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Dread was written all over my face as I pushed open the heavy boardroom door. We trudged out of a project pitch with potential sponsors who ripped our proposal to shreds. This was our first experience of a project pitch. I recalled how the criticism stung my frail ego because I hadn’t developed a producer’s thick skin yet. Overwhelmed by the negative responses, I had begun to doubt myself and was worried that I’d let my production team down.


Despite that, a lifeline was thrown to us by one of the producers at the meeting. He said that if we still wanted to go ahead with the idea; to drop by his office the next day for some one-on-one advice. From that moment onwards, my team and I pulled our socks up and tightened up our proposal. To date, we have produced two international digital art festivals and have a third one in the pipeline for 2017. Plus, my skin has gotten thicker.


The rewarding and skin-thickening Digital Art and Culture Festival

The rewarding and skin-thickening Digital Art and Culture Festival

Getting over the uncertainty, getting over the fear

I’m a regular sounding board for friends who are in a similar situation. Coming from a creative background, the thought of preparing a project proposal, ironing out the budget, managing and executing the production; is not only mind-boggling, but intimidating as well.


The biggest dilemma for an art-based project producer is maintaining creative integrity. This is what sets an art-based project apart from a regular event. Art is about self-expression, presenting new voices and alternative views in the forms of creative output. Great art flourishes on diversity and breaking norms. On the other hand, sponsorship and funding from corporations and government institutions are about marketability and pushing their agenda forward. Usually, they do not want to fund or sponsor programs that are deemed too radical or cutting-edge.


The clashing of interests

Creative integrity and funding/sponsorships are of equal importance in the success of an art project but often encounter ideological clashes. This is a classic internal battle between the ideal and pragmatic. However, for original and exhilarating works to be created, producers must be brave enough to take risks.


With the general elections on the horizon, the risk of investing in art projects is perceived to be greater than ever before. Malaysian corporations and the government have started to cut back on, if not totally stopped funding and grants for art-related endeavors. Art project funding is now increasingly competitive because producers, managers and artists are fighting for the same piece of pie.

The biggest dilemma for an art based project producer is maintaining creative integrity. Photo courtesy of The Digital Art and Culture Festival team

The biggest dilemma for an art based project producer is maintaining creative integrity. Photo courtesy of The Digital Art and Culture Festival team


What you can do

As believers in healthy competition, the Digital Art +Culture (DA+C) Festival team and I are responding to Malaysia’s unpredictable art infrastructure by sharing our resources with you; our knowledge-banks. Over the years, we have gained reputable ground and have expanded our presence regionally through various cross-disciplinary partnerships and collaborations. Our upcoming “From Passion to Profession Masterclass Series” is a platform for you to tap into proven fundraising strategies and ways of gaining project support as shared by my team and two equally experienced guest speakers.


How to write a workable proposal in one day

We kick off this series with a focus on art management. I will conduct the first of the day’s two sessions and the second will be headed by Christine Ngh. As many of you already know, Christine has years of experience in the marketing sector of multi-national companies. In 2010, she founded and is still co-director of Bumblebee Consultancy, marketing agency specializing in art and creativity campaigns.


Back to session 1: All art projects start with writing a proposal to reach out to potential sponsors, funders and collaborators and here effective communication gives you the upper hand. In my session, Preparing an Art Project Proposal I will share methods to effectively outline your key ideas and intentions and translate them in a systematic and deliverable manner.


To ensure that your project stays afloat until delivery, I will also take a systematic look at the risks of managing your creative integrity as an art producer and reflect these risks in the timeline, budget and human resources.

Finally, I will help you to prepare a mock art project proposal. Selected proposals will be presented at the end of the session for discussion


So that’s the first half of the day. As for the second half…

Want to polish your proposal even further? Stay for Christine’s session which I will elaborate on in Part 2 of this article).

Christine will pick up where I leave off, bringing her experience as producer for community arts projects to work with you on your proposal, focusing mainly on funding and sponsorship. Christine will also explore funding alternatives like marketing community partnerships.


We’re offering a discount to people who attend both sessions, and you will also gain something far more valuable. At the end of the day you will leave with a working art proposal you can use to start approaching sponsors. Stay tuned.


Or better yet – don’t wait. We’re keeping this class small so register now before it fills up!



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Suzy Sulaiman
Suzy Sulaiman

Suzy Sulaiman has two babies; one is the Digital Art + Culture Festival and the other is a human child named Teja.