For over 15 years, the Danish Arts Foundation has provided funding to artists who want to work with children and young people up to the age of 25 and give them an understanding of what art is and how it is created. Specifically, this opportunity is provided through the Artists for Young Audiences program. In addition to craftspeople and designers, musicians, visual artists, performing artists, writers, and architects can apply for the funds.
In 2022, the Danish Arts Foundation received 279 applications for the artists-in-residence for young audiences’ program. Of the 279 applications, 16 were from craftspeople and/or designers. The rest were submitted by artists from other fields. The 16 craftspersons and designers applied for a total of approximately DKK 800,000. In comparison, there were 74 applications from visual artists, who applied for a total of approximately DKK 5,000,000.
Craftspeople and designers accounted for only 5.7% of the applications, and the requested amounts were also generally smaller than those requested by visual artists, for example. We are not taking advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate what crafts and design can mean in the daily lives of children and young people to a sufficient extent. And we are not spreading the artistic approach that designers and craftspeople represent.
As a designer and head of the Artists for Young Audiences committee, I find this regrettable. I would like us to demonstrate much more what crafts and design are and what they can do. With this post, I hope to create greater awareness of the program and provide inspiration for how craftspeople and designers can get involved.
I have been thinking about whether there is already a barrier in the name itself in relation to craftspeople and designers? Because we do not define ourselves as artists? The Danish Arts Foundation uses the term “artists” to refer to all six of the disciplines it addresses. Therefore, designers and craftspeople are artists on an equal footing with architects, visual artists, performing artists, musicians, and writers, so I will call us that in this post!
Our artistic work is based on the design process and the creative process. We can work with material, form, and colour studies. With the ability to see and understand through manual work. We can develop based on knowledge of users, and many of us are trained to create in co-creation processes with others. We can visualize what does not yet exist, and we can develop and test prototypes. Craftspeople and designers have their tools in order in many ways! In my opinion, too few children and young people have the opportunity to become familiar with them.
The collaboration between “home” and artist
Support can be sought for projects in which professional artists introduce their working processes in an involving way, so that children and young people actively participate in the process and gain experience in creating.
Artists often meet children and young people in the contexts where the target group normally moves. Therefore, “home” is also an important part of an Artists for Young Audiences project. “Home” can be local institutions such as schools, educational institutions, or cultural institutions (libraries, museums, theaters, or citizen houses), where teachers, educators, and art mediators contribute to the project.
The collaboration between artists and institutions is essential for the success of the projects. Usually, the artist takes the initiative and finds a partner through networking, which often leads to the institution’s management. Along the way, both parties develop the project framework together to make sense in the institution’s daily life and for the target audience.
Wide range of possibilities
A house artist residency is a meeting between an artist and a specific target group in the children/young people area, as well as representatives from the institutions they are associated with. The residency can take many forms, with the main point being that the involved parties should be hands-on. Ideally, it should last for more than six months to give the artists and the children/young people enough time to dive deep into and explore the creative process together. The residency does not have to be a continuous or intensive process, and it can be arranged to make the most sense for the involved parties.
Collaboration can take the form of working workshops where the parties get to know special techniques or workshops where they explore phenomena or build something. There is a wide range of possibilities to obtain funding. In the current house artist selection, we have seen projects that pay tribute to nature, challenge the body, or delve into colors and materials. Some highlight sustainability, local history, or identity, while others create local cohesion in “village projects” and try to create meaning in the lives of vulnerable children and young people in “city projects.”
Residencies can focus on a single art form (architecture, visual arts, film, crafts and design, literature, music, performing arts). However, we particularly favor projects that contain new and interdisciplinary expressions and build on multiple disciplines.
It is essential that the projects focus on the process and not the artwork. It, therefore, does not make sense to apply for funding to decorate a wall where children and/or young people are spectators to the artwork’s creation.
