Here’s what happens in that murky time after you hit the submit button on your RISCA grant application and before you get a letter in the mail with the results (and why it takes so long).
Each program’s process is a little different, so this is what happens in the Fellowship and Project Grants for Individuals programs.
Step One: Screening for Eligibility
Staff start by reading every single application- for the April 1st deadline, about 215 applications were submitted for the fellowship and PGI programs alone, this week I am working my way through 187. At this point, I just check that each application meets our eligibility requirements and is complete, and I take some notes about content, genres represented, and style for step two.
Step Two: Central Casting
For the April deadline, I gathered nine grant review panels with 31 total panelists from six states. We recruit panelists that are working in a wide variety of art forms and styles. Our panelists are artists, arts administrators, and people working in arts-adjacent fields or serving artists. With the exception of the Fellowship program, they are Rhode Islanders. This is similar to casting a play- we need specific skills, experience, and knowledge and each person fits together like a puzzle piece. We gather totally new panels for each deadline, you can only serve on a RISCA panel once every three years, so we are constantly updating spreadsheets and making notes about people we think would be great panelists.
Step Three: Panelists Evaluate Applications
Panelists for all of the grant programs, except a few of the fellowship categories, then review the applications at home, and give them a preliminary score. So, your applications and supporting materials are first viewed by panelists at home, on their personal computers. We estimate that panelists spend about 30 minutes reviewing each application, so, depending on the number of applications, this is a 12-18 hour time commitment before the in person panel review day. We try to give panelists at least a month to do this work. At this point, in addition to submitting a numerical score via our online grant system, they also take notes and make comments about each application in preparation for the panel review day.
Step Four: Panel Review Day
The panelists come to RISCA offices in Providence for an all day panel review meeting. This is the big day for your application. Facilitated by the program director, the panelists discuss each application in detail, returning to supporting materials, asking questions of each other, and looking at each project’s budget. Each panelists updates their score for each application, and once we have discussed each application, the program director ranks the applications by their total score. The panelists then make funding recommendations for each application, based on the total amount of money available to award.
Step Five: Distilling Feedback
During the review day, both the program directors and other staff take notes on the feedback from the panelists. Then, the program director distills this feedback into a concise paragraph for the applicant. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide feedback or critique in our fellowship programs, partly because of the number of applications.
Step Six: Council Approval
Our council, which is the governor appointed group that oversees RISCA’s activity, reviews the panel recommendations and comments, and then approves the grants. We do our best to give them at minimum a week, usually two, to review the comments before the council meeting.
Step Seven: Notification
Once the grants have been approved, we send out notifications via mail to each applicant. With the exception of the fellowships, each applicant receives feedback on their application regardless of whether they were funded. From submission to notification typically takes about 2 and a half to three months, and a lot of spreadsheets.
The National Endowment for the Arts today announced that five Rhode Island organizations, including the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, will receive $878,700 in federal grants through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). These grants will support activities in communities throughout Rhode Island that affect our state’s economy, quality of life and educational programs.
Governor Gina M. Raimondo expressed appreciation for the federal investment in Rhode Island’s cultural sector. “We’re grateful for the NEA’s support of arts programming and activities in our state,” said Governor Raimondo. “Every dollar that goes to support the arts results in more jobs for Rhode Islanders, an economy and cultural life that makes our state an exciting destination for visitors and business alike, and innovative arts education programs like RISD’s Project Open Door, that helps Rhode Island high school students prepare for exciting opportunities in the arts.”
In announcing the grants, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu said, “The American people are recognized for their innovative spirit and these grants represent the vision, energy, and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations. I am proud of the role the National Endowment for the Arts plays in helping advance the creative capacity of the United States.”
Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, applauded the federal arts funding agency for its support. “We have seen clear evidence that the arts contribute dramatically to the Rhode Island economy and to the education of our children,” Rosenbaum said. “This federal support, matched with state dollars, helps to ensure that we continue to be a creative state, able to compete on the national stage with young people who learn through the arts to be the imaginative thinkers and problem-solvers of the twenty-first century.”
Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation is also very supportive of the federal investment in the arts in Rhode Island.
