In our third funding blog, Seóna Ní Bhriain, head of the Children, Young People and Education Department in the Arts Council, discusses the role and priorities that the Arts Council have when it comes to assessing funding applications for children and young people.
…for ‘the young people’/for ‘the arts’
Children and young people have a right to participate in cultural life and the arts, and all of us benefit when children and young people bring their imaginations and personal experience to an artistic process. In my view, children, young people and the arts have a lot in common…they don’t grow and develop alone – they are created and nurtured by people and they thrive when they are respected; they tell us a lot about ourselves and shine a light where we might otherwise forget to; they are unpredictable and sometimes very funny…
The Arts Council of Ireland is the Irish government agency for developing the arts. The Arts Council works in partnership with artists, arts organisations, public policy makers and others to build a central place for the arts in Irish life. For the Arts Council, it is important that the arts are an integral part of children and young people’s experience in Ireland – but it is equally true that by making children and young people integral to the development of the arts, the arts flourish.
The Arts Council’s Young People, Children and Education (YPCE) team is focussed on children and young people’s engagement with the arts, and sometimes we use the acronym YPCE to describe artistic practices for, with or by children and young people. These practices value the child or young person’s imagination, creativity, personal experience and development; and are usually developed by or with artists or ‘arts practitioners’ across a range of art forms and contexts.
Artistic quality is important to the Arts Council. While it’s hard to measure, the Arts Council does have a working definition – a work of art, or an artistic process or project, is of a high quality if it is original, ambitious, technically competent, connects with people, and impacts on them in a lasting way. Artists and arts organisations engaging with young people should be ambitious in what they set out to do – everyone should be stretching themselves when they undertake an artistic project.
Feasibility is also important. You may not think that ambition, originality and feasibility go together, but they do. High quality arts experiences don’t happen by accident. They happen with careful thought and planning, with time, with reflection.
The purpose of the Young Ensembles Scheme is to support groups of young people between the ages of 12 and 23 to create ambitious and original work together in any art form. The specific priorities are laid out in the Guidelines for Applicants and while these are not brief and may not make for the most fascinating read, they describe what the award is for and guide you through the steps to make the best case for your project.
It is true that a lot of valuable, interesting, worthy initiatives do not get supported by the Arts Council. This may be because the application has not made the best case for the initiative, it may not have been the right fit for the award or scheme, or it may be that in the competitive context, it was simply not possible to fund every project that met the objectives of the award.
Applicants can request feedback from the Arts Council if they are not successful – sometimes they will find some very positive feedback, even if their application ultimately was not supported. Many awards are assessed not only by Arts Council staff and advisers, but by peer panels involving artists and arts practitioners who are active in their fields. In the area of YPCE, young people with recent experience in the arts are also invited to participate in these peer panels.
I would hope that the process of making an application – whether successful or not – will always assist the people behind it in refining their thoughts and challenging themselves.
If you feel like learning more visit www.artscouncil.ie for more information. You can sign up for the Arts Council monthly newsletter on the website so you can stay informed about upcoming deadlines, award guidelines, and other arts news. As the mantra went in the youth theatre where I was a member – particularly around any task that required perseverance – it’s worth doing “for the arts”.
Seóna Ní Bhriain is Head of Young People, Children and Education at the Arts Council. She previously worked as an independent adviser to the Arts Council in the area of arts in education and youth arts. Seóna has a Masters in International Education from the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. Prior to her work for the Arts Council, she delivered arts and cultural programmes in New York City public schools, first as an actor-teacher with the Creative Arts Team, and later as Director of Global Classroom with One to World.