Grant Panels Talk About The Best Ideas

A couple weeks ago the Ohio State Arts Council streamed the deliberations of one of their grant panels. We had submitted an application for a new project so I decided to listen in.

The review started around 8 am and our application didn’t get addressed until around 3 pm, but by 10 am I had a pretty good idea that our application was going to fall short of the mark.

Even though I had run the application past the institutional grants person, there was a lot of silly omissions I could see we had made. By which I mean, we had the data or had envisioned activities as part of our discussions about the project—but we didn’t include it in the grant application. It was one of those cases of being so close to a project you were filling in the blanks and making leaps with your mind.

The problem is, the grant panel didn’t have the benefit of that knowledge or being mind readers. When our turn came, I took notes and now we will do better in the future.

Part of the intent of this post is to encourage people to listen into these deliberations, if available, to help you avoid the mistakes I made and just help improve your grant applications in general.

My other motivation was to encourage people to listen to these deliberations just so you can find out what colleagues in other locales are doing. I heard some really great ideas from the comfort of my office chair.

To some extent this is even more valuable than reading arts related blogs because grant review proceedings bring the details of diverse arts projects to one forum. Then you have people critique the idea, raising questions about things applicants possibly failed to consider, including whether they have been realistic about anticipating the resources and time that will be required.

Of course, you hear comments about what makes an application and an idea exciting to the grant panelists as well.

The one project that really caught my attention was the Highland Square neighborhood of Akron, Ohio’s proposal for their 3rd annual Porch Rokr and Art in the Square Festival.

They have over 100 performers appearing on the porches and front lawns of people throughout the community. You can see pictures from last October’s Festival on their Facebook page.

It appears they have a central area where visual and craft artists can sell their work as well.

This is the sort of event that strengthens ties and cultivates pride in a community

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


2 thoughts on “Grant Panels Talk About The Best Ideas”

  1. Fascinating! I’ll be recommending the idea of streaming deliberations to the Vermont Arts Council. I can’t think of a better way to support those of us in the field with our grant-writing abilities, and it makes the entire process transparent.

    • You can get a sense of how they did it on the grants page-

      It has the schedule, how to sign up for the streaming, etc. While I think these things always take a little longer than you plan, they really were relatively efficient with each person talking in turn. First a staff member would state whether all the required information was in the packet and then there would be comments by the panelist assigned to the application and the staff coordinator for the region.


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