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Applying to the Krishen Jit Astro Fund: Tips to better your chances

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Over the years, the Krishen Jit Astro Fund has been used to bring to light numerous creative projects. From one-off exhibitions, to festivals which have since taken on a life of their own, to artists and productions that then toured abroad. There is still time to apply for this year’s fund, and Marion D’Cruz, co-founder of one of the organizer’s, Five Arts Centre, talks about the selection process. [Image: Jun Ong’s Gerai Tai Tai, grant recipient in 2015. Credit: Pow Ideas]

There are two big things you need to think about when submitting your proposal; 1) Whether the project fits the spirit of the Krishen Jit Astro Fund and 2) How well you can convey the importance, need, cost and vision of the project. Let’s look at these two items individually:

First, ask yourself: Would Krishen enjoy this?

The fund was established to uphold the legacy of a man who constantly grappled with tradition vs modernity, practice and theory. He delighted in artists unafraid to explore dichotomy, blurring lines and wandering far outside the box.

“I guess the main thing that people do forget is that we’re really looking for projects which are experimental,” says Marion. “Pushing the boundaries, presenting some kind of new thinking, dealing with issues which are interesting, edgy, telling Malaysian stories, thinking out of the box. These are the kinds of projects that tend to get funding over others. There is some element of new thinking going on, there’s an element of, yes, breaking boundaries.”

So before you apply, make certain that your project is in the spirit of the grant. A good way to do this, says Marion, is to look at projects that have received funding in the past. A dance performance that deconstructed and reconstructed Mak Yong. An installation of lights made of recycled materials.

“Last year we also gave to something called Gerai Tai Tai, where this guy set up a stall in the SS2 pasar malam. And basically it was a stall that really questioned the whole consumerism and buying stuff and shopping, shopping, shopping.”

Things they don’t fund? “Equipment; video cameras, mirrors for your studio, a paint job, software… this is not what the fund is for.”

Nor is the fund a scholarship. “If we had the money, it would be great to send artists on a yoga course or your masters’ degree, but we can’t.  On the other hand, if you are going to do a really interesting short course, say, in art therapy, and you’ve done your research and want to use what you learn at your job in an old folk’s home… we could be interested in supporting that.”

Next, ask yourself: How does my project look on paper?

The application form is your opportunity to show you are serious about your work. Give yourself ample time to fill it out. When possible get help and feedback from your most brutally honest friends.

Some of the sections that require special attention:

Section 2: Project information

This asks you for one of the toughest things you’ll need to do: Describe your project in 100 words or less. While you are given more space at the end of paper to describe your project in more detail, this is your project’s ‘first impression’. “You can get your panel interested in the 100-word description, if it’s really clear and really catches their attention. That is how you keep your panel reading.”

Bonus tip: “Don’t waste your precious hundred words with false self-aggrandization. Don’t use ‘the first,’ ‘the best’, ‘the greatest’ – it doesn’t say anything and doesn’t impress anyone.”

Next you are asked to list a maximum of four main objectives and a maximum of two tangible outcomes. “People often get confused between the two” so here is how to tell them apart:

Objectives are the aim of your project; what you are trying to do. So your objective may be to ‘present a performance on human trafficking’ and ‘create awareness of this issue through audience experience’.

Through the objectives, you have the outcomes. So if your objectives were to put on a performance, the outcome will be the performance itself: ‘A 3-day performance held in such-and-such venue, in such-and-such month.”

Section 3: Budget

How do you know how much to ask for if you don’t know how much something will cost? Do your research. Remember that the panel is made up of very experienced people who will know if you are guessing, or worse, lying about how money will be spent. “If you ask for a budget of RM16,000 to feed your cast of 5 for a week, they will know that RM15,000 is going to the cook and that the cook is your mother.”

If there is a justification for unusually high or low numbers (eg, the cast is made up entirely of giant pandas) explain this in your budget.

Section 4: Personal Profile

This section asks for ‘objectives of your past/present/future work OR artist’s statement.’

“Some artists are very clear. Some artists say, ‘I want to change the world,’ then start from one basic statement to how they can do this. Or ‘I want to dance.’ and say what impact they want their dancing to have. So it can go from small to big or big to small.”

“The main thing in an artist statement is your truth as an artist. It doesn’t mean that profound artist statements only come from artists that have been around for a long while. A very young artist can also feel something passionate.”

To read an example of an artist’s statement, click here. {Link to TerryandtheCuz artist’s statement for Krishen Jit Astro Fund}

A little extra information:

What happens during the application process

  1. Every application is read and graded.
  2. A summary sheet is prepared with a short description, requested budget, etc.
  3. A panel goes through the ranking sheet and discusses the validity of each application individually, in order of ranking.
  4. As far as the budget allows, funding is allocated to what the panel believes are the most promising projects. If the proposal does not indicate what amount is being requested, the panel decides what – based on their experience and budget – they will offer.
  5. All applicants receive an email informing them whether they application was successful or not.

Things you need to know about the application process

  1. The panel includes experienced people from the industry who have seen hundreds of grants over the years and have a very clear idea of what Krishen Jit Astro Fund is for.
  2. The initial grading does not necessarily indicate whether a project will be funded or not. “There was one project that received a perfect score when it was ranked. It was well researched and well written, but as the panel examined it more closely, they realized it wasn’t offering anything new.” This project received no funding.
  3. You may be called if the panel has questions about the application.
  4. The fund is only RM35,000. Minus about RM2,000 for photocopying and administration fees, this fund is all the panel has to work with. “We typically give out amounts ranging from about 2,000 to 8 or 9K.”
  5. You do not necessarily stand a greater chance of receiving funding if you ask for less money. The panel will look for justification for the amount you are asking for. They understand that some projects will cost more than others. It’s not how much you ask for, but how you are going to use it.
  6. You can request funding for one part of a project. “Sometimes all we can do is provide seed money. We’ve given RM10,000 to help a project that actually cost RM130,000.” It helps if you say exactly what part of the project the money will help fund.
  7. You can try again. If you are successful, you can try after two years. If you are unsuccessful, use any feedback you get to increase future chances and apply again next year.  

This piece first appeared in The Daily Seni on August 11, 2016

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Amy De Kanter
Amy De Kanter

Former Chief Editor, frequent contributor and enthusiastic audience member, Amy is thrilled to have a job that lets her do three of the things she loves most.