What is an Artist Statement?
An Artist Statement is a group of “I sentences” that explain your artistic hopes, dreams, ambitions, philosophy, direction, growth, and evolution. If part of an application for a fellowship or grant, the Artist Statement will demonstrate how the award would patently help you reach your artistic goals.
Artist Statements are meant to inform grant administrators and fellowship jurors what your hope is for this project, how you will be affected by working on the project, and how the support of the grant will help you toward those ends.
What is an Artist Statement not?
~ It is not a resume or CV
~ It is not a list of published words
~ It is not a list of awards, honors, or degrees
~ It is not your personal background
~ It is not a project description.
If it is not all of those things and can’t include those things, what does go into an Artist Statement?
First, understand the purpose. While not all grants are administered in the same way, in general, the granting agency (state division of the arts or arts council, or private foundation/organization) will employ a judge or judging panel to read and score the work samples. The Artist Statement is a document the granting agency uses to allow the artist to give voice to how the grant will help their career or work. It is also often used as a PR tool. This means, what goes into your Artist Statement is your vision of yourself as an artist—how you came to create art, what is means to your life, what you try to express via your work, how (if applicable) you see yourself as a member of the artistic community.
How do you put together an Artist Statement?
An Artist Statement for a specific purpose will probably have a limit. In the space/word count allotted, include some/all of the following:
….What is your philosophy as an artist, in relation to this particular project? For instance, if this is a family memoir, do you believe that art is a means of examining and exploring your personal history? Is it a way to heal, or celebrate? Is this work meant to be a tribute, to set the record straight, to capture for posterity events that have impacted you and yours?
….How will you grow as an artist through this project? Are you trying a new medium? A new voice? Fictionalizing reality? Creating an entirely new world? How is this project different from your prior work?
….What message are you trying to convey?
….How is your work, and this project in particular, a reflection of you? If you are writing about a culture, are you tied to it? Is the project trying to satisfy a curiosity? Trying to recapture or examine something you have lost?
….What is your goal, specifically, for this work? Do you plan to complete a novel? Write X number of short stories?
….Stylistically, what is special about this project? Is this a departure for you? A new venture into an entirely new genre?
That’s a lot to cram into the small box on the grant app. What is comes down to is explaining what you want from this particular project, and how it fits into your goals as an artist. The Artist Statement is your way to make the grant people understand you. It gives you a chance to express your heart.
A perk to writing the Artist Statement is how it makes you think about the questions above. In your daily life as a writer, how often do you think, concretely, about your goals as an artist? Do you ever stop to recall just how you chose this medium, and how it has impacted your life?
The Artist Statement makes you examine yourself as an artist. Who are you? What do you want? What are you trying to say through your art?
It’s that simple.