Northampton Arts Council Gets Ready for New Round of Grants

The Arts EZ grants are awarded to local artists through the Northampton Arts Council every Spring. This year is no exception. The grant is specifically intended for artists living in Northampton, Leeds, and Florence, or whose work will be publicly displayed in these places. The deadline to apply is May 1st.

"Anyone thinking of applying for a grant should jump at the chance, and not be intimidated by the grant writing process.” - Otis Wheeler, 2015 applicant

This year, the Arts Council has about $15,000 to award.  Artists with more experience may find it easier to meet some of the Arts Council’s qualifications like resumes or portfolios. Therefore, in an effort to encourage less grant-savvy artists to apply, Northampton Arts Council Director, Brian Foote, makes himself directly available to all people seeking help in creating a strong application.

“Everybody that’s new…can come into my office and I can steer them through the process, give them as much information as is necessary,” said Foote. “Or I can connect them with a board member in their field.”

Foote said that these board members “act almost like ambassadors to the rest of the board,” helping to promote the work of the artists in their field and making it more likely that the rest of the board will approve the grants.

Because the board works to avoid favoritism of emerging artists, preferring to offer grants based on artistic merit rather than the newness of an artist, Foote acknowledges the need to provide extra support to those less confident. “It’s the whole community we fundraise for, not just emerging artists,” said Foote. “But I do think there’s a gap.”



Brian Foote, Director of the Northampton Arts Council. Photo by Ian Bauer

One resource Foote offers is setting up mentor relationships between young artists and experienced ones. This, he hopes, will help bridge the divide between the experienced and the inexperienced.

Last year, the Arts Council awarded $12,500 in ArtsEZ grants to local creators.

The NAC offers grants in the Fall and Spring. While the Fall round of grants from the Council comes largely from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Spring-awarded ArtsEZ grants are funded exclusively through fundraising efforts from the rest of the year. These include local art exhibits and festivals like KidsBest Fest, Four Sundays in February, and Transperformance.

As part of the application, artists must complete a project summary to describe their piece. For some, like Sheryl Stoodley, Serious Play! Theater Ensemble Artistic Director, this can be tough.

"The process of filling out an application can be difficult, like all grants. For an artist, especially someone putting on a play or organizing a festival, a week spent figuring out the technical side of an application can be a real challenge," said Stoodley, who is applying for a 2015 Arts EZ grant to fund her ensemble's production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. For Stoodley, who relies on many grants to support her art, said the application process is typically difficult enough for her to justify hiring a business manager to assist her.

“Everybody that’s new…can come into my office and I can steer them through the process, give them as much information as is necessary,”


For others, however, the need to critically self-reflect on their work and focus their artistic visions can be beneficial.

"It's very helpful for me to articulate my creative vision in words, to be forced to hone in on a specific concept, and to be able to clearly and colorfully describe it... to people who haven't seen it before," said Mark Guglielmo, a photo artist and musician who received the ArtsEZ grant in 2012 to display his photo collage exhibit, “Shards of Illusion,” at the A.P.E Gallery.  Guglielmo has been awarded the Arts EZ grant again this year.  He will display a project called “Window Stills,” which will feature photographic collage-style portraits of locals.

"Sometimes the grant deadline forces me to make creative decisions about my work," said Gulgielmo, who said he had not even finished conceiving of his project before he began last year's grant application. "I'd been mulling ideas since my last show, but the grant deadline forces me to choose what I feel is the most compelling concept, which is very helpful for me."

Guglielmo is also grateful for the ease of the ArtsEZ application process in particular, which he said is “very well thought out and streamlined for artists.”

Otis Wheeler, whose project "PubX: A DIY Pop-Up Film Festival for Western Mass," is scheduled to run May 15-18 in Northampton, echoes Guglielmo's sentiment. "This is the first time I've organized a public event of any kind," Wheeler said, "Anyone thinking of applying for a grant should jump at the chance, and not be intimidated by the grant writing process.”

While the application must be finished by May 1st, the art in question need not be completed until June of the following year.