How To Be A Winner


Artists are always looking to push their work and themselves, they are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to show their work and secure time and space to create and incubate. Whether you are a first time applicant or a regular, it’s important to be able to develop a strong application especially in such a competitive environment. This week MD shares tips on how to find opportunities and prepare your application for a residency or open call. 

1. Always opportunities to apply to!

There are so many opportunities these days to show your work and expand your practice. Never forget this, especially when you receive a rejection letter–and we all receive them, but that’s how we learn, tweak, improve and achieve our goals. Here’s a list of some places to look just to get you started.

Also make sure to talk to other creative friends and find out where they are applying. Or subscribe to a few newsletters to receive updates on opportunities right in your mailbox. And stay away from venues that charge money per jpeg. Many of them are more interested in themselves than furthering your practice as an artist.

2. Write your artist statement.

Be direct and concise. Keep it less than 250 words, as several applications will have a word limit. Panelists look at hundreds of applications in a very small amount of time, so be short and meaningful.

Make sure your words immediately relate to and support whatever work you submit. Your statement and work should be easily recognized as coming from the same person.

Depending on your proposal, tweak your statement as needed. Check your grammar. This is a space to be clear not creative.

If someone were looking at your work in person, what questions would they immediately have? Try to answer as many of these questions as possible in your statement. What information is critical to enriching the viewers’ experience of your work? What materials do you work with and why? What are your intellectual interests? What is your process? What’s your intention?

3. Conceive your proposal.

Be passionate about your proposal, and be certain that it relates to the mission of the organization. Do your research on the organization and look at who has previously won. You can learn a lot about what precisely they want by doing this.

Often times, it takes a while to conceive of a proposal that fits your interests and the needs of the organization. Take your time. Begin brainstorming ideas weeks in advance (if not more), so that you can focus on communicating those ideas on paper in the weeks before the deadline.

Again keep it short and clear. Keep to the word limit. Answer what, where, when, why and how as precisely as possible. Have a friend or two read it before sending it off!

4. Organize your work sample.

Whether you’re organizing writing samples, video or jpegs, try to tell a story with your work. Take care in how you order them and choose striking images that support your proposal and statement.

When taking photographs, remove as many distractions as possible from the background. Let the image focus on the work. Often this requires a white background, but not always. If needed, photoshop your images to keep your whites white and other colors true to life. Color is often distorted when photographing.

For video and jpegs, send the highest quality possible without overwhelming their system or yours. Read the instructions and follow them. If the application discloses how the panel will view your work, tweak the sequence, length of video, or amount shown to present your work as clearly as possible.

5. Contact references early.

Two to three weeks before the deadline, contact (usually) two references who know your work and support you. If they haven’t seen your work submission and statement already, send it to them along with your proposal. Let them know when they can expect to be contacted by the organization.

For letters of recommendation, contact references as soon as possible! Letters often take more time. Write your own mock letter. If you can’t be your own reference, how can you ask anyone else? Plus, if your references have little time, you can always share your mock letter with them to show them what’s important to communicate about your work.

And remember to show your gratitude by sending your references thank you letters!

See how good it feels to receive your dream opportunity by writing your future self an acceptance email at Let us know what you think of our tips and add your own.

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