Archive for July, 2011

2011 McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists.

July 1, 2011

Photo by Jack Hill*

For the past six years I have applied for several grants and fellowships and repeating the applications the following years. The process is time consuming, frustrating, and at times demoralizing. No one likes getting rejection letters, even when it is a common experience as it is for me and numerous other artists. I have gotten used to referring to the winter months as “Grant Writing Season,” a time when much of my energy is spent writing, editing, word-smithing, and organizing applications. After each grant writing season is over and I have received the rejection letters from the various funding foundations, I go through a period of remorse, self doubt, and am frustrated by all of the time I seemingly wasted. Time that could have been spent on other aspects of artistic career, like making more artwork and sending portfolios to galleries and workshop venues. I have often wondered how much more financial success I might have gained if I gave up on grant writing and just spent my time making and marketing my artwork.

I didn’t discontinue the grant and fellowship applications, so I will never know. But I do know that my current work the Poisoned Cocoon series is extremely time consuming. In the past two years I have made less than five pieces each year. This is in part because of other life responsibilities and interests such as stay-at-home dad, gardener, household handy man, cook, baker, and so forth. The limited time I have for studio time is well spent. The meticulous nature of my artwork also require me to price it at the higher end of the art market, which then places it into the arena of art collectors, high-end galleries, museum collections, and the amazingly enlightened people who absolutely need and value artwork in their lives. Suffice it to say these people are limited.

Well, I am happy to say that with the help of an ah-ha moment inspired by the writings of Lial A. Jones, museum director at the Crocker Art Museum, continual editing and support from my spouse, and my own bullheaded persistence, I finally landed the large and prestigious 2011 McKnight Fellowship for Ceramic Artists. This award has helped my self-esteem immensely. It has been a couple years since my art career has produced any real financial gain. The fellowship will enable me to spend more time making art, promoting the work, and participating more fully as an artist. The very first thing I am going to do is attend Charlie Cummings’ workshop, Clay: An Interdisciplinary Medium in the Digital Age, at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. For some time now, I have been interested in employing contemporary image transfer techniques in my artwork, and now I will have the opportunity to do so. I am also really looking forward to being able to spend time with other artists.

Photo by Jack Hill*

The only downside to receiving this fellowship is that I must remain in Minnesota to accept it, which I did. This normally would not be a problem, except for the fact that my spouse simultaneously was offered and accepted a position in the Northeast United States, the region of my childhood. Thus she and my son will move East and I will stay in the Mid-West until Spring 2012. This situation will be very difficult for the family and marriage. It is hard to think about not being with the two of them on a regular basis; however, in the end I am sure the distance will create a greater appreciation and love for each other. I will be racking up quite a few frequent flier miles, that’s for sure. The positive side to this situation, is that I will have quite a bit of studio time and hopefully will create a fair amount of artwork for the final fellowship exhibition at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. Then, I can take this artwork East and hopefully establish gallery representation in art-loving North East cities.

I am both excited, and apprehensive about the upcoming 2011-12 McKnight Fellowship Year. I know it will be especially hard on my son. He is only three and used to my almost continuous presence. It will be hard for him to be in preschool full-time and in a new living condition. He is at a point in his psychological and emotional development where he needs and is comforted by consistency, which will be completely and totally rearranged for him — it won’t be easy. It will also be hard on my spouse, who will be starting a new job and for all practical purposes will essentially be a single mother for the year. Along with being partners, my spouse and I are also best of friends and we will miss each other, tremendously. I am sure that I will go through some parental/spousal abandonment remorse and guilt. On the other hand, I will have a tremendous amount of time to work on my artwork and art career, I just hope I can survive the loneliness and sorrow that will come with it.

*Jack Hill Photography and Design –