Application writing tips for individual artists

This tip sheet is designed to help you complete your application as efficiently as possible. Please ensure you also review the current guidelines for your discipline-specific project funding before beginning your application. You may also wish to review examples of application components provided for each discipline (where available).

How to Get Started

Here are some tips to help get your application started:

  • Before you do anything else, email us to register for your user name and password for the GATE (Grant Application Tracking and Evaluation) system. (It can take at least five business days to process.)
  • Begin by framing the activities you wish the AFA to fund in terms related to one of the four application categories (Art Production, Research, Marketing, Training/Career Development). While the life of your project may encompass everything from your initial idea to the delivery of the finished work, you might consider breaking down a larger project into smaller activities that could be applied for as separate projects in their own right.
  • Choose start and end dates strategically to conform to the specific activities for which you require funding, and outline your objectives, timeline, and budget accordingly.
  • Consider that your funding application will be assessed by a panel of discipline-specific experts (e.g., artists, teachers, curators, etc.). This means the success of your project will be determined by your professional colleagues and peers. Please keep them in mind as the audience for your submission.
  • Allow yourself ample time to prepare your application in order to research costs and logistics, draft a timeline/schedule, book equipment or rental space, gather support materials, and so on. Use this research to demonstrate to the Expert Panel that you can complete the project activity as described.

An Arts Development Consultant is responsible for each funding opportunity – they are available to help you. While Consultants will not comment on the merits or worthiness of your proposed project, they can assist you by:

  • Assessing your project’s eligibility;
  • Answering questions; and,
  • Given enough lead time, reviewing your draft application to help you submit the strongest application possible.  

Contact information for your discipline-specific Consultant is included in the project funding guidelines.

Application Process

All applications must be submitted online using the GATE (Grant Application Tracking and Evaluation) system. This process entails filling out online forms and uploading PDF attachments.

It is highly recommended that you prepare as much of your funding application as possible before beginning the process of submitting your application through GATE. The application process can become cumbersome if you need to log in and out of GATE multiple times.

Your GATE application consists of two parts: an applicant profile and a project funding application.  Your profile, which includes contact and mailing information, only needs to be completed once and can be associated with multiple funding applications.

Your project funding application includes several online forms that you will need to complete before you can begin to upload PDF attachments, including:

  • General Information
  • Principal Artists
  • Applicant Agreement
  • Project Budget (see section 5 for tips)

Here are some general tips to help you complete these online forms:

  • Under General Information, you will need to provide a Brief Project Description. This description should be no longer than 10 words, and should be related to one of the application categories. Here are some examples of Brief Project Descriptions:
    • For Art Production: Paintings for exhibit, “Pastoral”
    • For Training/Career Development: Fiction Intensive Workshop, Banff Centre
    • For Marketing: Tour for the album, “Great Music”
    • For ResearchElectroacoustic music techniques and their impact on ethnomusicology
  • Principal Artists is for a term that applies to a group of artists that shares creative direction, control, and intellectual property over a project as a whole. This also includes anyone who has a financial stake in the project. (An example might be a theatre collective whose members share control over the creative direction of a project.)
  • Even though you will be required to input your Project Budget into a form, it is highly recommended you develop your budget before you begin your online application. You may wish to use the budget examples provided as a template, and add or delete line items as appropriate. More tips on developing your Project Budget can be found in section 5.

Once you complete the online forms, the next step is uploading PDF attachments, including your artist résumé and detailed project description. Keep in mind these attachments must be formatted as PDFs. You may submit additional hard copy support material for audio, video and other media to the AFA office as outlined in the project guidelines.

Please review the GATE User Guides for discipline-specific procedures and step-by-step instructions:

Artist Résumé

You will be required to upload an artist résumé to your application. Your résumé should be discipline-specific, include only what is relevant to your career as an artist, and be no more than four pages in length.

Write and format your résumé with clarity and conciseness. Include, in reverse chronological order (i.e., with your most recent activity first):

  • Education Background
  • Work Completed
  • Performance/Exhibition History
  • Awards and Other Recognition
  • Memberships in Professional Organizations or Associations
  • Volunteer Work that Relates to Your Discipline

Note: this is a non-exhaustive list, in no particular order.

Detailed Project Description

Previous successful applicants have structured their detailed project descriptions in the following manner:

  1. Objectives
  2. Planned Activities
  3. Timeline
  4. Expected Results and Benefits

Objectives:

Introduce yourself with a brief paragraph (5-7 sentences) outlining who you are as an artist, what are you proposing to do, and why you want to do it. Follow up by discussing your project in greater detail. Outline the objectives of your activity and consider some of the following questions as you do so:

  • For Art Production: What are you doing stylistically, technically, etc. to realize your artistic vision for this project? Will your project lead to technical as well as aesthetic challenges? Does this new project mark an artistic departure from your previous work? Or does this project build on and further develop your artistic activity to date?
  • For Training/Career Development: Why have you chosen the program you have and why is this particular program important to your artistic development?  Include specific details about the training/career development opportunity to support your case.
  • For Marketing: What audience(s) are you trying to reach? How will you connect with that audience through specific media or promotional strategies? Does your marketing activity involve travel for a tour, performances, readings, special events, or other appearances that promote you and your work? If so, provide locations, itinerary, and promotional plans around those dates/appearances, and indicate if the dates are tentative or confirmed.
  • For Research: Does your research activity include experimentation in, and exploration of new techniques and materials? Are you consulting with other people, groups and sources as support for the creation of new work? How will this research support your growth as an artist?

Ensure your project goals are realistic. Expert Panel members support projects that are achievable and capable of being completed in full. 

