Jennifer Callahan needed to fix the letterpress. The machine was broken, and without it, the literary and visual artist couldn't produce broadsides of her hand-bound journal, Pig. Money from a Regional Artist Project Grant helped her, and now the elegantly designed broadsides will be on display at Harvest Records in August.
As is the case for most grant recipients, the money awarded to Callahan won't cover the full cost of her project, but it's a huge boost. "The money was very useful," Callahan says. "I saw the grant as one piece of a financial puzzle."
Callahan is one of hundreds of artists who have benefited from the monetary support of a Regional Artist Project Grant since its inception in 1997.
Awarded annually, the grant has become one of the most recognized and accessible of those given to individual artists in the region. In 2009, a total of $14,250 was awarded to 14 visual, literary, electronic media and performance artists from funds provided by the North Carolina Arts Council and the Asheville Area Arts Council. While the awarded amount is not huge — the most an individual can receive is $1,500 — for many artists, a small financial push is sometimes all that's needed to launch a career and inspire new artistic goals.
Commercial nature photographer Constance Toops had never shown a body of her work in a gallery. With her grant money, she was able to update her computer to produce gallery work and now has two gallery shows scheduled this year.
"The [grant] process has introduced me to a whole new way of thinking about the photos I take and about marketing my work in new ways," Toops says.
The same held true for visual artist Laura Tompkins, who has worked primarily as an oil painter, but wanted to branch out into encaustic painting. "The monies were just enough to get me started and to inspire me as a painter — it has been essential in continuing my education and broadening my portfolio," she says.
Multimedia artist and grant recipient Katherine McGinn will use the grant to create a book illustrating a fable written by her husband, artist Andy Farkas.
"These projects always take on a life of their own and you have to change with them," she says.
Using relief printing, stenciling and handmade paper, the book will function as a traditional codex book and open into a sculptural installation for the viewer to look at all the imagery at once.
"Inevitably I need more than the awarded amount," McGinn says, "but the grant helps tremendously to create an edition of work and purchase all the materials needed."
Last February, Katey Schultz attended a prestigious writer's conference in Chicago thanks to an endowment she received from the Asheville Area Arts Council.
"As a recent graduate of an MFA program, it was thrilling to be there and hear and meet so many of the authors whose work I had just studied in school," says Schultz, a published writer for more than nine years and occasional Xpress contributor.
In a practical sense, the grant can serve as a tool to help artists like musician/composer Silas Durocher (Soulgrass Rebellion, Laura Reed & Deep Pocket) promote work he's already completed. Durocher had already recorded his album Thesis Statement when he applied for the grant help market it.
"Even though it wasn't a ton of money, it allowed me to release my album with some push behind it," Durocher says.
Thanks to the promotion of his CD, Durocher was able to land a high-profile gig with the Downtown After 5 concert series and will be performing with his ensemble on Aug. 21. "I think this is a really great example of Asheville supporting Asheville," he says.
To learn more about the Regional Artist Project Grant, visit the Asheville Area Arts Council's Web site at www.ashevillearts.com.