CV – Shorter is better but it’s OK if it’s 16 pages as long as they are easy to skim through. Include only things relevant to what you are doing. Mention in headings that they are lists of selected/relevant things. If you are applying for an artist residency don’t mention the year you worked as a bar tender; we’ve all done that and it’s irrelevant.
Possible CV headings: formal education, solo shows, group shows, performances, screenings, residencies, workshops, grants and awards, bibliography, permanent collections, teaching, curation/direction, professional experience, prof memberships…
Bio – Vernacular story of your life that presents what’s on your CV in a way that connects your experiences to each other and also puts your experiences in context of the world around you as you have lived your life. Does not need to be a novel, just a paragraph but helps the jury imagine you as a real person that they would want to work with.
Artist statement – (A statement in a proposal is not an article for publication, 200 words is enough) Use this to show your style and charisma. Take advantage of the fact that there are no rules to writing a statement so don’t give them the same thing everybody else has. I discard any application if their statement says “I make art to express myself” rather than taking the opportunity to express themselves. Tell me what is at the very center of your work/practice. If you can express your concepts concretely rather than the process that’s good. Don’t hide behind ambiguous philosophy jargon, that’s intimidating and boring. Saying “interdisciplinary” and other art jargon words is completely appropriate. You don’t need to say “I work in many mediums like bla, bla and bla” if there is a video, a painting, a smart phone app and a book in your portfolio. Unless it’s conceptually relevant to your work don’t even mention aesthetics or materials, you can show that in your portfolio. Art has to stand on its own without the artist present to explain what it means, but this is your chance to explain it. Speak generally- Say what you think art is. What does it mean? What are you expressing?
Proposal – It’s best to be very specific. Do not go on tangents about other related projects. You will never be held to this proposal, you will have the freedom to change your mind and to do whatever you feel like but use this as an opportunity to describe one single project coherently. Mention concept, materials/technique, process, budget, time line, purpose, and possibly how it fits into contemporary art/the community you are proposing to work with/ your target audience. This is for you to show off your vision. Dream big but be mindful of logistics and be reasonable. Realization should be feasible.
Portfolio – Include only your best stuff, not the stuff relevant to the proposal. Show your competency as an artist not your allegiance to the theme. What will be seen is the quality of finished work, projects that need to be explained conceptually will be overlooked unless you can force the jury to read the concept somehow. Visual aesthetics and style are most important here. This is your chance to really flirt with your jury, get them excited with a variety of very easy to digest projects that show off your range of abilities and experience. Do not send 15 photos of abstract paintings of the same cloud unless you are confident that your statement has successfully convinced the jury that this is exciting.
Other stuff- Don’t include a hundred links to fb albums and newspaper articles or long PDF scrap books of your life. (Especially if they need special permission to be viewed) If you are sending a hard copy application do include fun, tidy gifts like catalogues, stickers, business cards and merch of your work only.
Communication outside the instructions- Many organizations are very strict about following instructions. Try to give them exactly and only what they ask for, but they are looking to choose a creative person. If you can use their application process in a creative way breaking the rules a little bit can be an advantage. Asking for help politely and enthusiastically can sometimes be good, but read all the instructions thoroughly first. I usually reject applicants who need me to hold their hands through the application process because I expect I will have to hold their hands in person, but I respect an applicant who asks a question that was not already answered in the call for submissions.
Deadlines- Many organizations have strict deadlines, but will accept things that are late because it takes time to go through a pile of applications, so a day or so after the deadline they are unlikely to have made a final decision. Missing the deadline and ignoring application instructions gives them an easy excuse to discard your application if they have lots that they already love, but if they like you nothing else matters. I appreciate early applicants but honesty am more likely to accept someone who is late than early because their work will be fresh in my mind when making a decision. Sending applications out side of an open call and developing a relationship with an organization can be very advantageous for you both, landing you in positions that may not be available to other people, but you will have to be able to articulate why you are the exact right person, so do your research and find out what kind of artists they like.
Repeat Applications– If you don’t get in reapply. Keep applying and they will get to know you. Update your application each time, tailor it to the opportunity. Do not send in the same application you sent to 20 other residencies with a proposal that’s unrelated to the program, that has the name of my program or country dropped in in another font.
Do not rely on google translate. Get someone to clean up your writing or even just take out the telltale spaces before the periods that google translate leaves behind.
Administrative/logistical stuff – Double check that you include any forms or stuff like that they ask for, without it your application will get lost.