Planned Activities:

In addition to describing activities essential to the completion of your project, we recommend providing a rationale for those activities that are linked to your proposed objectives, and outlining the sequence of activities required. If you have listed Principal Artists in your application, describe their involvement in your planned activities.

Timeline:

The project timeline is your best opportunity to demonstrate to the Expert Panel how you will complete the project within the start and end dates provided on your application. Timelines can vary greatly depending on the type of project you are proposing. Break down your activities into manageable components.

For example, if you are applying for funding for the creation of work for exhibition at an art gallery, you might break your timeline down as follows:

Visual Arts Proposed Project Length: 16 weeks

  • Weeks 1-2: Research and preparation for the creation of series of 8 paintings, including material and support purchases.
  • Weeks 3-8: Intensive studio work and production of paintings.
  • Week 9: Shipping of completed artwork to gallery and installation of exhibition.
  • Weeks 10-15: Exhibition of works on display, including opening reception and artist talk.
  • Week 16: Documentation of work on site and takedown of exhibition, return shipping.

You want to find a balance in your timeline between providing enough detail to give the Expert Panel a clear vision of your project, and not locking yourself into a schedule so specific that you have no flexibility to deal with unexpected delays.

Expected Results and Benefits:

The purpose of the Individual Artists Project funding is to support the artistic growth and development of individual artists. With this in mind, highlight key details from your résumé and explain how your career will be impacted by your project activities.

  • What factors give you a reasonable chance of success?
  • How will your project activity challenge your artistic practice, enable the development of your craft/skills, raise the profile of you and your work, or further your career objectives?
  • How does the specific project activity impact your aspirations as an artist?
  • Why are you pursuing this project at this particular point in time? Why is this project important to you? Why is this project worthy of funding?
  • Will this project have an impact on your artistic community?
  • If you are an emerging artist, or have not been active as an artist for a period of time, please address that context directly to help the jury understand your specific circumstances. .

Project Budget

Your Project Budget is one of the most valuable tools the Expert Panels use to assess your capacity to complete your Project Objectives as you’ve described them. Successful applications typically include a budget that is clearly related to the project activity: activities identified in the detailed project description should have relevant budget line items, and vice versa.

Applicants can sometimes be tempted to inflate a Project Budget or exaggerate expenses in order to mitigate risk in case they are rewarded with a lesser amount than they requested. We do not recommend this practice: again, your application will be assessed by professional colleagues and peers who have in-depth experience in your chosen art form and who can accurately interpret your budget. Where applicable, you may wish to demonstrate your research by including quotes for items such as travel, equipment, space rentals, materials, personnel, etc.

With that said, it is important to ensure your total funding request is sufficient for a successful outcome to your project. Don’t try to cut costs from your project under the misassumption that the Expert Panel will reward overt attempts at being frugal. A realistic, well-researched Project Budget that is aligned with your detailed project description will give you the best opportunity for success in your application.

Here are some specific tips to help you complete your Project Budget:

  • We recommend breaking down subsistence expenses into units appropriate to your project.  For example, if you are requesting rent in the amount of $800/month over six months, you would claim 6 units of $800 on your budget expenses. If you are attending a residency for five weeks, and accommodation will cost $250/week, you would claim 5 units of $250 on your budget expenses.  In the notes section of your expense type, specify what your unit is.
  • Indicate other support you may be receiving in your project revenue – whether through artist and/or exhibition fees, ticketing, sponsorship or other contributions, other funding or scholarships, in-kind payments, or deferred costs. Indicate if revenues are confirmed or pending. The maximum amount you can receive for project funding is $15,000, so if your project is going to cost more to complete, you will need to identify other revenue sources to ensure your budget is balanced.
  • If you are requesting funds for training/career development, Expert Panels often expect you to contribute towards the project costs. If you are requesting AFA support for the entire project, it is recommended that you provide a strong rationale for this in your detailed project description.
  • Double-check your discipline-specific guidelines for ineligible expenses. If ineligible expenses are listed in your budget, include notes on how those items will be funded (e.g. another funding source, personal finances, or donated-in-kind).
  • Consider whether your budget line items are sufficiently explanatory, or whether you need to provide clarification in the note field. Do you have any “miscellaneous” amounts?.

Additional Support Materials

Aside from the specific support material required by the Project Guidelines, you can also attach general support material to your application to lend credibility to you and your ability to successfully carry out your project. However, be strategic in your choice of materials: how will they speak to your ability to successfully complete your project? Consider including:

  • Reference letters from relevant experts in your field who can vouch for your artistic merit and ability to carry out the proposed project;
  • Confirmation letters from collaborating artists and/or exhibition venues and performance spaces;
  • Applicable reviews, press clippings, previews, photos and press kits that relate to your project; or
  • Other support materials that may assist the assessment process, such as catalogues, scripts, storyboards, published books, etc. that relate to your proposed project

Final Thoughts

Your funding application as a whole should be creative and compelling – but also concise and clear. Applications succeed, in large part, because of the quality of ideas proposed, not the volume of words presented. Most project descriptions are effectively conveyed in fewer than three pages. Consider:

  • Does the body of your proposal clearly define your project to someone who does not know you?
  • Why is your project important and worthy?
  • How will the project further your career or facilitate your growth as an artist?
  • Does the application demonstrate that you are good at what you do?
  • Does the application demonstrate that you will be able to complete the project as described and within the timeframe you provide?

Proofread! Have someone with good writing skills read and critique your application.

An Arts Development Consultant is available to provide advice and information if you need it. Contact the appropriate consultant if you need extra help.