Last week, I attended ArtistTrust’s Grant Writing workshop, presented by Miguel Guillén. I think it’s going to take some practice before all the advice sinks in. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my notes on writing Artist Statements, which seems to be the most difficult thing, at least for me (for the full presentation, you can go here).
An Artist Statement is a short document (one paragraph to a page), written in the first person, that provides context for your work.
An Artist Statement should be:
- a concise and an accurate reflection your work- its themes, motives, and influences . What does your work continually return to? Why do you do what you do? Where do you fit into your field? This will show you know the landscape and help focus panelists. If your influences are obvious, but you don’t mention them, panelists will wonder.
- in a tone expressive of your work (reserved, analytic, humorous, etc.)- BUT – above all, be SIMPLE, CLEAR, and DIRECT. Ask a friend who is not an artist to read your statement and ask if they get what you do.
It should NOT:
- use jargon, “art speak,” or other convoluted language (an example given was “My work is about elucidating the patriarchal configuration of the social arrangement” vs. “My work is about male-dominated societies”)
- attempt to impress anyone with statements not true to your work
- describe what is obvious in the work
- be about yourself (focus instead on the work and its process)
- tell the reader how he or she will feel
Guillén also advised attendees to keep more than one version of the Artist Statement and update it as the work changes, as it inevitably will. Language should be consistent within the statement, but also consistent with any other supporting documents (for example, work samples and work descriptions). Also, and this one’s important: don’t be afraid. Write what you really think is going on in your work, what most compels you to create something.