Washington artists once again related their problems to several D.C. Arts commissioners at one of the Commission's periodic forums yesterday afternoon. Not surprisingly, the artists asked for: better communication between artists and the Commission; more exhibition of their work; more space for studio and practice; and of course, more money.
But what was different about yesterday's forum was that it was specifically intended for artists who have problems in the city. "This is the second stage of public forums we have been having since the fall," said D.C. commissioner Heidi Berry, who chaired the meeting. "These are more informal, more like a roundtable discussion, and they are for identifying the problems of individual artists."
Berry said the Commission was in the process of planning an exhibition of individual artists funded during the last 12-month funding cycle.
"I thought the meeting was pretty good for airing problems," said Bella Schwartz, a Washington painter. "But it was too short. It was only an hour and a half."
"I'd like to see larger grants to individual artists," said painter Janis Goodman, "like $5,000 to $10,000. We also need more showing space for all kinds of artists. I'm optimistic. This is the second or third forum I've been to in my eight years in Washington, and all those forums were in the past year."
In general the groups of approximately 30 artists seemed hopeful and relaxed with the commissioners. One artist, further hammering home a point he had made during the forum, went up to Berry and said, "Don't give any money to established artists. Give it only to struggling artists."
During the current fall-to-fall funding cycle, the Commission's largest grant to an individual artist was $6,000. Berry said that 30 grants to individual artists were awarded in the previous cycle, and estimates that about 11 were given to individual artists the year before that. "But you have to remember," she said, "the individual grant program is only 2 years old."
Further forums will be held on Jan. 22, 23 and 24 at the Center for Metropolitan Studies, at 1717 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Each day will have specific time periods devoted to individual artists in specific disciplines. The Commission office has specific schedules.