Saturday, November 21, 2015

Notes on a meeting on matching funds from the Knight Foundation 11-10-2015 (still needs to be cleaned up or updated)

Notes on interesting themes that came up during introductions:
A lot of talk about publications (Is this the next step from people creating local archives for a legacy like documenting the emergence of the ‘Jit’, projects about Grace Lee BoggsA moment in time?)
  • See: Graphic Designer costs vs. material costs... Maybe I may need to keep mine to online only, Knight suggests that blogs are a fine way of providing a narrative (mandatory.)
  • Detroit Research is very focused and may know its audience, also it has the benefit of being connected to CCS.

A lot of talk about residencies and discussions amongst people (bringing in influential contemporary voices? Staying personally connected? Storytelling and bringing causes to attention?)
  • Anders Ruhwald will have a side project that may be semi-connected where artists can come over as well

We are an organization that does THIS, THIS, THIS, THIS and THIS.
  • A lot of these projects could be combined, but could the matching funds bolster each other?
    I'm considering having Glasgow people keep in contact with those they met already, Cezanne Charles, What Pipeline, ‘CAVE, Simone DeSousa, Popps Packing, Halima Cassells, Piper (formerly 5E), Steve Panton’s space, writers such as Lynn Crawford who has worked with Steve Panton etc., curators such as Laura Mott (careful, people are going to be BUSY!)
  • Consider bringing in publications for distribution in Glasgow, Good Press, Aye-Aye, CCA, similar to what Laura currently has up at Cranbrook, satellite/daisy chaining connections.

Many personal projects by artists working solo are being funded, including one from someone from Mexico to put up imagery of important Mexican figures in Southwest (notexactly by Detroit for Detroit as someone said at the reception? But shouldthat really matter? Too much insider/outsider drama, becomes parochial)

Bigger name artists will be put out in public, maybe this was partly sparked by the successful use of D.I.A.’s reproductions that aided the millage.
  • Hank Willis Thomas
  • Louise Nevelson
  • James Turrell
  • J Dilla’s actual music equipment

Programs that sound really familiar

Why do these people do what they do? Altruism? Should/can “artists” be agents of social change?
  • Denis Newhouse is a passionate lifelong educator, Akram Hossain seems similar
  • Non-profits need these to survive and keep things interesting
  • Particular neighborhood (maybe they live there) is overlooked
  • It’s part of the mission statement, all part of the plan, strategic planning
  • Setting up others for greatness, but getting out of their way, thriving on the unknown
  • How many of us are considered ‘local celebrities’? How do we work against the poisonous ego habit?
  • Public funding is gone, who else is going to bring in our values into the future?

Not organized with a 501-C3? (That’s most of us?)
  • Fiscal Sponsorship!  (A tool for arranging non-taxable donations)
  • Miami Foundation has a very good admin fee, only 4% compared to 7 or 8% and matching checks mailed weekly, invoices on your behalf, takes care of taxes, good at streamlining Kickstarter campaigns.
Allaying fears:
  • An easy way to get started is by working on receiving 10% of the funds via in-kind donations (labor?)
  • 96% match rate (see Steve Hughes who personally described their flexibility) 2 years becomes 4…
  • Flexibility (no rules, no dictating, except they do request that all press  releases must be seen first)
  • Budgets can flex with good reasons/communication (think of categories as gen. buckets) Put in place in the contract is a 5% budget leeway
  • The deadlines for raising funds/getting everything finished is flexible within reason
  • The overall idea behind what you plan to do can change
  • You have worthy ideas and a great community, you will be fine.
  • Corporate structures are always looking for ways to write something off (Is there a time of the year in particular?), ways to achieve their mission statement in interesting ways to stay relevant, can partner with your project as free advertising for their business and frankly don’t want to be left out if it gets press. 

Informal ideas that may produce the best outcomes:
  • A strong cohort
  • Some non-profits offered assistance as mentors (Who was it that suggested this?)
  • Reminds me of when the local non-profits met together to share tactics and share resources, people I remember who were there: Diane Van Buren, Ryan Hertz, Phil Cooley... so many people from that initial introduction reached out to lend so much in in-kind donations from free studio space to scissor lifts and more!
  • Possible web-inar on budgeting (General consensus: our individual needs require individual attention! But it doesn't sound like that's possible?)
  • Look out for a “Top 10 matching ideas” from Knight
  • Guide Star templates as a spring board
  • Giving Day Playbook
  • Smallest Museum in St. Paul used revenue from a seemingly unrelated cup of coffee to provide the matching funds (same organization, and a portion of proceeds go towards the match, this is definitely not the same as personal income, it’s the business’ income?)
  • Works well in tandem with Kresge fellows and others who have attended Creative Capital meetings that talk about goal-setting,  Fiscal sponsorship, grant writing and rounding out the audience who may be interested in your project
  • How People connect back to the Kresge: Adrienne Brown, Anders Ruhwald’s wife Marie is a fellow, Cezanne Charles (Director of Creative Industries), Chase Morris,  Faina Lerman, Jonathan Rajewski, Kate Daughdrill, Lynne Avadenka, Marsha Music, Scott Hocking, Steve Hughes, Tiff Massey, Thomas Bell’s wife works for Kresge

Not a priority at this stage, but good to keep in mind:
  • Part of Knight’s contract is to support your Kickstarter/Patronicity campaign etc. and put it on blast. Although they request to overview all materials (slows things down) they can also streamline the process of having funds go directly to the Fiscal sponsor for quicker
  • Apply again!
  • With Kickstarter etc. if there are well considered 'rewards' it could really double as a productive way to produce something that I hoped to do anyways?

