Q&A with Stephanie nova Milne

Stephanie nova Milne is one half of the artist nova Milne, and co-founded their collective Ms&Mr, and also our NAVA Online course facilitator for Writing Grant Proposals. Currently based in New York, Stephanie chats to us about the importance of writing grants within an arts practice.

How has receiving grants allowed you to build your career and develop your practice as an artist?

In Australia, there’s a lot of opportunities during the emerging years of an artist’s practice. At the time we won the Helen Lempriere Scholarship (now the NSW Artist Fellowship), I had never travelled overseas, let alone to assist and learn from a significant artist we wildly respected. International residencies have been part of our education and peer network. nova Milne has been grateful for grants that have helped us make more experimental work; like being able to record an interview with a dead science fiction author’s lover in California.

As a professional artist how much time do you set aside to apply for grants?

A lot of what goes into an application (documentation, support material etc) is part of the broader admin of being an artist, and that’s ongoing. We may go a year without lodging a grant application, at other times we may lodge quite a few in the same month. Things like researching opportunities is ongoing, and often in the form of email subscriptions and reminders. We’ll research over a few weeks before we write, then we may spend a couple full days focussed on putting together and writing an involved application. It is a different headspace to studio thinking, so if we can, we chunk a stretch of focussed time to do it.

What are two strategies you employ when writing grants to ensure yours stands out from the rest?

Capture or it didn’t happen. We’re fastidious about documenting our work. It’s also a valuable way of maintaining our archive. We once sat in on a blind-selection jury for a residency, and it’s surprising how often you might see a video artist who hasn’t checked their Vimeo link is working or an installation that was poorly photographed - and those applicants just fade out of the conversation.

We also try to be economical with our words. Being to-the-point actually makes it easier for assessors to access your project. The irony is, less words equals more time editing.

Why is a polished CV important when applying for a grant?

We think it’s probably best if CVs are edited, simply formatted and unembellished. You want assessors to see what your background is without the annoyance of navigating a shambolic CV. You could think of it like hanging a show. Some say one bad painting in a group of otherwise excellent paintings brings them all down. So it’s better to leave out things that don’t support what’s relevant to your artwork.