Reporting on Changes to the 2018 Fellowship Awards Selection Process

Published: July 3, 2018

Categories: Grants & Fellowships

On June 18, we announced the recipients of the 2018 Fellowship Awards, 16 unrestricted awards of $7,500 to practicing professional artists of exceptional talent and ability residing in Washington State.

This year, we made a few changes to Fellowship based on feedback from artists, including opening the awards to artists of all disciplines and removing disciplinary categories from the application and selection processes. The intent behind these changes was to be more responsive to artists’ needs by creating a more equitable and inclusive process.

Prior to 2018, the eligible disciplinary categories rotated with literary, craft, media, and music artists eligible in even-numbered years, and visual, traditional / folk, performing, and emerging fields / cross-disciplinary eligible in odd-numbered years. Through opening Fellowship to artists of all disciplines, we eliminated the disciplinary categories and replaced them with an open-ended discipline statement where artists could define their practice in their own words.

In previous years, when the awards rotated disciplines, the number of awards was based on the number of applicants in each discipline. This meant the majority of funding would go to visual artists and writers. Cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary, traditional / folk, and music artists were given the fewest number of awards, and artists who worked in multiple disciplines were challenged by having to choose one disciplinary category in which their work was reviewed.

Applicants were asked to give feedback on the application process after submitting to Fellowship, and the responses were incredibly positive. Nearly 70% of applicants preferred the discipline statement, and less than 3% said they missed the old checkboxes. Two-thirds of applicants used one or more of our support services, such as Office Hours, the Fellowship webinar, pre-application review, the reference guide, and workshops, and it showed in the quality of the applications. One panelist said, “I get invited to do a lot of panels regionally and nationally, and this pool was one of the most competitive I’ve seen.”

We wanted to create a more equitable distribution of awards, and in this first year, we achieved that. Looking at this year’s Fellowship recipients, 14 of 16 were artists of color, and six of 16 were from outside of King County, from Port Townsend to Pullman. Twelve identified as female, three as male, and one as genderqueer. The recipients work in a range of disciplines with several working across multiple disciplines or with different mediums. Artists working in traditionally underrepresented practices in Fellowship funding, such as dance and music, also received support.

We will continue to experiment with our application and selection processes in Fellowship and other awards in response to feedback from artists and in an effort to make our programs more open, transparent, and artist-focused.

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