I am so glad this week is over.

It was one of the most gruelling weeks I’ve ever had and now that it’s over I can say what I was doing going downtown everyday, 9:30 – 5 pm in a board room.

I was on the Ontario Arts Council Artists in Education jury.

I was sworn to secrecy before, but the information will be published soon so it’s okay for me to say it now. I can’t talk about anything that went on in the meetings, that’s confidential, but I will say that I have a lot of respect for the director of the jury and for my fellow jurors.

And seeing the process that the applications go through, they really try their utmost to be fair.

I think I’m lucky, living in Canada, we have a lot of programs in both the Canada Arts Council  and the Ontario Arts Council.

The councils exist to help artists make a living and explore their craft. The jury that I was on, Artists in Education, is specifically designed to subsidize the cost of professional artists working in the schools to bring top notch arts’ education to the students.

The quality of the applications was phenomenal.

Having applied, and been turned down, for grant applications in the past, I always felt kind of bitter, and I never believed the letter they sent that said how they’d received so many applications but because of limited funds, they couldn’t fund them all.

But after seeing the process, I really can understand it.

I’m absolutely wrung out, but I learned so much this week.

There’s an art to writing grant applications.

They have to be every bit as clear and intelligible as the best writing you do.

And be concise! Say what you mean, answer the questions precisely. And keep in mind that an arts council is looking for ‘artistic’ merit, even though that’s very hard to define.

Many years ago, I applied for this same Artist in Education grant. It’s a pretty good program if you’re just starting out. Basically you develop an in-depth artistic project that lasts 25 hours that you can conduct in a school setting. The grant amount was for $6300 to conduct up to six 25 hour projects in six different schools (one of which had to be outside the city of Toronto).

Basically it must be a plan that will get students to think creatively and learn an art discipline.

Then you offer the program to schools and they have to contribute the remainder of the fee, a minimum of $150 for the twenty-five hour program–which is nothing for 25 hours to schools! Some artists charge more than that though, and after a while I was one of them.

Back when I applied I received the grant four out of five years, or something like that.

I stopped doing it because of one experience that really soured me.

I’ve always had a soft spot for poor schools and when I was booking a school, that happened to be in Aurora, they told me they didn’t have the funds to pay more than the minimum, so I assumed they were a needy school. I didn’t know that Aurora is one of the poshest suburbs of Toronto!

I got there and this was the richest school I’d ever visited at the time.

When I told them that they needed to pay the higher normal rate, they said they didn’t have the money. I had no choice. The end of the year was coming up and I needed to use up my Artist in Education funds or I’d have had to pay them back, so I did the program. I did it  properly too, no sense in shortchanging the kids, and at one point the librarian was so excited by the project she said, “Oh maybe we can have you back to visit!” I just gave her a look that said, “You guys will have to pay through the teeth if you want me back here!”

Since then, I don’t do the Artist in Education programs any more. They actually don’t pay a going rate, and I find it easier to just charge my normal fee for my normal presentations.

But that said, spending twenty-five hours with a set of learners in an intensive, in-depth workshop is a real opportunity!

And I encourage any author/storyteller/visual artist out there to apply to the program. It can be very rewarding!