Monday, December 31, 2007

Africa project

I now don’t go back to the zoo until, rather ominously, April 1st - April Fools Day! As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, I work part-time at the zoo from April – December, leaving January – March as my time to concentrate on my own painting and projects.

For that coming period in 08, I was planning two projects. Well, strictly speaking one is a short-term contract of employment (cruise), which is almost upon me…. just days away.
The other I mentioned very briefly in a post back in June.

Earlier this year I made contact with two wildlife conservation researchers, quite randomly and separately. An idea was born with one involving me going out to Africa to see her work in situ and to get photo reference, sketches and field paintings of the animals and landscapes. Then, once back in the UK, I would spend the following two years to produce work, with which I would hold an exhibition to raise funds and awareness for that particular conservation research. Added to that, my other contact suggested that whilst I was in Africa I could visit his project also to get reference to produce a painting for one of their fund-raising events.

This was perfect! It’s just what I want to do with my art- use it in a more direct way to help the conservation of wildlife…. The bonus was of course that it was in Africa. I was very excited about the prospect… but funding it myself was impossible. I work part-time for a charity (the zoo) and so I have low wages. Plus my own art has not built up enough to fund a costly project such as this. So I started investigating how to get funding. I was put onto the Grants for Arts scheme run by the Arts Council in the UK and after chatting to the regional guy both at a seminar on the subject and on the phone explaining the project, I was greatly encouraged by the fact that as I had been invited to do this it put me in a ‘strong position’. This was important, as only about a third of applications are successful in getting funding. But I needed to find extra funding to supplement my application, as the Grants for the Arts scheme would not totally fund a project.

To cut a long story short…… I then spent several months trying to source extra funding and working out exactly what I would need to fund. I had not just the trips to think of, but the exhibition in two years time as well.. what would I need, how much would it cost etc etc. It was a lot harder and more complex than I had assumed and took me much longer than I thought to try and sort.

Time was running out on me very fast as each application needs 6 weeks to go through assessment with the Arts Council and as I would be out of the country on a ship for 5 weeks at the beginning of 2008, I had to get the application and proposal into the Arts Council before Christmas. At the same time I was having to think about and sort out paperwork etc for the cruise trip, prepare for a talk and workshop, go to work and many other things…… not to mention all that needs to be done for Christmas. Things were getting a bit hectic and stressful!

During a call to the regional man at the Arts Council, to ask advice on some aspects of my application, he questioned me on the outcome and reason for the project. Turns out that they won’t fund me because I aim to give half the money from one project to charity/research and all the money from the sale of one painting to another. Had I been keeping the money for myself then they would fund me…. But, not if I was giving it away.
I wasn’t particularly happy…. I had explained the project from the start, in fact several times over the previous four months and the reason why it was being done… now at the 11th hour I get the rug pulled out from under me! I can understand the reason why they cannot fund me… I just wish I had been told from the outset!

So, I have other avenues I can try… but not at this late stage. There was no time, prior to my cruise trip, to organise anything different. And as I was intending to go to Africa in March 08 there will be no time when I get back into the UK mid Feb to sort anything then either.
So, if the researchers are willing, I hope to postpone it.. so that I go out in March 09 instead.

I am extremely disappointed obviously, but perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise. I was getting extremely stressed and things were getting hurried to try and meet the deadline…. mistakes could have been made or things overlooked. Now that I am not going, I can concentrate on organising things for the cruise trip properly, which I couldn’t do before. When I get back, from my trip, I can pursue the Africa project at a better pace and do it better.

This is just such a dream thing to do… I really, really want to do it. I just hope the opportunity remains open for me. I will keep you posted over the next year on progress.

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