I’m applying for my first Canada Council arts grant today. It’s been anything but fun. (Turns out, I would rather have my nails pulled out than write grant essays. I am assuming this feeling lessens with practice.)
It’s an equity/disability travel grant and I’m hoping it will offset some of the costs of the Paris program coming up in January. (There are a lot of zeros.)
Writing art grants are a big part of an artist’s life and it’s time that I started practicing. So whether I’m awarded any money or not, it was a useful exercise – I updated my resume, filled out their budget and most importantly, had to write an essay that would persuade a group of strangers who have never seen my work that I am a worthy of investing $1000 in.
It took me a week to write the 3 page essay. There was a lot of stomping around the house in between writing sessions, as I overflowed with frustration and fear.
Am I doing it right? Will they like it? What if they read it and laugh at me?
In the end, I just sat down and did it. No magic, just fingers to keyboard, words to screen. And after a while, I began to remember my passion for what I’m doing and forgot about the anonymous people reading it. I allowed myself to get caught up in the pleasure of writing something well.
I’m proud of what I wrote. It expresses clearly and passionately why I’m going to Paris and the Louvre, why I care, and how it’s going to affect my work. Even if nothing comes of it, I wrote something meaningful.
And the hardest part of all was naturally where all of the juicyness was hiding. I had to explain how the work I made was a part of “disability arts” – arts that express the views and opinions of disabled people. I was worried because my work does not immediately strike anyone as something that could be described as disability arts. It’s not political and I don’t make social commentary.
This is what I wrote:
At the age of twelve, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia. Art became my way of coping with my changing world and the physical discomfort of chronic illness.
The work that I make is a search for the opposite of my own experiences. In a world that can be harsh, I seek out the beautiful. In a life where my body has not always functioned the way I wished it to, I paint the intricacies of the human body to remind myself how elegant and exquisite it can be.
To be disabled is to sometimes forget your own humanity, to reduce your sense of self to only what you cannot do. And yet to make art is so distinctly human. I am interested in that humanity and the truth that resides inside it. My work is representational and realistic because I want to see the world clearly and without distortion; it is about truthful perception.
To be human is to make peace with our own fragile vulnerability and our strength, and for me, nothing epitomizes that more than the flesh, blood and bone of our own bodies. The Old Masters captured that sense in pieces that can still take our breath away, even hundreds of years later. I want to study and incorporate that understanding and that feeling into my own work.
It is nothing but honest truth.
And in writing and re-reading those words, they feel important. They feel soul deep. Sometimes it’s easy to forget why I started making art in the first place, the reasons and passions that drive me. I have seen darkness, I have been through trauma and suffering. My life has not been served to me on a silver platter.
But I believe in the lightness of life. I believe in the good, in the beautiful, in the kind. And I make art to remind myself and others of the beauty that is around us every single day.
I am not as sick as I used to be. I am lucky. Over the past 12 years, I have learned to manage my symptoms and it’s not something that even crosses my mind on a daily basis. Like a diabetic learns to monitor their insulin, I’ve learned to listen to what my body needs.
And now, I’m fortunate enough to be going on this crazy adventure, spending half the year in France, and studying the art that I love. I’ve been there the last 2 years and it still boggles my mind that this is my life.
It’s not easy by any stretch, and at the beginning of each new year, I have my freak out moment as I crunch the numbers for the year ahead and it always seems impossible. But somehow, between fundraising and loans, I get there. And I’m still going!
If you’re interested in finding out about my crazy French art adventure, click right here to read all about it. If you’re interested in helping me fund my dream, you can always sign up for Sketches from the Road!