Our “Let’s Talk About” series will focus on a different topic each month with artists or professionals from various backgrounds and specialties. 

Applying for a grant goes hand-in-hand with being an artist. We asked interdisciplinary artist Olga Klosowski Schellenberg what it’s been like for her to go through the grant application process and for some helpful tips to make the process a little less daunting.

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into your art practice.

I’m a mother of two young children, an arts administrator and a creator of all things that come my way. I’ve always leaned towards creative thinking and making of things. As a child I was encouraged by my parents to work towards building a life surrounded by the arts. It was never a question that I’d be doing anything else outside of the arts (even though they would have also been happy if I would have been a dentist or a doctor.) Once I completed my BFA and had my first son I challenged myself to pursue my art practice seriously. I applied for everything and anything that would provide opportunities for networking, exposure and inclusion in the arts sector. 

Q: Tell me your experience with applying for a grant or a residency. What did you like, what did you not like, how long did you spend on the process? What tools did you use? Did you reach out to anyone for advice or help? 

I am a very introverted person that requires a push to make the first step in order to be placed in a new and unknown situation. To jump start my practice I forced myself to apply to anything I was eligible for. I applied for a number of residencies, internships and exhibitions along the way. I was generally successful in my first attempts which was very surprising yet reassuring that this was the right choice. 

My first opportunity was at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga where I was granted a subsidized residency in the Wood Shop. Since I was only a year out of school and I had a great mentor in my last year, my portfolio was all set for applications. I only had to focus on the additional requirements which included what new projects I expected to work on for the year-long residency. What I didn’t expect was that this process involved an interview. While I have only come across this once in all my residency applications, one should be ready for everything. 

Following this residency I’ve applied to a few others, some being successful while others were not. Even if there are a number of opportunities available not all are suitable for each artist. You cannot be discouraged if you are not accepted. Ask for feedback, build on that advice if applicable and find another opportunity that is more suitable to your needs. 

My most valuable resource when applying for residencies and exhibitions is still my professor. I believe finding a mentor that is able to challenge you, push you to your limits and provide feedback is key in submitting great applications. 

Q: What is something you wish you’d known prior to writing the grant? What’s something that you would have done differently? 

In university there as a Professional Practice course. I really wish this was something I included in my coursework in addition to studio classes. While I had a good portfolio once graduating, having an opportunity to learn first hand about grant writing and applications would have been beneficial. I’m still learning as I apply for each application and I have yet to apply for a grant towards a specific project. 

Q: What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’ve stepped away from my familiar themes of space and home, and am focusing on themes around the weight of motherhood (not all negative), care and objects of comfort. This past fall I was accepted to participate in a parent/artist residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point with Mothra which shifted how I approach and think about my work and parenting. I’ve been exploring drawings of my youngest while he naps and the shapes and locations of his swaddle blanket which he uses as his comfort object. I am also interested in the themes of weight and care and how that influences my role as a mother especially during these unprecedented times. By the end of my maternity leave in the next few months I hope to have a number of sculptural pieces and works completed.

On the side I’ve also been commissioned to do a few murals which has been great fun!

Follow Olga on Instagram at @olgaklosowski or on her website olgaklosowski.com