Application Tips with Kevin Ei-ichi deForest

from Papi and Okasan: Lion’s Manor Rooftop No.1 and 2 by Kevin Ei-ichi deForest. Oil on linen and canvas. 2017. 18” x 43” x 4”


To help you prepare the best possible application for a MAC arts grant, we’ve enlisted the help of a few assessors who’ve served on a MAC peer assessment panel over the past year. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing some tips on writing successful grant applications, putting together a project proposal, and more wisdom from inside the panel room.

First up, we have Kevin Ei-ichi deForest (he/him), a visual artist born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He studied at the University of Manitoba (BES 1983, BFA 1986) and Concordia University (MFA 1994). His art practice includes painting, drawing and video installation. His work has focused on the representation of his mixed-race Swiss/Japanese identity through the lens of popular culture and family photography. deForest has exhibited nationally and internationally. He currently resides in Brandon, Manitoba where he works at IshKaabatens Waasa Gaa Inaabateg Department of Visual Art at Brandon University.

As an assessor, what do you look for in a successful grant application?

Clear, simple writing in your project that conveys your intent and doesn’t get too flowery or full of jargon works for me. Identifying the unique perspective of where you are coming from, whether that be in relation to your identity or particular research focus is relevant.

I like to go back and forth between the support materials and the writing to see how they inform one another. But the real determiner for me is with the innovation and compelling nature visible in the material, which weighs the most in the evaluation process. These grants are given for art after all, so the support material should be high quality and describe the strengths of your work.

                Read more: 9 Ways to Improve Your Support Material

What’s the biggest red flag on a grant application?

The biggest would be if the proposal revealed a lack of awareness of relevant current issues and topics in the contemporary art world. That could be a matter of content in the work, tone in writing, or absence of acknowledging the cultural implications and concerns behind the project’s intention.

Exhibition history on your CV is relevant too, so depending on what stage you are at in your career, I’d be concerned if there were only a limited amount of shows in relevant venues.

“You should convey your unique voice with passion, intelligence and an awareness of the cultural framework your project is operating in.”

For MAC grants, applicants are asked to speak about the cultural integrity of their project. As an assessor, what is the importance of cultural integrity in a project proposal, and what do you look for in an answer?

As already mentioned, cultural integrity is key in determining the credibility of a project. As an applicant, you should be prepared to identify yourself in relation to your subject. It reveals how thoroughly you have reflected on the current state of the art community as well as whatever communities you might be engaged with in your project. It can also validate the respectful conduct and thoughtfulness required to navigate culture and community.

                Read more: Cultural Integrity

How can I make my application stand out?

Simply by a clear presentation of your innovative, informed art practice. It’s worth drafting a version that might take on a more experimental or poetic or humourous tone. But only if that better expresses what you are getting at with your project. You should convey your unique voice with passion, intelligence and an awareness of the cultural framework your project is operating in.

How did your experience as an assessor change the way that you approach grant writing?

The assessor process did help me to practice what I preach and work harder to get to the heart of my intentions in a clear manner. It has made me aware of how the grant process inevitably shapes the work, for better and for worse. It also made me realize that anything can happen in assessment, depending on who applies and the chemistry between the assessors. So don’t give up if it doesn’t work out the first try.

For more information, videos, and resources to help write a MAC grant application, visit our How to Apply page.