Behind the Scenes: Our Grants Process

Before we announce the recipients of the 2020 Twining Humber and SOLA Awards, we wanted to share this behind the scenes look at the process behind our grant programs with our Program Managers, Luther Hughes and Lydia Boss. Lydia joined the AT team in 2019. In addition to her work at Artist Trust, Lydia is an interdisciplinary artist who works in various materials including glass, metal, paper, and photographs. Luther was promoted to Program Manager earlier this year, after serving as our Operations Coordinator since 2019. He is best known as a poet and founder of Shade Literary Arts, a literary organization for queer writers of color.

Read more below and stay tuned for tomorrow’s announcement!

How are your roles at AT involved with our grant processes?

Luther: As Program Managers at Artist Trust, our role is to oversee all aspects of the grant process from updating the award guidelines, to facilitating the panel, to supporting applicants through the process. As artists ourselves, we understand how strenuous it can be to apply for grants, and we want to work with artists as much as possible throughout the process. From start to finish, we also make sure we’re looking at everything with a lens of racial equity and geographic reach.  

Lydia: A huge part of our job is to be there for folks while they’re applying. Similarly, we play a support role to the panelists of each award, as well. Making sure that they can easily access the applications for review, that they have an understanding of Artist Trust’s values, and that ultimately, they’re able to be confident and judicious in nominating the awardees together. 

What do you enjoy about your role in the grant process?

Luther: What I enjoy most about my role in the grant process is calling recipients and letting them know they’re receiving money.

Lydia: I love being present for the live panel conversations. It is super fascinating to listen to the panelists’ thoughts and feedback about the work they’re reviewing and how they thoughtfully collaborate to build their list of nominees.

What was different about the 2020 Twining Humber/SOLA process? Why were those changes implemented?

Lydia: The 2020 Twining Humber/SOLA live panel was completely hosted on Zoom, which was the first time Artist Trust has ever done that. We did this because of the COVID-19 pandemic and were really happy with the conversation among panelists and energy throughout the process. We intend to keep our panels digital through the rest of 2020 and 2021 to ensure the comfort and safety of panelists and ourselves.  

Luther: Something we’ve added is an orientation before the live panel day. In this orientation, we discuss Artist Trust’s values, the panel process, and any conflicts of interestWe also use this orientation to get to know one another and put faces to emails so that the first time we’re all seeing each other isn’t on the day of the panel.  

Another change we’ve made—which was suggested by a past panelist—is inviting the panelists to elect a foreperson to present the award nominees to the Board of Trustees. In the past, staff did this, but we loved the idea of giving the mic to a panelist so that they can have greater agency over the process. It’s also a great opportunity for the Board to meet a panelist and learn about the award nominees directly from them.   

Lydia: 2020 THA/SOLA was also our first time facilitating a panel together for Artist Trust, so there was that new energy and collaborative spirit that we really tried to bring to the process.  

What are you most excited about for future grant cycles? 

Luther: Moving forward, we definitely want to keep these new additions to the process because they exemplify our values as an organization and remind us why we love to do what we do. We want the process to be as equitable as possible, and these few changes feel like the right fit for AT.

We’re also researching how to better market and communicate about our grants so that we are reaching a wider array of artists and making sure that we are actually “in community” with the artists we serve.

Lydia: I’m excited to continue to evolve AT’s grants practices based on feedback from panelists and artistsAll of these additions came from our shared experience as artists and arts administrators, as well as recommendations from our communityWhen we center artist’s voices and needs, we’re able to be true to ourselves and be responsive with the org’s processes.