Process Piece


Artist Files is a grant for individual artists working in a socially engaged manner that mimics a socially engaged art project.

It’s administered by A Blade of Grass and curated by Kalia Brooks. The grant has a three-phase process that will unfold largely on this website in July, August and September, so that the dialogue around what constitutes a socially engaged art practice and how one defines excellence in this emerging field is open to as many participants as possible. This means that you, the reader, have an opportunity to help us define what socially engaged practice is, how its manifold audiences engage it, and what constitutes excellence in this field.

Because the grant is curated, it has both a process and vision. As this grant unfolds in time, Kalia will be writing about this vision, and I will be writing about process. Both Kalia and I will be working in a call-and-response pattern to one another, to you the readers, and to our Advisors and Board, to continually refine the criteria for the grant until we have actual grantees.

Artist Files is a grant for New York City-based artists who are working innovatively by engaging communities. It’s an unrestricted grant-it’s not project funding. Grantees agree to share information with A Blade of Grass about their own economic sustainability, and A Blade of Grass agrees to share that information in a useful way with a larger community of artists.

Phase One: Studio Visits

As of this writing, Kalia is in the process of choosing twenty artists whose work is socially engaged. She is doing videotaped studio visits with each artist. The criteria for choosing these artists is available right here on this website. You can comment on it.  

We will be posting a dossier for each artist, written by Kalia, that contextualizes their work and includes links, excerpts of their interviews and other material. Comments are enabled on each dossier, and you are encouraged to weigh in!

All twenty participating artists will receive this curatorial lens on their practice and an online public discourse about their work.

Phase Two: Program

Around the second week of September, Kalia will choose ten artists from this group of twenty to participate in a program. Her criteria for making this decision will be published on this blog and, as always, comments will be open.

We don’t know what the program is yet, but we know that it should be happening around late fall. We also know that this program will be an expression of the core curatorial theme for the grant, which is generosity, and it will address the notion of the artists’ economic sustainability in a way that is useful for a larger community.

Out of twenty artists, Ten semi-finalists will be included in this program.

Phase Three: Grants

From this pool of ten semi-finalists, A Blade of Grass’ Advisory Committee will recommend four grantees to our Board of Directors based on criteria that will, as always, be shared on this blog and open for discourse. Our Board will award four $10,000 grants to artists based on Advisors’ recommendations. These grants are not project-based and have no spending restrictions. Grantees will have a reporting requirement, and will also have an explicit responsibility to share information with A Blade of Grass about their own economic sustainability. A Blade of Grass has a multi-year commitment to gathering information about artists’ economic lives with the goal of creating a resource for the larger artistic community.

Advisors will be choosing grantees using the online dossiers Kalia creates, and will be reading feedback from the larger community.

Only four grantees will emerge from the grants process. Each grantee will receive $10,000

Your Participation

Your thoughts about what constitutes a socially engaged practice or how to define excellence in this field are a critical part of this process. In fact, your participation is so important to us that we have decided not to develop criteria for aspects of the grant that haven’t unfolded until we’ve heard from you!

We also want to know who you are. Create an account so that you can share your website with us and remain in our system! If you are an artist, be sure to include your website. We follow all artist website links that are included in accounts!

Whether you’re a practitioner yourself or just an interested art lover, sharing who you are and what you are doing helps us contextualize our own work, and it helps all of us broaden our knowledge of what’s happening in this field and how it’s being perceived to new audiences.

Thanks in advance for your participation!

A Word About Discourse

Opening up a grant to public discourse is necessarily a partial affair. We feel that sharing our process, position and meta-discourse is helpful to anyone who’s trying to figure out what socially engaged art is. We are completely confident that sharing criteria for making decisions helps artists who are applying for grants. We know that you all won’t agree with everything we say. We expect and are looking forward to a fantastic, heated debate!

We are also responsible to the quality of this discourse and need to respect every participant. Here are our guidelines:

  • We’re committed to sharing frameworks, our curatorial position, criteria and even our meta-discourse.
  • We care so much about what you think that we haven’t built parts of this process because we’re waiting for you. The conversation we generate here could shape criteria, and will be available to the ultimate decision-makers, our Advisory Committee.
  • We are also expecting you to hold us accountable-to help us do what we say we want to do. Please challenge us, and keep us on track! We will never censor strongly held, or even strongly expressed, opinions.
  • We are responsible for the quality of this conversation. We will delete every comment that we find spammy, disrespectful, useless or distracting.
  • Decisions about individual artists just can’t be shared respectfully. We’ll never share why an Advisor or Kalia chose X over Y on this forum.

Let the games begin!

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