How to Write an Artist Statement (with Chie Morita)
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
Because, truly, what is it even?
Whether for a grant, a residency, fellowship, or cult—chances are good, as an artist, that you will be asked to deliver the entirety of your hopes, dreams, ethos, and personality in around 500 words or less.
To try and quell the voices in my own head, I sat down with Chie Morita, the Deputy Director at Town Stages, Co-founder of the Forge NYC residency programs, and the Program Director for the Sokoloff Arts Creative Fellowship, to try and get some clarity around what the people reading your applications are actually looking for. Spoiler: there is no magic blueprint ahead. I know. I was disappointed too.
Here’s what Chie had to offer:
1.) Be Succinct
When I’m looking at an artist statement, I like a paragraph at best. Less is more. If you can pack a lot of meaning and integrity into not a lot of words, it’s going to speak volumes for you—especially if you are applying as a writer.
A good way to approach it, I think, is to write the one sentence version of your artistic statement first—then extrapolate. Chances are that sentence is going to include some buzz-words and interpretive language—great. Now interpret them.
2.) Make it Tailored, Make it Specific
You would never copy and paste the same cover letter to every job you apply for outside of the arts, so why would you here? Do your research. It’s evident when I get an application that didn’t take the time to actually find out what they’re applying for. So, please, take the time.
Once you’ve done that, draw on the parts of your personal artistry that match what you’re applying for and highlight them. Draw my attention to why you are right for my program—not just what makes you a great artist. Show me the overlap in our Venn Diagram. Tailoring doesn’t mean you’re being dishonest or you’re sucking up, it means that you’re serious about the opportunity and you’ve taken the time to show us how you’ll utilize what we’re offering.