by Minnie Elwood

Ever wonder what panelists look for in an individual artist grant application? Staff members at HAA have compiled the following tips for writing grant applications.

The essence of the application centers around three criteria: artistic merit, potential Impact, and feasibility. It is important that these narrative sections are clear, concise and speak to your ability as an artist. Tips below cover each of the main criteria: 

Artistic Merit, Originality & Innovativeness of the applicants work (60 points)

One of the main things panelists look for is the presentation of new creative work. Some artists struggle with this idea.  This is not work you have archived in a storage unit. This is a new idea, a new concept, an addition/complement to your body of work that speaks to your artistry. Also, has anyone done this before? Many ideas may not be original. They come from your background and experiences. What you—as an artist—can offer is a new outlook and perspective.

Attention to grammar, typographical errors and misspelled words is of great importance. Words that have no meaning or provide context to your project do not create a positive impression and rarely score well. Avoid generalizations. You are introducing yourself to an audience who may be unfamiliar with your work. Utilize every sentence as an opportunity to support your artistic merit and originality. 

Potential impact on tourism & convention/hospitality industry (25 points) How will you draw an audience?

This section of the grant application may prove challenging. Think BIG, but be PRACTICAL. Ask yourself, if I were a tourist, why would I want to see this particular work of art, performance piece, film, etc.? Always ask. You can build relationships with hotels to find unique creative ways to expose a wider audience to your work and the culture of Houston arts.

The venue is very much a part of your project. When selecting a venue, be considerate of the actual venue and its size. The audience numbers should align. Panelists tend to applaud those who have an outline presented in their application.  Keep in mind, you are not required to have pinpointed a venue in advance, but it is HIGHLY encouraged that you show efforts in your application. By simply providing email exchanges or a partnership agreement can go a long way in your support material.

Feasibility of the project & reasonableness of proposed expenses (15 points) Have you outlined a reasonable timeline for the event? Is your budget clear and concise?

Last, but not least, you may have a grand idea and believe that you will draw a large audience, but you actually have to implement it. So ask yourself:  is this project feasible? Does the timeline make sense? Is it possible to build a 400 ft. sculpture in two weeks? Indeed if you are superhuman and have an army of super humans, but for the rest of us….Our advice is to be thoughtful when you are coming up with your timeline. You know better than anyone else the amount of time it takes to do your work. Based on your work theme, think about what would be the best time to present your work during the grant term. If you are doing an outdoor performance, the middle of summer might not be your best option.

Another component of feasibility is the budget. Make sure it is clear and reasonable based on your project needs. Make sure it is diverse and PAY YOURSELF! Yes, you can do that! Consider what it will take to complete your project with a venue, supplies, equipment, artist fees, etc. Be realistic! If you are receiving in-kind donations from another source, note that in the application. Panelists like to see your outreach efforts.


  1. Read the guidelines, criteria, and grant application instructions before beginning the application process.
  2. Write to the funding criteria. Keep them in front of you when you are preparing your proposal. Remember that all applications are reviewed and scored based on how well the applicant meets these criteria. Plan your answers carefully to avoid repetition.
  3. Don’t assume! The panelists who review your proposal may have no knowledge of you or your body of work. Make sure you describe existing and proposed programs in detail.
  4. Remember that the application should stand on its own merits.
  5. Save your work often and log out each time you are done working on your application. 
  6. Create your narrative in Microsoft Word or a comparable software program, utilizing the spell check, grammar check and word count features, and then cut and paste it into the online application.
  7. Look for creative ways to draw a larger diverse audience.
  8. Have a realistic timeline in your preparation of the project….the IAG grant term is extended so that you have time to work on the project. (April 1, 2016- June 30, 2017)
  9. Submit work samples that reflect the work you are applying for if possible.
  10. If in doubt, ask!  The grants department is here to help and guide you.  

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