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7/23/06
It feels like a Black Hole

Dear Kim,

I have been doing several hours of the company’s work every day while I am on my sabbatical here. As multiple demands have increasingly descended, I realized I would have to spend much of the weekend working on grants.

Now here’s the thing about grants and work. Or work and grants. As you know, I am no stranger to loads of administrative work and I don’t mind it when it is productive. Even when I would rather spend more of my time on things I find more immediately creative.

I try to find a way to make anything creative for myself. But after years of writing numerous grants every year, it is hard to feel stimulated by it. More unfortunate, perhaps is the way I get attached to the outcome.

It is difficult not to. When we spend hours and hours writing grants, assembling the documentation, UPS or overnighting things.

Often there is such a feeling of sending things into the void. Most of the time, we have no idea who is reading the grants or what other organizations of comparable size may have received.

It feels like a black hole.

(Kim: So our life ticks away. And we spend countless hours in meaningless or semi-meaningless activity. But do you ever think about how most people spend their time? Working long hours at menial jobs, hungry, cold, and sick? Are we happier having the luxury to enjoy and make art?)

And it’s funny, I can spend hours of time in rehearsal doing body work or improvisation or timed writings without being attached to an outcome. I see it as investigation. If it yields something immediately, that’s great. But it is always useful.

It fires up the synapses. Tells me what I don’t know or want. And that is as useful in its own way as discoveries of things I might use in performance.

So it is time well spent.

Unlike certain grants which feel like an exercise in frustration.

A few years ago, I had an excellent conversation with a funding officer for Met/Life who had sought us out. He had heard about The DisAbility Project and was excited about the work we were doing until he asked about the size of our budget.

Then he told me we were too small for them to consider. His rationale didn't make sense to me. Five minutes before he had been singing our praises. I tried to redirect the conversation, to gently tout our ability to make a dollars stretch and to show effective we had been in many settings.

It didn’t make any difference. Somehow, with the mention of a number, his attitude shifted and he lost interest.

When I first began the company over 15 years ago, I knew nothing about the world of grants.All I knew was that I wanted to create art and to spend my time with people who cared about pursuing and expressing deep truths, whether they be personal or political.

Now I spend a lot of my time—more and more—thinking about grants and money. It is very disheartening.

Later,

Joan
Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006

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