EOI now open for unusual art proposals

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Richard Watts

Having a fantastic idea is only half the challenge: the next step is ensuring your concept is carefully explained in an outstanding Expression of Interest.
EOI now open for unusual art proposals

Nick Cave's HEARD in Pitt Street Mall; photo credit Anna Kucera 

Avoid artspeak and industry jargon. Include images that speak clearly and lucidly to your idea. Be aware of current trends and strive to either stand out from the crowd by avoiding them or crystallise the zeitgeist.

While grant writing requires applicants address all criteria in careful detail, writing an Expression of Interest (EOI) necessitates a different approach.

Stephen Gilby, Creative Director of the City of Sydney’s Art & About program, encourages applicants to submit outstanding ideas but not get bogged down in too much detail; there’s time for that later in the application process.

‘The first stage of the Expression of Interest is quite straight forward, and really what we’re looking for is that big idea. We want people to come and tell us, “This is the work that I want to do and this is how it’s going to change the way you think about Sydney; this is the way it’s going to give you a completely new experience.”

‘It really is about big ideas in the first stage,’ he continued. ‘It needs to be a fairly concrete idea but it doesn’t need to be fully spec’d out. There’s time for development in this process. So if someone’s got a fantastic idea and we think it’s perfect, it’s going to do something really amazing for the city and for our audience, then we do have the time to work with the artist and help them develop that idea.’

Art & About, which focuses on unusual, transformative and temporary works in Sydney’s public spaces, is now open to EOIs from interested parties.

Read: Opportunity for artists: Unusual projects wanted

Second-guessing what sort of projects might be dreamed up by artists in a given year is almost impossible, Gilby said.

‘It’s quite difficult to say year on year what’s going to stand out; it changes exponentially. We do find that some years there might be a real focus on soundscapes and the next year on major installations, and then another year it might be a particular location that is really being focused on. It shows you a bit of the zeitgeist and what people are focusing on each year.’

Cave Urban's Near Kin Kin; image by Nikki To. 

Consequently, it’s important for artists to ensure their EOI stands out from the crowd.

‘We may have 300-350 applications;  there’s a lot of people who want to be part of Art & About. So what really helps is some strong images that show, really clearly, what the project is about – images which crystallise that idea in the minds of the selection panel,’ he said.

‘Giving a really clear idea of how people can be involved and what the audience experience is going to be is also very important. Just being very clear and direct about what the art work is and what it is that the artist wants to achieve through the work. And because it is in a public space, the audience experience of the work is also very important.’  

Learn more about Art & About

He also stressed that artists should avoid the sort of artspeak that dominates artists’ statements when putting an EOI together.

‘I’d avoid any jargon. Just make it really clear, because it’s a broad group of people who are looking at the applications. And I think, when you’re trying to express the idea, if it becomes too obscure it’s not going to come across to the panel. So you really have to write in a way that is very direct and clear about what the work is, how people will experience it, and what is really unique and different about the work,’ Gilby said.

Now in its 14th year, Art & About encourages artists from all disciplines to apply. Successful applications will receive between $10,000 and $85,000 to realise their vision for the city from July 2017 onwards. Submissions which temporarily transform the way residents and visitors see and experience the City of Sydney – especially interactive and immersive works – are prioritised.

‘The tagline for Art & About is “art in unusual places”. And it’s useful when people are applying to think about that. You don’t have to be 100% specific about the location you want to use, but do think about how it is going to present your art in a really different and unexpected way,’ Gilby said.

‘When we had the American artist Nick Cave out here, he was talking about his work as really grabbing people and making them stop; putting a smile on their face and really changing their mood and the way they think for the rest of that day.

‘That’s a really important part of the Art & About project – we really want to surprise people. We really want to take them out of the ordinary and use art as another way for them to look at their city and see it in a totally different light.’

Expressions of Interest for Art & About 2017/2018 must be submitted by 5pm AEDT on Friday 10 March 2017. Click here for details.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts