What would you do with $200,000?
That’s the question facing performance installation artist Stacey Kirby who recently won the $200,000 grand prize at ArtPrize Eight for her interactive performance piece, “The Bureau of Personal Belonging.”
Visitors to The Bureau engage with Kirby and other performers in the designated areas of the Bureau of Personal Belonging: the Department of Declarations, the Civil Validation Department and the Board of Elections and the Facility Permit Office. Each is occupied by a performer in the role of a government official and evokes an office setting tailored to represent the governmental process it critically examines – from issuing bathroom permits (in direct response to the infamous House Bill 2 passed in Stacey’s home state of North Carolina) to determining the validity of individual lives and experiences. The work culminates with participants’ handwritten responses being processed and mailed to public officials. President Barack Obama, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, various North Carolina Legislators and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are among recipients of Kirby’s work.
You can visit The Bureau remotely through the video of her work below:
It’s easy to treat massive wins like this as though they happened overnight and miss the hard work and learned lessons that make them possible. To this end, Stacey Kirby was kind enough to share 4 lessons she learned that helped pave her path to the ArtPrize grand prize.
1. Be the Advocate Your Art Deserves
Stacey first performed “The Bureau of Personal Belonging” roughly two years ago at a local contemporary art museum, but even in its early days, the project that would eventually take her to Grand Rapids and win her $200,000 required Stacey to advocate for herself in a big way:
“It all started a couple years ago when I was initially going to be in a group show. Politics happened, plans changed, and suddenly I was being told that I wasn’t going to be in the show and wasn’t going to have the opportunity that I had been working towards.”
The story could have ended there; frustrated and disillusioned, Stacey could have given up on the opportunity. What she decided to do instead critically facilitated her future success:
“I called a meeting with the museum, and before I walked in, I sat down and read through all the notes I’d taken at the Creative Capital Core Weekend on negotiation and self-advocacy to work myself into a confident stance. I rolled into that meeting and told them that I wanted a solo show because I knew that this show was going to launch me into a place outside of North Carolina with my work.
They were honestly so blown away by me taking control of the conversation and standing by my vision that they gave me the solo show! And that was the first time I actually performed ‘The Bureau of Personal Belonging.'”
2. Fundraising is All About Community
Actually getting her work to Grand Rapids was a process. First, Stacey performed “The Bureau” at the Durham Pitch Night where she won a $5,000 grant and the opportunity to show her work at ArtPrize. At this point Stacey decided she wanted to go bigger—$10,000 bigger:
“I realized that the project I really wanted to do in the space that ArtPrize had available to me was going to be more of a $15,000 project, so I put together a Kickstarter and did a 15-day fundraiser. My goal was $8,888 and I hit $10,770. It was amazing!
It was an opportunity to really connect to my community and I didn’t realize how much that momentum of my community being behind me from the awareness built by my Kickstarter campaign would actually propel my project further and help me flourish at ArtPrize.”
3. Always Have a Killer Pitch
It can seem impossible to distill the nuances of a work into a quick soundbite, but practicing how to speak about your work in a way that’s clear and concise is essential, especially after your work has just won a major national prize:
“After receiving the award on stage, I was whisked off into a media frenzy—phone calls with AP reporters, a press conference full of the media, and a live on-air interview with a TV station. I had a reporter say to me, ‘I’m having difficulty explaining your work in a concise way. How would you describe it?’ I recall thinking to myself, ‘Ok, Creative Capital elevator pitch—here we go.’ Then, I nailed the answer! The reporter was impressed, and honestly, I was too!”
4. Dream Big
At the end of the day, it’s all about the courage to create meaningful work:
“The biggest thing I believe in is the importance of thinking really big about your vision and your work. If I did not have the courage after going to these workshops to think about and plan for “The Bureau,” none of this would have happened.
It’s funny, in the Strategic Planning workshop when they throw out numbers like ‘You want to make a million dollars next year?’ It can sound a little over the top, but you know, I just won $200,000,” she laughs, “It does happen!”
All of us here at Creative Capital extend our deepest congratulations to Stacey Kirby for her win and are looking forward to seeing where her work takes her next!
Creative Capital offers workshops and webinars designed by and for artists looking to build a sustainable art practice. You can find all our upcoming offerings here.