Senator Jack Reed said, “I am pleased to have led efforts to secure this federal funding to support arts education and boost our arts economy. By combining federal grants with state and local funds and private donations, we can ensure that more Rhode Islanders have access to free and affordable concerts, performances, and opportunities for cultural enrichment.” Senator Jack Reed is a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NEA’s budget, and he brought NEA Chairman Jane Chu to Rhode Island on two separate occasions. Reed noted that White House budget for FY 2018 calls for an elimination of the NEA, among other cultural agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities. “The arts may not have a place in the President’s budget, but they have a home in Rhode Island and I will continue to champion federal support for the arts nationwide.”
“Rhode Island punches well above our weight in the arts, thanks in part to smart federal investments like these,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “While funding for the arts and humanities represents only a small sliver of the federal budget, those dollars are put to work creating jobs and contributing to the quality of life we enjoy in Rhode Island. I’ll keep fighting to protect our creative sector from the extreme funding cuts proposed by President Trump.”
Congressman David Cicilline also expressed his support for the NEA and its work in Rhode Island. “The arts are critical to our quality of life and play an essential role in Rhode Island’s economy,” said Cicilline. “These grants will help students and artists across our community develop their talents and enhance our state’s reputation as a center of creativity and entrepreneurship. I am proud to be a strong supporter of these types of federal investments to help make Rhode Island more vibrant and economically prosperous.”
“Rhode Island is known for its arts community, and this federal investment will enable local organizations to continue building our state’s vibrant, world-class arts scene,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “The arts enhance the quality of life for Rhode Islanders and serve as an important economic driver within our state. I’m pleased these funds will be used help to support jobs in the arts, bolster education and ensure the Ocean State remains an exciting place to live, work, and visit.”
A list of the projects receiving funding is below:
Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
$718,700 Providence, RI
Partnerships (State & Regional)
To support Partnership Agreement activities associated with carrying out your NEA-approved State strategic plan.
Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre (aka The Gamm)
$50,000 Pawtucket, RI
Our Town – Design
To support The Gamm’s design of a cultural anchor for Pawtucket. The project will center on the community engagement and design phase of a plan to restore a Pawtucket building into a cultural facility that will be the new Gamm Theatre. The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre will partner with the City of Pawtucket and additional community partners on the design process. The facility will serve an estimated 71,000 residents of the city as an anchor for a newly revitalized downtown.
Community Musicworks (aka CMW)
$65,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Music
To support free music educational and performance programs for at-risk children and youth. Resident musicians in the program will provide instrumental lessons as well as instruction in subjects such as music theory and improvisation. Other activities will include a leadership development program for advanced students, performance opportunities for students, and professional concerts by resident musicians.
$30,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works
To support a series of multidisciplinary presentations and accompanying outreach activities. Participating artists including Bandaloop, Chick Corea, Betsayda Machada, and Qryq Qyz will perform. FirstWorks will offer related engagement activities including local artist showcases, panel discussions, master classes, films, social dance events, experiential learning, and performances in community spaces.
Rhode Island School of Design (aka RISD)
$15,000 Providence, RI
Art Works – Arts Education
To support Project Open Door. The free, after-school and summer visual arts education program is intended to serve high school students and teachers from underserved communities. Participating youth will develop technical skills in the visual arts and prepare competitive college entrance portfolios. Graduate students supervised by RISD faculty will provide arts instruction in a variety of artistic media. Students will have the opportunity to work in an open studio, build portfolios of creative work, and make museum and gallery visits-including an annual visit to New York City.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts.
About the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information on RISCA and its programs, please visit www.arts.ri.gov.
Thanks to all of you who attended RISCA’s 50th Birthday party at the Rhode Island State House on June 1st! We had a great turnout, and a lot of fun.
The highlight of the event was our 50 Speakers for 50 Years of Public Support for the Arts in Rhode Island, when 50 arts and political leaders in our state took 60 seconds apiece to creatively express their support for public funding for the arts. And it was VERY creative. Click on the image above to see the video, courtesy of Rhode Island Capitol TV.
And check out pictures of the event on the RISCA Flickr page, courtesy of photographer Lew Place III.