Application writing tips for individual artists

Have a project in mind and ready to start developing your AFA grant application? This tip sheet is designed to help you complete your grant as efficiently as possible. 

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This resource provides helpful tips and suggestions for writing and submiting your AFA grant application, but for detailed instructions on using the GATE Front Office online application system, please download the user guide.

How to get started

First thing: email us to register for your username and password for the GATE Front Office online system. It can take five business days to process.

Please ensure you review the guidelines for your grant program before beginning your application.

Begin developing your grant by framing your project under one of the four application categories: 

  1. art production (artistic and cultural creation)
  2. marketing
  3. research 
  4. training and career development

Tip: Consider breaking down a larger project idea into smaller activities that could be applied for as separate projects.

Choose a start and an end date for your project. Figure out your timeline by asking:

  • What will I do to start this project?
  • How will I know when I'm finished?

You can then begin describing your objectives, determining your budget, and filling in a timeline for your project from there. (More information about these below.)

Who will read your grant?

Your grant application will be assessed by your professional colleagues and peers. Please keep them in mind as the audience for your application.

Give yourself lots of time to prepare your application. Researching your project will demonstrate to the Expert Panel that you can complete it as described.

Need help?

An Arts Development Consultant is responsible for each funding opportunity – they are available to help you. They can:

  • Assess your project’s eligibility
  • Answer questions
  • Given enough lead time, review your draft application  

Contact information for AFA staff responsible for your grant program is at the bottom of the page of your grant guidelines.

Please note the AFA is not affliated with any third-party websites that offer grant resources or services. AFA staff are available to support you and answer any questions.

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Application Process

All AFA grant applications must be submitted through the GATE Front Office online application system. This process entails filling out online forms and uploading PDF attachments.

Tip: Prepare as much of your application as possible before beginning to submit through GATE Front Office. The process can become cumbersome if you need to log in and out multiple times.

Your GATE Front Office application includes two parts:

  1. An applicant profile
  2. A project funding application 

Your profile includes contact and mailing information. It only needs to be completed once and can be used for multiple AFA grant applications.

Your project funding application includes several online forms:

  • General Information
  • Principal Artists
  • Applicant Agreement
  • Project Budget

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

General Information online form

Here, 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 (artistic and cultural creation): Paintings for exhibit, “Pastoral”
  • For marketing: Tour for the album, “Great Music”
  • For research:  Electroacoustic music techniques and their impact on ethnomusicology
  • For training and career development: Fiction Intensive Workshop, Banff Centre

Remember, the Brief Project Description is different from the Detailed Project Description, which must be attached as a PDF (and is described below).

Principal Artists online form

"Principal artists" is 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.

Project Budget online form

We provide lots of tips for completing your Project Budget below. Our main tip is: even though you will be required to input your Project Budget into a form, please 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. 

PDF attachments

Once you complete the online forms, the next step is uploading PDF attachments, including:

  • your artist resume
  • your detailed project description

Keep in mind these attachments must be formatted as PDFs. More tips on developing each of these are below. 

You may submit additional hard copy support material for audio, video and other media to the AFA office as outlined in the project guidelines.

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Artist resume

Your PDF artist resume should be clear and concise. Please include:

  • be discipline-specific
  • include only what is relevant to your career as an artist
  • be no more than four pages in length.

In reverse chronological order (i.e., with your most recent activity listed first), you may wish to include:

  • education background
  • work completed
  • performance or exhibition history, or published works
  • awards and other recognition
  • memberships in professional organizations or associations
  • volunteer work that relates to your artistic career
  • other related experience as appropriate

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Detailed project description

Your PDF detailed project decription is your opportunity to describe exactly what you want to do, how you want to do it, and why. 

Previous successful applicants have structured their detailed project descriptions like this:

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


Introduce yourself with a brief paragraph (5-7 sentences) outlining:

  • who you are as an artist
  • what are you proposing to do
  • why you want to do it

Follow up by describing your project in greater detail. Consider some of the following questions to help determine your objectives:

For art production:

  • What are you doing stylistically, technically, etc. to achieve 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 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, please 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?

For training and 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.
  • 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 your project, you can:

  • provide a rationale for those activities that are linked to your proposed objectives
  • outline the sequence of activities required

If you have listed Principal Artists in your application, describe their involvement in your planned activities.


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:

Example: 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 resume, and
  • explain how your career will be impacted by your project

Here are some questions to help you writer your expected results and benefits

  • 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?
  • 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. .

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Project budget

Now that you've described what you want to do during your project, you need to determine how you are going to pay for it. Your Project Budget is one of the most valuable tools the Expert Panels use to assess whether you can 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

Don't inflate your budget

Applicants can sometimes be tempted to inflate a Project Budget or exaggerate expenses in case they receive less funding than they requested. Remember, 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.

Do: ask for what you need

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.

Specific budget tips

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

Break 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 trainin and 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 clear, or whether you need to provide more information in the note field.

  • Do you have any “miscellaneous” amounts?.

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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.

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. 
  • Other support materials that may assist the assessment process, such as: catalogues, scripts, storyboards, published books, etc., that relate to your proposed project

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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.

When reviewing your draft application, 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.

Important: you do not have to be an established artist to apply for AFA funding. We will provide grants to eligible artists at any level, from any background, residing in any community in Alberta. You do not know whether your idea will be funded unles you apply!

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

Good luck!

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