In the committee, we strive to include ALL of Denmark to the extent that we receive applications from all geographical regions. We also ensure that we cover various school forms, institution types, and age groups. So, we do not always reject projects because they are bad – perhaps they are just in a region that has many applications (Greater Copenhagen) or share the target group with many other applications. The balance depends on the applications received each time.
When evaluating the collaboration between the institution and the artist in the committee, we look at how the institution formulates its active role from start to finish. This can, for example, be a statement of how they contribute to quality in the collaboration and how they help the artist find their place in the organization.
Several project applications describe the mutual expectations of the artist and the educational staff – and what they hope to learn from each other. There is often also a focus on how the project can be anchored in the longer term.
Committee’s work and criteria
The house artist committee must meet the formal requirements set politically and administered by the Art Fund’s secretariat. But we also have the opportunity to influence the application criteria and choose strategic directions that we, the committee members, find relevant.
For example, we have raised the age limit for young people from 18 to 25 years old, so that more people can benefit from the scheme. We have also lowered the institutions’ own financing from 25% to 10%, so that “houses” with limited budgets can participate. Both of these measures are to ensure that the scheme is as relevant and attractive as possible.
The “house artist scheme” can be applied for twice a year. We typically receive around 150 applications on about 1700 pages, and we spend about 3 weeks reading through them. Before we start reading the applications, we assess potential conflicts of interest. We each consider whether we are involved with any applicants or projects. This is taken into account in the allocation process. If we are found to have a conflict of interest, we are excluded from the discussion of that project. This is a cumbersome and necessary procedure that ensures fairness, and we are fans of it!
When we read the applications, we first look to see if the project meets the formal requirements. Is there a budget? Has it been explained how many hours children and young people will meet the artist, etc.? These details are crucial for how we can understand the project.
These formal requirements are listed in the application form, which it is wise to visit well before the deadline, so you know what to explain. If the formal requirements are not met, we reject the project without discussion. It’s a huge shame to set aside good, ambitious projects simply because the duration, own financing and age group were not explained.
Next, we look at whether the project is convincing, with a clear goal. We have decided to prioritize projects that are ambitious and experimental and dare to challenge the parties in their respective practices.
We consider how the project is engaging and provides children/young people with insight and experience in the artistic process. We also assess how the collaboration between artists and institutions is explained. We place emphasis on an agreement on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the project. Of course, the house artist should enjoy working with the target audience, but it must be embedded in the project how to ensure educational support from, for example, teachers, art mediators or permanent staff.
Once we have prepared individually, we meet over two days to discuss the applications. Then we make a collective decision on whether to approve or reject them. In case of doubt, we listen particularly to the member who has the same professional background as the applicant, but we generally seek consensus. And we’re good at it. We very rarely disagree.
Make a difference
I have the privilege of reading applications from musicians, visual artists, performing artists, writers, architects – and to a limited extent, craftspeople and designers – twice a year. Applications that will give something back to children and young people that they would not otherwise experience, partly because it is not part of the school day.
The house artist scheme is a shot in the arm for children and young people, giving them an experience of what quality and experimentation are, what the senses can do, etc.
The scheme is an opportunity for one or more artists to challenge themselves and learn something new. A house artist project focuses on the process, and it is not necessary to end with a polished result. Rather the opposite. That the project has an impact on children and young people, and everyone learns something along the way is the best end result.
It is clear that the scheme makes a difference to those involved: the artists, institutions, and children/young people.
In the artist-in-residence programme the Danish Arts Foundation provides grants for collaborations and partnerships between artists and schools, daycare facilities, municipalities, cultural institutions and associations, which promote children and young people’s encounter with professional art in everyday life.
Deadline for applications 1 March and 2 October 2023
Formkraft will examine why artist in-residence partnerships between organizations and makers/designers are not more common.
What challenges do practising makers and designers face once they have been approved for a residency? How is the partnership between the maker/designer and the host organization established? What do makers and designers think of the application process? And how do the approved projects benefit makers and designers, host organizations and the children and young people they work with?
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