Your First Grant

Tips and Insights from Anna Magruder

Last summer, Portland painter Anna Magruder started plotting out her first attempt to get a grant. A year later, her magnificent show Oregon’s Painted History: Oregon’s hidden past revealed through historic surrealist paintings opened at the Architectural Heritage Center in SE Portland. Without a project grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC), Anna’s yearning to explore Oregon’s history through her painting would not have been so fully realized. Here’s what she learned in her year of applying for the grant, then producing the work.

Show that people support your work. Having an audience who cares about your work makes a big difference to RACC. Anna solicited donations from her collectors, friends and family. The money went toward producing this body of work. In exchange for a $25 donation, Anna promised a print from her history series. “RACC wants to see that others are supporting the project,” she says.

Ask for discounts. RACC encourages funded artists to ask art supply stores to sponsor them and give discounts. This is mostly done out of the goodness of the store owners’ hearts because they like to support the local arts community. Anna’s sponsors include independent art stores Muse Art Design and I’ve Been Framed, and the excellent local photographer Dan Kvitka, who specializes in photographing art.

Understand you might be partially funded. RACC’s scoring system assigns applicants a certain number of points. Some grant recipients receive 100 percent of the funds they ask for. Others receive a partial amount. Anna requested $3,733 and got 80 percent, or $2,986. So have a backup plan of how you can make up the shortfall if your project is almost – but not quite – funded.

Take RACC’s free workshop. Applying for a RACC grant? The organization gives a free workshop for first time grant applicants. “They go through exactly what you need to do to fill out your grant,” Anna says. “That was very helpful because you’ll want to follow the instructions closely.”

Enlist the help of talented friends. Despite the fact that Anna is a very talented Boggle player, she doesn’t consider herself a word person. So writing the grant was a challenge. “I was fortunate to have good friends to help,” she says. Friends helped with editing and proofreading. “Proofread, proofread, proofread,” she says. “Have others proofread.”

Think through your budget. Filling out the grant application forces artists to devise a budget. “It’s pretty involved,” Anna says. “You have to really think through your project and what you might be purchasing or using or doing for it so you can prepare your budget. They want to know line by line.” She underestimated what she’d spend on art supplies and research materials.

Prepare to be specific. RACC wants to know about your project. All about it. “You need to be very specific,” Anna says, “even including how many pieces of art and the sizes.” This may change along the way, but you need to keep them updated. For example, Anna planned to work exclusively in oils, her usual medium. But while creating the show, she decided to do one watercolor and one rubbing on fabric. She emailed her RACC contact to let them know about this change. They’ll also want to know specifics about your audience, your marketing plan and the venue that’s agreed to host your show.

Take the chance to expand. Over her RACC grant year, Anna expanded her contacts and grew in her art abilities. To learn more about Oregon history, she picked the brain of local expert J.D. Chandler. She read books on Oregon history, did online research and visited the Oregon Historical Society. She met with Reverend Deborah R. Brown of St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church to learn more about Portland’s African American history. She also developed her conceptual skills. “I was surprised I was able to come up with the concepts I did,” she says, “and use symbolism, rather than just specific events and people.”

The support of RACC and her friends, family and collectors made a big difference to Anna. “I felt this pressure and obligation that this is other people’s money and I want to do right by them,” she says. “That was huge for me. For a while there I felt really overwhelmed, so I really pushed myself just to make it happen.”

You can see Anna’s show now through September at the Architectural Heritage Center at 701 SE Grand Avenue. Call 503-231-7264 for hours. Visit her website at

For more info about RACC grants, read Making the Most of RACC.

—by Teresa Bergen,