A wealth of good applications

This was my first time evaluating applications. In addition to nascent works of art, I was given a perspective on a multitude of worlds and people, along with a few relationships.

I must say that, in addition to my own work as an artist, the evaluation of these applications has been one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had. This was my first time on the jury. My previous experience of evaluation processes was limited to my own grant applications, some of which were successful and some not.

One has to start somewhere, however. During the first review round, it was fairly easy to separate the excellent applications, of which there were many, from the applications that were lacking for one reason or another and could not be evaluated properly because appendices had not been enclosed. Most of the applications fell somewhere between these two extremes.

Since the applications had to be graded and ranked, I sought to identify the top applications by asking myself what made the work or series of works interesting. Did I want to see the finished work? What would it give to the audience? What would its contribution to the art form be? And what would the work give to the artist – was the artist challenging him- or herself with a work of art that required courage to make? Not all of the works impressed me with their boldness but, on the other hand, some were so impressive that I would travel a long way to see and experience them, and I think I would not be the only one.

I also gave some consideration to where and how the work would be exhibited. The labour of the artist, the artistic process and all forms of artistic fumbling can naturally have their own intrinsic value, but the applications in which a goal had been set for the artist’s work – such as an event, a finished piece or the testing of one’s limits as an artist – seemed to give the most convincing presentation of the work described.

Since the applications were for residencies, I also considered the persona of the artist, insofar as I could gain some glimpse of it between the lines. Would the residency be enjoyable and beneficial for the artist? Would the artist spend a lot of time outside the Residence due to the nature of the work or project? How would the work go if the artist’s partner could not come along? I also tried to conceive how each artist would experience working in the middle of the silent and, particularly in winter, sunless countryside, on the one hand, and, on the other, in the tightly knit artistic community of the Residence with its unavoidable social encounters.

In my experience, the company of other artists is the greatest joy in a residency during the months that one spends alone in the studio, trying to finish the work. Even a November drizzle can feel refreshing, falling on bare skin during deep conversation after a sauna. For me, being part of a community made my Saari residency more meaningful. Perhaps that is why I ended up supporting the residencies of artists whose applications, in addition to their inspirational qualities and artistic weight, gave me the impression that the presence of the artist would enrich the community of the Saari Residence.