Sarah Gantt ’23

Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York, NY

During the summer of 2021, I worked for the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), a New York City-based organization that gives grants to experimental artists. FCA has monthly and annual grants programs. Artists apply directly for the monthly grants which are project-based emergency grants and bridge grants, designed to tide artists over until venues open to fuller capacity.

My first day at the Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ office in Greenwich Village.

The annual grants program works differently. FCA reaches out to a select pool of about 70 nominators and receives about 40 nominations on average. FCA received more nominations for the 2021 grants cycle, most likely because of a greater need due of Covid-19. For the 2022 cycle, it was challenging to get enough nominations to have a competitive applicant pool. FCA gives about 20 Grants to Artists awards of $40,000 each in the disciplines of Dance, Performance Art/Theater, Music/Sound, Poetry, and Visual Arts.

During my summer at FCA, I conducted research on the confidential Grants to Artists nominees. For each artist, I started by reading the artist’s nominator letter. I created comprehensive lists of their work samples and press in a massive spreadsheet and added biographies and a grants/honors/awards document to their artist’s folder on Dropbox. Basically, my job was to find everything I could about each nominee and highlight their most notable work samples and press. The information I found would then be presented to a panel that determines the 2022 grantees.

My experiences at FCA and conversations with Williams alumni have allowed me to sharpen my career focus. I remain interested in curatorial or educational work in a museum setting because I appreciate how museums take specialized knowledge and present it to the public in accessible ways. I learned at FCA that I would like to work for an institution that incorporates living artists into their values/mission and their institutional framework; artists see our world in a unique way, and I want to be a part of an institution that supports them.

Many of the artists I researched have participated in artist residency programs, and working for an artist residency program is something that appeals to me. I like the design of a residency as an “artists’ retreat” where artists can step away from their normal lives and focus on their practice in specialized environments. In addition, I like the holistic focus of residency programs, caring for the diverse needs of artists. For instance, many programs have chefs and housekeepers who sustain visiting artists. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) runs an artist residency program, and I have spoken with the program’s director, Carolyn Clayton, and would like to learn more about her work and possibly intern at MASS MoCA in the future.

I am grateful to FCA staff for my experiences with them. I felt valued as an integral member of the Grant Programs team, even though I worked remotely for most of my internship. Thank you to the Class of 1974 and to the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for supporting this opportunity.