News / Blog

Meet Your Workshop Instructor: Brian McGuigan

Megan Gallagher

Communications Intern

If you’ve attended an Artist Trust workshop recently, you’ve probably met Brian McGuigan. Brian joined Artist Trust as the Programs Director in 2015 after working in various capacities at Hugo House for ten years and helping create Artist Trust’s LaSalle Storyteller Award. He is also a writer and 2014 GAP recipient.

Starting April 25, Brian will be leading “Art Business Night School: Applying for Grants, Residencies, & Other Opportunities” at Artspace Mt Baker Lofts. I recently caught up with him to learn more about his experiences and advice for artists.

How did you first get involved with Artist Trust?
I first got involved with Artist Trust as a grant applicant. I applied seven times for GAP before I finally received one. The following year I worked with Gar LaSalle and Artist Trust to help create the LaSalle Storyteller Award. When the Program Director position opened, I’d both benefitted from Artist Trust’s support and had experience working with the staff and knew it was the right job for me. Thankfully, Shannon and the rest of the hiring committee felt the same.

What are some of your favorite things about Seattle’s arts community?
My favorite things about Seattle’s arts community are the people and organizations that make it. There are far too many to name here, and I don’t want to play favorites, but we have quite a few genuinely good people working in the arts community, both artists and administrators, who help make this city a home I don’t want to leave.

What are some of the most common things you’ve seen artists struggle with when it comes to applying for grants/other opportunities?
The most important rule when applying for grants or other opportunities is to read and follow the guidelines. We’ve all been told at some point to look both ways before you cross the street. The same goes for applications. Follow the guidelines. You don’t want to spend hours and hours on an application only to have it withdrawn because you included too many work samples or went over the word count. 

In addition to being Artist Trust’s Programs Director, you’re also a writer. Can you talk a little about your own experiences applying for awards/grants/residencies?
Applying for grants, awards, and residencies is damn hard. Let’s be real here – rejection sucks. You put so much of yourself into your work alone and then you put your work out there through application processes where the odds of being selected are slim. It can be demoralizing at times, but you can’t let it get you down. Making art is a series of tiny, little failures that ultimately, hopefully, lead you somewhere. Applying is just more of that. The truly successful artists are the ones who are resilient, who persevere in spite of that failure.

As I mentioned I applied for GAP seven times. There’s another award I’ve now applied for eight times. I’ve been rejected far more than I’ve been accepted, not just in my writing career but in life as a whole. I just keep applying.

What advice do you have for artists who are considering applying for grants/residencies but aren’t sure where to start?
Apply. Without a doubt, apply. If you’re not sure where to start, email the grant officer. Be prepared and ask questions. Connect. Build relationships. Research. Google has almost all the answers.

Interested in learning more about how to apply for grants and residencies? Join Brian for “Art Business Night School: Applying for Grants, Residencies, & Other Opportunities,” from April 25 through May 30 at the Artspace Mt Baker Lofts. Tickets and additional information can be found here.

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Megan Gallagher is a writer from Redmond, Washington. She currently serves as Artist Trust’s Communications Intern.