My assessment approach

Assessing Kone Foundation grant applications was my fifth assessment experience. Kone Foundation’s slogan, Bold Initiative, may have become an ironic quip in social media, but it turned out to be a great tool for the assessors. It made the task easier than usual as the targets were clear.

Projects that want to change how art is made and experienced and which also challenge their own method of expression by presenting new content received positive assessments. The applicant’s stance was also important: how does an applicant see his/her status in the sector from a social context and does the applicant understand or have personal experience of the theme presented in the application that is to be dealt with?

I returned to the questions above again and again as I read hundreds of applications. I read interesting explanations by applicants whose career path had veered off course. I was also impressed by determined and merited artists who are dedicated to their own activities.

Boldness is more than sheer bull-headed experimentation, it is also tenacious specialisation.

In applications in the field of art I like applicants to steer clear of certain formalities. There is no doubt that punchy and unapologetic texts with carefully chosen work samples are effective while other methods seem to be past their sell-by date. In the field of art for example, recommendation letters are of no importance to assessors. They are only useful when the referee is very familiar with a more unusual field. Praise by a known influential person in the Finnish field of art is nothing more than meaningless words.

The applications that gave the best impression were those that put across the applicant’s need to do precisely what is described in the application. It is a dead giveaway if an applicant adds a current theme to the work in an artificial way, especially as the assessors will end up reading numerous similar texts.

It is very difficult for artists to avoid the annual grant application process. Artists have to keep working, even if they do not have any specific project or work-in-progress in the pipeline when they are compiling applications. Honesty can help in situations like this. I find straightforward descriptions of an artist’s work interesting to read. I think that making art, in itself, is of value.

The above-mentioned current themes also came to mind when I considered the application process more broadly. There were only a few artists and other applicants who live in Finland but do not speak Finnish or fit in with the normative artist identity who applied for funding. Private funds and public actors should focus on making sure that everyone feels and knows that they are entitled to receive support for their artistic work. Structural discrimination, which easily remains hidden, is most likely to be the main challenge experienced in art in Finland and would actually provide a great topic for a cutting edge project: who dares to apply for funding and support for their ideas?