I’ve been posting about this on Facebook and Instagram for about a month already, but this is my official blog announcement about a project I will be working on this year!
Back in October (while we were in the middle of buying a house… -_-) I applied for an Individual Artist Grant from Saratoga Arts. They offer Community Arts Grants, Arts Education Grants, as well as Individual Artist Grants that artists can apply for with an artist resume and a proposal for a project, and Saratoga Arts chooses a few Individual Artist projects to fund each year. This was my first time applying, and my project was chosen to be funded!
The project is one I have had in mind for a few years now, but I’ve always had other projects on my plate, and the thought of the cost put me off a bit. The idea was to take one of the historic images from the collection at the Saratoga Springs Public Library and recreate the dress in the image as closely as possible, then finish it off by hiring a photographer to take photos of me in the dress in the same location as the image.
I mentioned the idea to some coworkers one day and in an offhand way they mentioned the Saratoga Arts grants and then kind of forgot about it. I looked into it and realized that one of the grant info sessions was coming up, so I signed up for it, and from that point, without necessarily meaning to, I was committed to applying.
The application was actually quite easy compared to other grant applications. As a career librarian, my experience with grants is on an institutional level, and the applications and management of the grant funds are usually very complicated, time consuming, and detailed. I found the application for the Individual Artist Grant quite easy to navigate, though. They mostly wanted to know about the project itself, a proposed budget for how I would use the grant funds, and information on things like why the project would be important to the community, and how getting funded would help my career in my arts field. They also offer a lot of support for the grant applicants. You’re required to attend one info session before applying, which is where you can ask lots of questions and find out more about the application process, and they allow you to submit your application in advance for feedback before submitting the final version. I also got a ton of help and advice from the local history librarian at the Saratoga Library who has successfully applied for a few institutional grants in the past, so the process felt a lot smoother than I was ever expecting a grant application to be. The most stressful part was probably waiting out the month of February when I knew the rejection letters were supposed to be going out.
One important component of the grant is that it has to be a publicly accessible project. The community has to be able to engage with the project in some way. To that effect I am going to be hosting a couple of pop up art demos at libraries in the area where people can come in and watch me work on the dress, ask me questions, and learn about the project (click on the link to my Facebook page on the right to find the event info!). When the dress is done I’m going to be giving a public presentation about the project, the dress, the original image, and the process of making the dress, as well as revealing the finished product and the re-staged photos.
On the back end, I am responsible for making up advertising materials, booking my events, and tracking my expenditures, so I have created some postcards, fliers, and a cool banner, and I am keeping all of my supplies receipts.
At the moment I am unsure how many blog posts I will be doing about my grant project. I usually try to do one post per project when the project is done, and discuss my construction process all in one post, but being that this is such a big project, and that I want to try to keep it as public and informative as possible, I’m probably going to be breaking this one up into several posts. One of the first posts I will probably do is all about how I learned to draft up the pattern that I am using from Frances Grimble’s Fashions of the Gilded Age because it was totally new to me, and did come with a few hiccups. There were also a few hiccups with my fabric order, based on which I want to write a post that basically reviews a certain site that I used, so that is another one that is tangentially related. What I might end up doing is making this the project Master Post, and adding links to all of the blog posts about this project that I end up writing. Check out my post on choosing the image, gown, and fabrics here, and my post about drafting the bodice pattern here. Look out for the banner at the top of this post for the other posts featuring this project.
For now, I have the majority of my materials collected, so tomorrow I start working on the dress in earnest. I’m a little nervous because part of me feels like I should do one more mockup on the bodice, but part of me also wants to just get going already. I may start on the underskirt tomorrow and build the thing from the bottom up (like I should probably be doing all of the time anyway…)
I leave you with the photo I am recreating, courtesy of the Robert Joki Stereoview Collection at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, and a quick snap of the fabrics that I am using.
Saratoga Arts made this program possible with an Individual Artist Grant funded by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.