Things to maybe watch out for (and suggested ideas?):
  • How will all resources get shared (Google Docs?) Very diverse group of winners, good friction.
  • You do not get funds right away until after they have been matched, so maybe it is not the best idea to spend lots of personal funds just to setup the structure that will allow for matching funds to trickle in over a long period of time.
  • Have a separate bank account for the project (Piper’s suggestion)
  • It might not be worth having amounts under $10 that are being sent piece-meal to be matched with a check from the Fiscal Sponsor, but do they have a suggestion for how to pace this out?
  • Try not to over think how personal income may be a conflict by being used as matching or in-kind donations. It may be best to set a good price for yourself, $35 an hour for all of your labor? Keep track of it! Do you know how you can delegate certain work? Take a step back? Take a break?
  • You still have to pay taxes on any income that you planned on receiving from the matching funds, perhaps put this aside in another bank account, or even include it as part of the budget?
  • The financial ecosystem where we ask our community to put their money where their mouth is, however are we all dipping from the same pool of friends and colleagues? What about the elephant in the room, usual disconnect between the suburbs and the city (see train that stops at 8 mile), Walter Wasacz talked about the way that music draws people in and the informal ways that people feel comfortable, example I thought of: punk scene when kids came in from the suburbs, formed their own bands etc. it wasn’t voyeuristic, but it was about getting away.
  • 2 years becoming 4 is that better or worse for the project?
  • What if I just want to be a hermit or work on someone else’s project because it’s easier to do? How do I keep focused…

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A special night, thinking about what we need to risk for a real sense of collectivity

Tonight was not just special because my proposal just received matching funds from the Knight Foundation"Exploring life in two post-industrial cities by pairing artists from Detroit and Glasgow, Scotland, to collaborate on curated exhibitions".

Related: Images from Over, Over, Over, Judith Butler's description of a livable life, trying to fundraise projects that don't involve asking friends for their extra time and money.

But Michael Brown's delivery of the collective decision by the incarcerated men who are part of "The Writer's Block" to not simply accept the voter's choice award, but to give it away under the condition that the other runners-up get matched funding.... it really set a precedent. People around me were tearing up as Michael could not hold back the emotion that he was delivering such a meaningful gesture and almost none of us had a clue what he was moving towards. They did not ask that everyone including themselves should get funding, they asked that the other runners up would only need to come and visit and see what they're doing, and help in person.

Many thoughts were running through my head the moment that the Knight Foundation accepted the counter-offer on the spot:

  • Rachel's writing on the state of arts funding in Detroit
  • put up on Infinite Mile which was also awarded with matching funds from the Knight Foundation which then reminded me of 
  • Variant out of Glasgow which lost the crucial funding structure it used to have.
  • The surprisingly conservative response from Lucy Lippard when someone in the audience asked her if Detroiters should just 'take the money', short answer, yes.
  • Having fond memories of doing a close reading of Society of the Spectacle at the Hamtramck Free School with Steve Panton, Jonathan Rajewski and Michael Brown.
  • Oren Goldberg in a panel discussion with Ron Scott and Nick Tober, just being frank that us artists just want the foundation's money, not all the strings attached.
  • The moment right after Creative Capital told the inaugural Kresge Fellows not to do anything for free or that doesn't promote time for quality that it was then pitched that maybe the fellows could take part in a festival... I almost forgot about the drama until Erin McDonald reminded me at a Wayne State University panel discussion how much the immediate negotiation caught them off guard.
  • How Lawndale Market (Poloroid Liquor Store) used to have drawings and messages that came from prison that he prominently would display and how that has all changed... God Loves...
  • Halima talking about how brilliant it is that these inmates used their power to do this.
  • Thinking about the whole schools vs. prisons funding paradigm, the war on drugs but no war on poverty. Poisonous individualism that leads to fear based decisions...
  • Thinking about Anne Reinhardt first telling me about where she works when she was in Detroit and how it just seemed like a whole generation of younger artists had a strong moral compass unattached to religion or guilt or a degree in do-good-ery, but it somehow felt like that was just what was expected because of the artists that were here before us...
  • Thinking about all the wonderful people I know well in that audience as well as those local voices who probably vouched for this project sending positive vibes my way and all the conversations with Rosie Sharpe that helped to get the word out even further into Knight-land.
I also love that this will be a vastly different impression that being 'a creative do-er' isn't the priveledge of being a 'dreamer' at a time when people should be getting to work, but that a defining characteristic of many local people here is how far we are willing to go to support each other, and if anything, we all need better practice to do exactly what The Writers Block just did. 

See also: The entire USC Roski MFA class, The resignation of the President of the University of Missouri, The removal of the confederate flag on Charleston's state capitol, and the Open Letter to Creative Scotland, The Knight Foundation extends their matching funding program for 3 more years...

I thought I was going to be excited to talk about reflecting on the interactions and moments from when I put on an exhibition while Francis McKee and John Nicol were in town and my projections about what the matching funds mean for the future, but maybe this is all related.

Could we all take this momentous occasion to have more conversations about taking critical stances and how we can all support each other's projects, even with the ways that funding can seem like it creates a tricky level of competition where everyone's drawing from the same well, or our own personal energy becomes at risk of being immediately depleted, but here are some suggestions that I'll put out there:
  1. Don't start with spending your own money, start with finding similar projects and trace it back to perhaps those who should have funded this as they have the most to gain with the least risk.
  2. Pitch your friend's idea while having your friend do the same for yourself, we all somehow gain energy and focus when it comes to describing someone else passionately, even though we conversely can't find the same genuine clarity to describe our own activities.
  3. What does someone else think should be your own minimum payment who gets paid to do what you're about to do? How much money does that realistically leave?
  4. (too late but...) Start with having the matching funds in mind and plan accordingly so that maybe strategically you won't need to ask anyone for money.