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 couple 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.
Born and based in Montreal, Lydie Dubuisson is a theatre creator, playwright, director, and storyteller. Her art explores intersectionality, dystopian reality, and collective memory. Dubuisson wrote Quiet (2018 Discovery Series – Black Theatre Workshop) and she is one of the co-writers of Blackout: The Concordia Computer Riot, (Tableau d’Hôte Theatre) and Sharing Our Stories, Telling Our Lives (Teesri Duniya). Dubuisson is currently writing her second play, Sanctuary. She is the artistic associate at Black Theatre Workshop and a dramaturg/director at Teesri Duniya Theatre.
As an assessor, what do you look for in a successful grant application?
A grant is an investment from taxpayers, so I look for projects that will, somehow, serve the community.
As an assessor, I am looking for proposals that challenge my intellect, either with an innovative methodology, a new point of view, a revelation or anything out of the box.
A successful grant application has a clear vision with a clear goal; the assessor should not have any doubt about the nature or the feasibility of the project. It’s therefore important to explicitly describe your idea and how you plan to achieve your creation with a realistic timeline, suitable collaborators and an adequate budget.
The application should also have convincing supporting material. Even if it is from previous unrelated work, a demonstration of the candidate’s potential is necessary to gain the assessor’s trust.
What’s the biggest red flag on a grant application?
If there are not enough collaborators for the work that needs to be done, that’s a red flag. Even if you don’t know to whom you will delegate the workload to, it is important to make plans to hire professionals that will elevate your creation’s aesthetic.
Expecting funds from only one source is also a red flag. Even if they are small amounts, a little support from other institutions stirs up trust.
And finally, an outdated idea that leans on the status quo as vindication is another red flag for me. Even if the application is perfect, if the idea is regressive or stagnant, that’s a crimson flag for me.
“A bold idea combined with a unique methodology is very attractive, but what will make your application stand out is your passion; it should be contagious.”
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?
Art should be inclusive and a safe experience for all cultures. Lack of cultural integrity contributes to cultural erasure or appropriation.
Cultural integrity is more than just empathy; it is a deep understanding of art’s impact on society, leading to taking a conscious stand to repair the lack of representation in the arts and so, halt the erasure of oppressed or invisible cultures. Cultural integrity is to be aware of your own history, of your situation, privileges and limitations. It is about embracing and accepting one’s authenticity along with its limits.
Even if the project does not seem to involve cultural integrity, this question is an opportunity to reflect on the subject and be part of the evolution of our society.
How can I make my application stand out?
A bold idea combined with a unique methodology is very attractive, but what will make your application stand out is your passion; it should be contagious. Share your enthusiasm with the assessors so they may remember you.
Bring the jury in your world by telling them about your experiences, your successful outcomes, your struggles, your dreams, etc. Do not be humble and fight for your cause. Emphasize how vital the council’s money is for your creation and your career. Highlight the impact your work could have on your community. Ask artists and institutions who know you to write letters of support for your proposal.
And again, compelling supporting material can do wonders for an application.
How did your experience as an assessor change the way that you approach grant writing?
Being an assessor taught me two things.
First, instead of “preaching to the choir”, I write my application to convince assessors who may not think like me. I thoroughly explain every term, concept and point of view so they (at least) recognize the legitimacy of what I wish to create. That state of mind keeps me from cutting corners and helps me surpass my own standards.
Second, I now know how competitive the process really is. As an assessor, it is heartbreaking to read all these amazing proposals while knowing that less than 20% will get a grant. Now, when I write a grant, I understand that my application will be one of many applications with ideas just as good as mine, if not better. That realization pushes me to dream fiercely with the hope of impressing the jury.
For more information, videos, and resources to help write a MAC grant application, visit our How to Apply page.