Why I Don’t Apply for the Kresge Art Fellowships/ “take one”

Wash and Bamboo Pens

I’m convinced that the Kresge Arts Fellowships are a good thing.  A lot of deserving people have been assisted and rewarded.  A bird in the hand is better than a kick in the pants.

I was part of an application.  My performance art/ music/ poetry group the Spaceband, applied a few years ago.  I helped with that.  As I’m a writer, I did most of the writing.  Other members of the group did a lot of the work as well though.  I had help.

I’ve still never applied for the Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship on my own behalf.  This is despite my “triple threat” status.   I could apply for my writing, for my visual art or for my performances.  Thus, I’m not ruling it out entirely.  If this opportunity continues, maybe someday I’ll apply.  So far though, I’m not inclined to do so.

I talked about this first here, four years ago:


Now, I think that it’s time for an update.  I wonder how many other creative people don’t apply?  Why don’t they apply?  Why don’t I apply?

1.  I’m still just too busy.  I spend too much time living the life to be able to find time to complete a grant application.  It’s as if I’m working two full-time jobs.  This is because I’m serious enough about my creative work to allow it to use up a lot of my time.

Then too, I’m working an actual full-time job, at the library on the McNichols Campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.

I keep trying to figure out what I’d have to cut out in order to apply.  Let my house get messy?  I’ve done this before when I’m making art for a one person exhibit.  I just let almost everything go and make art.  It takes awhile to get things back to normal.

Should I refuse to do a few live performances?  Turn down an invitation to be part of an interesting art exhibit?  It’s hard to figure out what to sacrifice in order to free up the time to get an application together.  Breathing space and quiet time are precious.

2.  I’ve had good things happen to me in my art life.  I’ve shown my work in France.  I was part of the Zeitgeist arts collective for eleven years.  I’ve had my share of reviews and news articles.  I had a massive exhibit of over 400 works, at MOCAD aka the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.  Maybe I should try to help give some new people a better chance at something good?

Then too, there’s my lifelong impulse.  As a “white man” I try not to collect a lot of the treasures that are supposedly due me.  Affirmative action is still valid and it exists for a reason.  If I apply and win, am I reducing chances for women, African-Americans and other minorities?

Also, I’ve noticed that a lot of the winners seem to be academics, art professors and so on.  Some of the others, while not teachers, seem to be more seasoned in the sciences of writing grant proposals and working on specialized applications.  Some of those who are doing this for the first time still were selected.  Yet some seem to have an advantage.

This increases my impulse to include myself out, to give someone else a chance.

3.  I have a tendency to do things the hard way.  Why take the short cut when you can take the scenic route, with all its booby traps and brambles?  I get a sense that I haven’t quite finished paying my dues yet.  Maybe I’m biased against awards and prizes more than I should be.  I admire people who turn down awards, when they have solid reasons for doing so.  There’ve been cases of people turning down Academy Awards and Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes.

4. Money isn’t everything, but $25,000 is a lot of money.  Would such a windfall enable me to finish writing a few books and paint another hundred paintings and/or buy more musical instruments, props and costumes for the Spaceband and/or mount a traveling puppet vaudeville troupe?  It wouldn’t hurt.  If you don’t play, you can’t win.  Yet what is is.

5. Especially for visual artists, the whole system seems to be wrong in ways.  It’s set up to be exploitative and unfair.  There’s too much there to go into here.  Yet the dynamic between “popular” and “unpopular” arts seems to be bizarre.  I’ll explain more in a future post.  I have explained it some in past manifestos and statements.

I mention it here, because this situation, this dynamic, is another reason why I haven’t applied.  I realize that this is ironic in ways, as the Kresge Fellowships seem to attempt to address or offset some of this.

6. Lastly, I’m always searching for ways to unite the Detroit arts community.  I try to help find ways to make it stronger and more solid.   Sometimes I’ve noticed others doing this as well.

Yet the various segments could be aware of each other and support each other more than they are now.  The Kresge art grants don’t really seem to do much in this regard.  I think that I can do quite a bit here, with no money at all.

By making individuals and collaborative groups stronger, the grants do help the community.  Stronger segments do help.  How do we connect the dots?

Spirit Photograph

Spirit Photograph

In addition, I just went through their list of previous fellows:


All together, I count 21 literary fellows and 21 performing arts fellows.  There are 30 visual arts fellows.  These include 18 from 2009 and 12 from 2011.  This make 72 all together.

Of these, 30 of them, I know their work well.   Most of these are people who I’ve been friendly with.  Some are even friends.

Then there are 42 whom I’ve never heard of at all.  I had a chance to experience some of their work at the Art X Detroit event in 2011.  This was a good thing.  A lot of the live events were packed/ sold out.   The work I was able to experience was mostly good to excellent.  I didn’t see anything that I actively disliked or thought was mediocre.  Some of it left me cold though, not my cup of tea.

The eminent artist awards all seem to be good choices, especially the first two.

Despite my reservations, I thank the Kresge Foundation for trying to help art and artists in and around Detroit!  It’s a good thing.



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