Incognito Press

truth. knowledge. freedom. passion. courage. Promoting free-thinking, activism & rogue writing.

Posts Tagged ‘arts’

On nourishing the best minds of our generation

Posted by E on July 22, 2010

Writer colonies, retreats, artist centres, whatever you call it, are intended to provide that all-too-elusive sense of belonging and recognition to writers who otherwise labour away in the seclusion of their own abodes and their own idiosyncracies and particular neuroticisms.
Coming up for a breath of fresh air, as in attending a colony and being able to create while at the same time surrounded by a whole bunch of other creative minds is invaluable. The colonies are more than just a place to eat, sleep and write — they might just lead to new friendships and new perspectives that can enhance our otherwise solitary work.

Luckily for US artists, the United States provides an abundance of colonies and fellowships one can apply for. Places that have been frequented by artists like Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, Patricia Highsmith, Toni Morrison, etc. I could start rattling off the names of a whole lot of places, but that’s not the point of this post. The point is, for something like 30-50 bucks and the cost of mailing in a portfolio, you can apply to attend artistic residences where all your accommodations, meals and board, etc, are completely covered up to 8 weeks.

We in Canada are not so lucky. Although arts councils are there to provide much-needed support to artists as they work on their projects, they don’t fund colonies or retreats, at least none that I know of. And all the ones I’ve checked, including the famous Banff Centre for the Arts, charge a hefty thousand bucks for five days of accommodations and meals….which, to be frank, who can afford unless they already have a day job, and therefore not exactly a full-time writer to begin with?
I witnessed something odd at the Humber Summer Workshop I attended (on a scholarship, thankfully!) two Julys ago: most of the participants were made up of middle-aged professionals, otherwise-known-as weekend warriors. Not to generalize, but what I’ve observed is that often those who can afford those expensive workshops are the same people who hardly have the time necessary to complete a full-length work, quality notwithstanding.

It’s a damn shame that we can’t offer as many possibilities as the US and other European nations provide their artists. People here bitch and moan every time funding gets cut at the individual level, but sometimes I think that perhaps if there was a place we could escape to for just a little while, where we wouldn’t have to worry about distractions, finances, etc — that it might be as useful as a big-ass cheque. And equally inspiring. Not that I’d be willing to trade my OAC and CAC funding, thank you very much 🙂 but still…. wouldn’t it be wonderful if such a place existed?

I know, going to a writers’ colony for a month is no guarantee that you can produce something substantial, but then again, neither does getting a huge chunk of money insure that a writer is able to commit to the page. But having said all that, the only place that I’ve found which subsidizes Canadian writers is Berton House in the Yukon, but you have to already have published at least one book to go there. And, well, it’s quite desolate and not exactly large enough to accommodate more than one or two persons at a time.

Sadly, even though financial assistance might be provided to one or two people per program, overall it seems that Canadian writing centres seem more geared toward weekend-type writers with large bank accounts than toward the younger or less affluent people who could most benefit from an opportunity to allow their brilliance to shine through. And in the end, through this insidious practice of cultural and financial elitism, everyone suffers.

Oh, I know — writing programs are basically lucrative cash cows that keep MFA grads and other senior writers employed, but at what cost? By excluding the talented in favour of the rich (though if you’re both, you’ve hit the jackpot!), how exactly does our culture advance?

One of my biggest dreams is to someday own a place where people can come and work on their projects, a place where all costs would be absorbed, and the artist is free only to create. But until I sell a crapload of books and maybe close a movie deal or two, this will remain a wishful dream.

Posted in art, beauty, canada, commentary, freedom, poetry, thoughts, Uncategorized, usa, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

I got a grant from the Arts Council!!

Posted by E on September 22, 2008

!Yay! Just to show you that it never hurts to fill out the papers and send in a proposal – you never know when you might strike gold. This past week I received notice that I was awarded a Level One writing grant from the Toronto Arts Council. Level One grants are $2000 and aimed at emerging new writers. There were a total of 276 applications, out of which 28 people received level one funding.

This couldn’t be better news delivered at a better time; the $2000 amount definitely tops even the highlight of my summer so far – getting my scholarship to the Humber school for writers workshop. I’m on a roll. Nanowrimo is around the corner, and I intend to write at least 65,000 words during November alone. Hopefully I can be right on target, what with my completion date being around spring/summer 2009, right around the Humber course anniversary.

I’ve never received more than a few bucks here and there for my writing, from publishing a poem here and there. This year I thought I’d go after cash rather than just publication credits. To be honest, I was entirely convinced my application would be rejected, but when I touched the envelope, it felt bulkier than a regular rejection slip, and that’s when I thought “Holy shit, maybe I DID get it!” Really though, I never thought I’d actually be handed a cheque for two grand for doing what I love – it really moved me to know that there were jury members out there, unknown, faceless people who don’t know me and whom I don’t know, who saw some value in my work and understood the scope and vision of what I aim to create.

A funny note: one of the recently-published writer panelists who spoke in July at Humber, Shari Lapena, who encouraged participants to stay on track, is also a Level One TAC recipient. It’s neat to see a familiar name; hopefully I will come to know more of the other artists in this city.

Next up: more applications for grants, provincial, federal, whatever. As long as it keeps me afloat, I will use any grants, awards and donations from this site to keep writing full-time. I still have a couple of editing and private tutoring gigs throughout the GTA, though the commuting issues are driving me crazy.

But for right now, I still can’t believe it. I think I’ll just walk over to the Starbucks on Church and celebrate with a caramel macchiatto.

Posted in art, books, canada, literature, news, ontario, toronto, writer, writing | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »