I assumed that attending the United Arts Professional Development Grants Panel meeting, at the Enzian Theater, would be a boring experience. Sketching this process was quite the opposite. I arrived a bit late, and embarrassed, sat at the table closest to the entry door. I agonized for a moment thinking maybe I should move up closer to the panel table to get a better view. Then I noticed that Aradhana Tiwari and Zac Alfson were sitting at the table in front of me, and Beth Marshall, Dewey Chaffee and Douglas McGeoch were seated at the table to my right. I was surrounded by friends and decided an overall view of the room full of artists was the correct vantage point for my sketch.
After I started blocking in the sketch, one of the first orders of business was Michael Poley talking about how he wanted to produce a half hour documentary about an artist who explores Orlando, sketching every aspect of the arts scene. Several panelists didn't know what he meant by sketches, were these theatrical sketches, poems or moments in time? Some panelists who knew of my work started praising what I am doing. This was something akin to sitting in on my own eulogy. None of the panelists knew I was in the room sketching. I finally decided to march up to the panel and hand over my most recent sketchbook as people's exhibit A. Michael said this stunt helped him gain some points, and I certainly hope he gets the $1000 grant: which, if he does, will still have him investing over four thousand dollars of his own money into the project. This is humbling. I hope my sketches and stories do not let him down.
Artists who were submitting applications for grants had to defend their positions, often being asked how the grant money would help them grow as artists rather than focusing on the techniques of their craft. Dewey Chaffee has just taken a huge plunge by not renewing his contract to work at Disney. He certainly could use the boost a grant would offer now, but the panel seemed convinced that his character Wayburn Sassy was fully developed with no room for growth. One panelist seemed to think Wayburn just offers shock value, but Dewey explained that the character gives people a way to laugh at bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Orlando, in my mind, certainly needs Wayburn Sassy.
When Hannah Miller was asked to discuss her puppetry show called "Thunder Hag", one of the panelists leaned back too far and broke their chair. There was an awkward pause, and Hannah asked if he was alright. Aradhana Tiwari put in a grant to study Viewpoints with the SITI Company and its artistic director Anne Bogart in NYC. Aradhana walked up to the panel and sat as close as possible. She was poised, confident and eloquent. She discussed "Project F" at some length and from the panelists responses, it sounds like she is sure to get the grant. As one panelist remarked,"You are up and coming, go to New York and make it happen."
After the panel discussion broke for lunch, a small group of artists remained standing around the snack table, eating the free pretzels. For me, this was lunch before I went to the next location to sketch. Brian Feldman remarked, "All the real artists in the room are still here." It was fun joking around with these artists, all of them friends, and discovering how they felt about the process. For some, it was like facing the Spanish Inquisition, but there was also comedy and unlimited human potential to be discovered in the room that day.