I have looked forward to a different future for some time and yet, there is something poignantly sad about this new stage in my life. It seems to have come faster than I had expected even though I have been in expectation of it for a long time. In just over a week, my youngest child, Johnny, turns eighteen and I have officially 'finished' parenting - whatever that means.
Spending the last sixteen years of my life as a single parent, I seem to have muddled my way through to this point with laughter, heartache, anguish and joy. Like most parents, I have many regrets but I desire to change nothing, grateful for the time that I have shared with all my three children. This time with them appears to have gone in a heartbeat and by some miraculous sanction, they have all survived to become the young adults that they should be.
Below is a poem written about a near drowning event at the Mossman Gorge in 2005 after heavy rain. At the time of the incident, Johnny was eight and his cousin, Rita, was 14. Reading over the words again has helped me appreciate the fragility of life and fills me now with a deep and abiding thankfulness for what I have experienced. I welcome the future and all that it might hold.
He was aiming for the rock,
He goes out too far,
He goes under.
Counting seconds - 1 1000, 2 1000.
She see him go,
She is so close,
Now they are both gone.
Counting seconds - 4 1000, 5 1000.
On the bank, no air,
Voice catching in my throat,
Then running and screaming.
Counting seconds - 9 1000, 10 1000.
Everyone is frozen, still,
As if in shock, unreal,
Except me, only me.
Counting seconds - 20 1000, 21 1000.
Scrambling over rocks,
Slipping, sliding, paying no heed,
'Catch them! Catch them!'
Counting seconds - 40 1000, 41 1000.
Chanting like a mantra,
'Remember your first aide,
Remember your first aide.'
Counting seconds - 60 1000, 61 1000.
My heart, my brain, my cells
Scream 'Help me! Help me!'
I know that I cannot catch them.
Counting seconds - 80 1000, 81 1000.
Like two corks held under water,
They explode through the surface,
And cling to the rock. Exhausted
Stop counting - 90 1000, 91 1000.
A frozen man melts,
We swim them from the middle,
He and I, the only two.
We walk back through rocks,
And silent, gawking, frozen people.
I shake his hand, the unfrozen man.
I thank him, but I am shaking.
Wrapped in towels, we walk back.
At the car, I ask 'How?'
'How did you find that rock?'
She says, 'Someone pushed us.'
'Who? Who pushed you?'
She says, 'Someone just pushed us.'
We drive home.
Everyone is silent.
Grant acquittals are a time of reflection and sometimes wonderment as to what has actually been accomplished over the allocated period. For me, the twelve months of ArtStart has been quite challenging in terms of time management but an infinitely rewarding experience. The Australia Council love statistics so here are a few from the last year - 3 SOLO exhibitions in the Cairns region, 7 GROUP exhibitions in the Cairns region, 5 GROUP exhibitions in the Brisbane region, 1 GROUP exhibition in the Melbourne region, 1 GROUP touring exhibition to locations within Australia and New Zealand, 1 residency interstate, I mentorship with West End Studio, Brisbane.
Part of the acquittal process was asking for advise to future potential ArtStart applicants. I found this question incredibly poignant and sad, as there are no longer such opportunities offered to emerging artists due to the current cutbacks. It also makes me realise how fortunate I have been to be able to undertake all of my ArtStart activities and how pivotal this whole experience has been to the longevity of my arts practice.
Perhaps the advise might be of help to other forms of grant writing? In anticipation of that, I have included four of the most important points below..
1. Try again and again. Don’t take it personally if you are not successful in the first instance, it is not a reflection on the quality or significance of your arts practice. Each time you are unsuccessful, gain feedback, refine your application and try again. Be tenacious! I was successful in my 5th application for an ArtStart grant. The process itself will help to clarify your career options, regardless of the outcome.
2. Be clear about your goals. Think about how many applications the assessing panel has to read and make sure every word of yours counts for something. Link your goals and your activities so that there is a defined line between where you are now and where you want to be. If you are unsuccessful, make sure you move forward with your own goals without an ArtStart grant. When I was unsuccessful the first time, I built my own website anyway; the second time, I exhibited my work in a metropolitan gallery anyway; the third time, I went to New York to study anyway. etc
3. Have a ‘non-artist’ read your application. Look at your current contacts for people that don’t know your art practice very well but have business or life experience and ask them to give you feedback on your application. This means completing the application early to allow time for others to read it and give you their response. The last time, I had a banking project manager, a university lecturer and a psychiatric nurse read mine. I listened to their feedback, then I refined, refined, refined.
4. Make your ArtStart goals count. ArtStart should be an amazing assistance to your chosen arts career, so make sure that you ask for things that will be of the most benefit to your longevity as an artist. Also make sure that the tasks are able to be accomplished within the 12 months time period. I found that I struggled at times to carry out some of the activities as well as accomplish my 'normal' life responsibilities, so make sure you have the time available to make the best of the opportunity.