeline was detailed with what I was going to do in my lessons (the main item in my application). I did not put in dates, as I wanted to make sure I mastered each section, and didn’t know how long things would take. I made sure that my timeline was in alignment with the 3 questions.

The Budget
I did research to see how much things would cost, especially travel. This is, of course, estimates, but I wanted to make sure they were pretty accurate. I also made sure that the total equaled the $7500 award amount. This means I may pay out of pocket for things like a rental car, but I found that buying tickets in advance can save money and then allow for payments for some of these extras.

Work Samples
I tried to give samples that showed I was at a caliber of playing to warrant an award, and also to tie together my application with what I actually do. Work samples will obviously differ depending on your craft. I had a recording I had done a few years ago that I included, because I knew the quality was good. My other recordings were less than 3 months old at the time of my application.

I opted to get feedback, although I have heard that it is not as useful if you do not get an award, because it doesn’t give specifics as to why you are not chosen. This is the feedback I was given; It’s not a lot, but gives a bit of insight into what the adjudicators looked at:

  • I understand how the artist would realize this project and it sounds like the artist plays for the Sitka community.
  • Narratives and work samples supported and substantiated one another to further advance skill and ability to complete the project.
  • Sweet application. A lot of passion behind it.
  • Narratives and work samples supported each other. 

It’s not clear to me what, if anything, I will need to do at the end of the grant year, butI have a giant spreadsheet going now just in case. It shows where I spend every penny of the award, and also is a diary of everything I am doing. I spend a lot of time keeping it updated.


A few things you should be prepping for and working on.  


Keep going. Make sure you’re connecting with others using the #artisapractice hashtag!


Don’t forget that you should be working on your images, relevant information about your pieces, expenses and income, and any other record-keeping needed to keep track of your work. 


Cafe and Submissions

Make sure you have your account!  


How is this coming along? Make sure you chat with me if you’re struggling.