I have had the great good fortune to receive several grants from Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA) and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) over the last 5 years. This funding has unquestionably made it possible for me to establish my arts career, in fact, I don’t think I could be a working artist otherwise. My very first grant, though the smallest I ever received, was transformative. I had graduated from ACAD (now Alberta University of the Arts) a few years before and had been spending a bit of time on my practice, though mostly working in the commercial photo industry which is what I had studied for in school. This was back before I was subscribed to just about every arts organization’s e-newsletter, Twitter feed, Instagram and Facebook page, so I only happened upon CADA’s call for applications for the Small Experiments Grant in the morning on the day submissions were due. Something about that call made all the loosely formed ideas I had floating around in my head magically coalesce, and my submission seemed to write itself. I hit send right around 4:30 pm. I was elated when I got word that my submission had been successful! As with every subsequent grant, it felt like validation, like my work and my ideas did have merit. With that microgrant, I built a tiny teardrop trailer, the Mobile Natural History Collection Laboratory (also affectionately known as the Alfresco Science Machine) and spent 3 weeks in the field testing out a whole new way of making work, which became the foundation for my research-based practice. Over the next few years, I received additional project funding from the AFA to continue my explorations, but it was in 2019 when I received an Individual Artist Grant from CADA that things really changed for me.
In my application for the Individual Artist Program (IAP), I said that the funding would allow me to spend a whole year taking the risk of doing no other paid work, to devote myself entirely to advancing my artistic career. Instead of fitting my practice in around other non-arts-related work, I would be able to focus on shifting into a full-time career as an artist, laying the foundation for many future years of exhibitions, residencies and projects. And so I did. I keep all my submissions organized into folders by year. In 2019 I sent out 19, by contrast in 2020, the year I got the IAP, I sent out 82. I lined up residencies all over Western Canada, self-directed and otherwise, and created an absolute mountain of new work. I sent that work out to all the galleries and curators I now had time to research and seek out. I signed up for all kinds of classes and learned all kinds of new things. The year was full of both successes and failures, but that was really the point. Without being tied to the strict boundaries of a project grant, I was free to turn to that stack of post-it notes I had been accumulating over the years, filled with scribbled notes about my wildest ideas, and start putting them to the test. If the Small Experiments Grant let me think that I might be able to become an artist, then the IAP allowed me to become the person who today, when asked what they do for a living, says confidently “I am a visual artist”.