No blog last week, sorry about that, but it was time to write the Institutional Support Grant for the North Dakota Council on the Arts. This grant is submitted every three years and is very important to sustaining our organization.

Colorful banners coming soon!

Let’s not mince words here, grant writing isn’t much fun, in fact, it can be downright painful. There are lots of hoops to jump through and everything needs to be just so, like specific margins on the page, type size, length of narrative, etc., and they ask all kinds of probing questions…

Organization Description: Give a brief description of your organization and its structure, including number of individuals in membership and/or benefiting. Describe what you have been doing for the past two years. How do you evaluate your programs? How successful have you been?

Community and Its Needs: Describe your community, including the economic and population characteristics. What community members beyond your organization are included in planning, implementation, and participation in your programs? How has your organization made an impact on your community in the past? Which of your organizations programs/projects has had the most impact on your community? What ethnic groups/cultures are in or near your community? Are they included in any planning or programming? How does your programming involve your community’s underserved or special constituencies? Who are your community partners in developing programs/projects? Who are your main community supporters? How are they supportive? Give examples.

Quality of Programs: What are the artistic priorities of your organization (artistic excellence, arts education, service to other organizations, showcasing ethnic arts, etc.)? How do you determine artistic quality? How are artists selected? Do you include North Dakota artists? How is this reflected in your choice of artists and programs? What is the selection process? Who is involved (staff, artists, educators, board members, etc.)? How will your proposed programming broaden public value of the arts? How are programs promoted and audiences developed? Do you have any new programs planned? If so, what are they?

Administrative and fiscal profile: Describe the structure of the organization (include staff, board, volunteers, and support organizations.) How did you develop your strategic plan and who was involved in the process? How does your plan reflect your mission? Does your plan include strategies for audience development? Have there been, or will there be any significant managerial/administrative changes in the past two years? What impact does this, or will this have on the organization? How do you evaluate programs? How do you know if you are succeeding in your mission? Have you made changes to programming based on evaluations? Give examples. Describe your organization’s financial history and current financial situation. If you currently have a deficit, describe what caused it and what your plans are to address it. Include any major changes in funding that might occur in the next 2 years. Do you have an endowment or reserve account? If so, what is its anticipated use? Describe your primary sources of funding for your programs not including the NDCA grant funds.

Ok, you get the point, there are lots of specific questions and only 5 pages to answer them. So I procrastinate, grumble and sometimes swear, but eventually settle into getting the work done. And contrary to what you might think, I don’t feel drained but “enthused” (is that a word?). I told our esteemed director, Taylor Barnes, “wow, doing this makes me  feel so proud of the Arts Center!” I’m not kidding.

To get the grant done, I outlined every activity, every class, every collaboration, every exhibit, and every performance for the last three years and all I can say is WOW, this is AMAZING. For a “small” arts organization with an equally “small” budget we are doing a tremendous amount of programming for the Jamestown community and the arts community at large.

204 individual activities since July 1, 2010 (note: this number doesn’t include 33 weeks of Arts After School and an average of 30 weeks of Artist Residencies in Jamestown Schools)

All this, in addition to a building renovation, ya, you betcha!  All this is a credit to a well-run operation, an energetic staff, great North Dakota artists, strong community support and good leadership.

Good leadership can’t be discounted. Taylor Barnes has headed The Arts Center for 16 years and behind the scenes for that many more years. She is a wonder-woman for the arts and her passion and support for all the arts (and artists) extends well beyond the scope of The Arts Center. She is well deserving of the North Dakota Governor’s Award for the Arts in the “Individual” category which will be presented next Wednesday, March 27 in Bismarck. If you haven’t already, please join us in thanking Taylor Barnes for her tireless contribution to the Arts in North Dakota and the Jamestown area.

I am happy and lucky to work with Taylor–she embodies all the attributes that make an art director successful and respected and to put the cherry on top…she’s fun to be around, compassionate and full of conviction–that a world without creativity is just not an option–no matter how difficult achieving that goal might be!