This article is part of a 4-part guest series on the community arts sector, by Tasneem Dairywala.
Tasneem is an award-winning contemporary visual artist and educator. Outside of her personal art practice, Tasneem works as the Executive Director of Art Ignite, and brings inclusive visual arts programming to the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood.
Tasneem will be releasing her first children's book, How to Show Love, in Spring 2022. To stay up to date on her work, subscribe to her monthly newsletter and follow her on Instagram. Stay tuned for her next post!
Building a Creative Career
An Interview with Tasneem Dairywala
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a visual artist and an art educator. I run a non-profit called Art Ignite and we do lots of fun art programs in Flemingdon Park. I’m also on my way to publishing my first children’s book, ‘How to Show Love’ after which, I will be able to change my status from writer to author!
What would you say are the most important parts of building a creative career?
By learning, I don’t mean acquiring an expensive degree or only learning about art-specific topics. Learn about whatever makes you curious, because it’s crucial to creative growth. Here are some free or low-cost education platforms that I’ve found very useful:
Post-COVID, it would be wonderful to start attending art events again and building in-person connections. But in the meantime, there are other ways to remain connected:
Ask every person you know if they know someone doing the same things as you. I have found this to be the absolute best way to accumulate knowledge and find collaborators and mentors.
Join newsletters. Almost all organizations send them out, and they’re full of opportunities.
Look at Toronto, Ontario and Canada Art Council’s websites. Search for grants related to the fields you’re interested in, look at who was funded by these grants in the past year, and reach out to them. This is how I came across Art Reach and I have received so many opportunities through them in the form of grants, mentorship and education.
You’ve already taken the first steps in this journey. Don’t be afraid to move forward. You’re good enough to get grants. You’re good enough to run projects. You’re good enough to do whatever you desire!
What are some of the steps you take to apply for grants?
Attend grant writing workshops by funders.
Include keywords from the grant description and evaluation metrics in my application.
Talk to the grant officer before applying.
Plan the budget before the project to know what’s achievable.
Make sure the support material is high quality.
If they’re asking for reference letters, make sure the letter is signed, has a header, the correct date, and answers their questions.
If they’re asking for art work, make sure it’s professionally documented.
Break up long questions into smaller sections. This helps to ensure that the entire question has been answered and no details have been left out.
Ask people to proofread. Most people want to help and will say yes!
Start and submit the applications as early as possible to avoid getting stressed.
Ask the grant officer for feedback if the application is unsuccessful.
Pay someone to write the grant if the application is repeatedly unsuccessful. It’s a great learning experience and worth it, especially if the grant writer works on commission.
Are there any grants that are good for emerging artists?
ArtReach is a great one if you’re under 30.
Cultural Hotspot is also fantastic, but you have to partner with an organization.
Inspirit workshop is also great if you have a project idea specific to their mission.
Microgrants are good starters, but they pop up randomly. Keep an eye on your newsletters!
CUE - they give $1000 microgrants to local new gen artists
Check out ArtReach's Grant Deadline Calendar to find grants and keep up with deadlines!
Is there anything else you would want to tell an emerging artist?
The art world is like a buffet. You want to keep adding projects to your plate even after it’s full. But it’s not sustainable. It’s a long journey so take care of yourself and your mental health. There will always be more opportunities