I graduated with a BFA from Cooper Union in the winter of 2007. At that time, I worked a lot of odd jobs, ranging from graphic design to service work gigs, to working part-time as a research and studio assistant for Natalie Jeremijenko. I also had a job working the night shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. where I was required to stay awake all night and monitor a studio space by walking around every hour, on the hour, and making sure people were working safely. I had a computer in my office, so when I wasn’t monitoring the studio, I spent a lot of time reading, listening to things, sewing, and thinking about what to do after school. One night in 2008, I read about a grant called Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists (or ERPA, for short), funded by a non-profit called The Field. They described the grant in the following ways:

ERPA grows from the premise that the traditional non-profit model of fundraising does not support the majority of performing artists in New York City. This lack of financial solvency leads to early departures from New York, early departures from art-making, and ultimately, a diminishment of New York’s vibrancy and vitality. ERPA aims to combat these challenges by asking artists to conceive dynamic solutions for financial stability, and giving them the tools, resources, and cash to help develop their ideas. As its name implies, ERPA aims to thus revitalize performing artists’ and arts organizations’ economic lives for long-term impact.

After listening to the “information sessions” that The Field made accessible online, I decided to try to apply for the grant, and to convince The Field that I was a performing artist, even though I went to school to study visual art. What follows is the first successful grant that I wrote, at age 23, right out of school. This got me $5,000, a mentorship from Jennifer Wright Cook, and meetings with a cohort of professional artists who supported me and believed in my idea. This also allowed me to convince four other people to join me in creating a multi-year project.

In American culture, especially if you are owning-class and/or white, you’re told that success is self-reliance. It means making enough money so you can buy help, you don’t have to ask anyone for anything. And it makes two kinds of people: we see people who have a lot of needs, and then people who have succeeded, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and who might be charitable towards these other people. This image of assumed need over here and success and self reliance over there is something we want to do away with altogether.

— Caroline Woolard, at an event with Jen Abrams in 2013


+ ABOUT ME: I endeavor to exist as both a rigorous artist and decent human being, moving daily with curiosity, generosity, and integrity. I attempt to find a wide audience for an ever-expanding notion of art, pushing for creative dissatisfaction: plausible alternatives to the monotonous routine.

+ SUPPORT: I am employed by Cooper Union as a studio monitor, where I work the night shift. I am also “supported” by residencies like the MacDowell Colony and Watermill and by mentors that I met in school or introduced myself to. I also receive small payments for the pedagogical assistance I give to Morgan Puett at Mildred’s Lane in PA, Richard Reiss at Artist As Citizen in NY, and Natalie Jeremijenko at the Environmental Health Clinic in NY.

+ ERPA IDEA/PROJECT: Online Network for Peer-to-Peer Artistic Support (P2P-AS) An online network for peer-to-peer artistic support. Artists upload proposals that require more money, space, volunteers, or materials and any interested party can donate the necessary goods. Rather than the ubiquitous online portfolio site of self interested megalomania, which perpetuates a hierarchy with support from above, this website helps artists look to each other for recognition and fulfillment. Here, artists upload project proposals with requests for support (money, space, materials, volunteers, etc.) AND make personal donations to other people’s projects. This network will visualize contemporary trends, create artistic bonds, and foster communication between the public at large and individual artists.

Questions that will be made visible are: Which artist gets the most support from other artists? Do users have more time, money, space, or materials to donate? Do users end up helping the same person that helped them, essentially bartering resources? What longstanding bonds can be made through volunteering? How can peer-to-peer generosity adapt to other fields?

+ FEASIBILITY AND MY GUARANTEE FOR COMPLETION: The minimum grant of $5,000 will easily support the server costs and web designer salary. I am in contact with many young web designers who I could hire to complete the project: from Jeffery Warren at MIT’s media lab to Roy Rub of and Louise Ma at the New York Times’ design team. Stefan Sagmeister supported my subway swing project and could help me find an excel- lent designer as well. I outsource my projects when specialization is the most effective solution (as I did with the fabrication of my subway swings) and am quite familiar with these contracts from my work for Natalie Jeremijenko at the Environmental Health Clinic. Frankly, this project simply must happen and I am undeterred in finding a way to produce it.

+ REPLICABILITY/SUSTAINABILITY: This website has no foreseen end and could be replicated in any field.

Was That You or the House?,

Watermill March 28 (upcoming)

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