Little Rock musician Chris Long knew he needed business guidance to get college gigs for his and his wife’s music project but taking a business course would mean stretching dollars the pair didn’t have.
“There’s a lot of the business side of things that I think artists are missing,” said Veronica Wirges, who is the other half of Monsterboy and Long’s wife.
Then, the pair heard about the Arkansas Arts Council’s professional development grant for individual artists. The Sally A. Williams Artist Fund offers reimbursement grants of up to $500 to artists who are seeking to attend conferences, hiring art-related business consultants, attending an art-related retreat or taking a course. Long was among 17 applicants awarded the matching grant in the 2019 fiscal year that ended June 30.
Long was approved to take an online course, called “How to Make Crazy Money Playing Colleges,” and was reimbursed $500 around the beginning of June.
“It kind of allowed us to reach out further than what we would – beyond our normal comfort zone and our normal budget,” Wirges said.
Within two weeks after completing the course, Monsterboy booked a show at the University of Central Arkansas for Aug. 16. The pair already have plans to expand from Central Arkansas colleges to college venues statewide, then to colleges in the five states touching Arkansas’s borders. The course boosted Long’s confidence, business strategy and income potential, Wirges and Long said. The Sally Williams grant made advancing possible.
The grant, which reopened for applications this past July, allows an individual artist to receive a reimbursement grant of at least $100 and up to $500 during each fiscal year.
The grant doesn’t cover items like publishing costs and supplies. Applicants must apply at least one month before the professional development event, etc., begins and must submit proper documentation afterward.
Funding for the program comes, in part, from donations. The grant was established in memory of Sally A. Williams, who served as the Arts Council’s artist services manager for 25 years before she died in 2010. To be eligible, the applicant must be at least 21 years old and must have been a resident of Arkansas for at least one year.
Wirges said the applications process was easy because Arts Council staff work with artists. She called several times to make sure she was entering the proper information, she said.
“They were absolutely fantastic,” Wirges said. “I was a little nervous because I’d never done it before.”
The grant is an important opportunity for all artists of all genres, Wirges and Long said. The Arts Council accepts applications from an array of different styles and kinds of artists. Long and Wirges had initially assumed they didn’t qualify because their music is not considered classical or folk, but that wasn’t the case.
Monsterboy has since been spreading the word. Musicians need to know this funding is out there, she said. Often, there seems to be a gap between help and funding for musicians who are in their teens or 20s and those who are professional musicians with families, she said.
“It’s so easy to think you’re alone in it,” Wirges said.
The Sally Williams grant helps bridge that gap. During fiscal year 2019, the Arts Council awarded $7,219 to help develop professional artists in Arkansas. Money is available until funding runs out.
“I keep telling people,” said Long. “I think it’s a really great resource.”
For more information about Arkansas Arts Council programs and grants or to donate to the Sally A. Williams Fund, visit arkansasarts.org.