The distribution of the fund is the guiding purpose of the QCA, explained Managing Director Lynn Lobell.
“A lot of the younger organizations throughout Queens are able to do their programs because we give small grants to them,” Lobell said. “The review is led by the artists’ peers and we facilitate that process, but we don’t make the decisions.”
Since 1978, the Queens Council on the Arts has been providing funding to borough-enriching, culturally focused art through public funding sources. To date, the organization has helped launch some of Queens’ most influential art incubators, including the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park.
“When we moved to our new location about a year ago, I was going through the archives and found Noguchi’s first application and Socrates Sculpture Park’s first application,” Lobell said. “These are grants to give these fledgling organizations access to funds they couldn’t access from the city or the community.”
The QCA is calling for individuals and organizations around the borough to submit proposals for projects they feel will enrich the culture of Queens. Last year's grant winners included the Center for Holographic Arts, which was located in a Long Island City clock tower until their iconic 41st Avenue building of occupancy was sold out from under them in March.
But not all projects funded through QCA grants are on such a grand scale. Take for instance the quiet contribution of Camila Santos, who is creating a short story collection on Brazilian immigrants in Queens at a time when all eyes are on Brazil for the World Cup.
Lobell said there are several ways for artists to apply, and that the QCA is very interested in helping those with great ideas to get them out into the communities they live and work in.
“There are a couple ways for artists to apply. First, they can apply to us, or they can apply directly to the Department of Cultural Affairs as individual artists for a grant of $1,000 to $5,000,” she said.
“They can also apply through our state Council on the Arts grant either as an individual or an organization for a $1,000 to $5,000 grant, and brand spanking new this year is a $2,500 commissioning for artists that work in a socially engaged community or where community action inspires the creation of their work,” Lobell added.
One of the stipulations for receiving funding from the council is that at least 25 percent of approved artists’ funding needs to come from outside sources, with the exception of the $2,500 commissioning which can cover the entire cost of a project if necessary.
“We cannot fund 100 percent of the project. It’s a community-funded grant, so we ask them to show at least 25 percent because that shows there’s interest coming in from somewhere else,” she said, “whether from foundations or individual members of the community.”
One of the benefits of working with the QCA is that artists have access to peer mentorship and review that can be an integral part of the refinement of one’s work.
In the spring and fall, the organization hosts two- and three-part sessions for working artists, and in the summer, the focus is on the High School to Art School program, which guides promising young artists through the process of portfolio creation and art school application.
The Art Fund will accept submissions until October 9, and there will be several application workshops around Queens for first-time applicants, with the first of those meetings taking place on August 20 at QCA headquarters, 37-11 35th Avenue.
“Through the professional development, we identify artists that we feel may be leaders in the arts community,” Lobell said. “It’s very intensive, so in the fall they’re really ready to show their portfolios in the admission process to arts colleges. Something like 90 percent of the students get into their first school of choice, and most of them come away with some sort of scholarship.”