Guest Blogger: Debby L. Williams
When you respond to a call for entries or apply for a residency or grant, do you quickly jot off a few words for a cover letter or just slap a form letter on top of your submission?
After reading hundreds of cover letters (yes, committees do read them), I am certain that they are often written at the last minute. They lack substance. They’re, yes, wimpy.
I have received submissions with cover letters addressed to some unknown arts administrator in a different state! I assume this is the result of using the last cover letter and forgetting to change the name and address.
This error is unfortunate on many levels, not the least of which is that the artist insulted me by addressing me by the wrong name.
First Impressions Matter
The cover letter is a chance to introduce yourself, show that you are a well-educated and articulate person, and that you have a real interest in the project.
You might have a basic template for cover letters, but it must be personalized for each project.
Remember, you are making your first impression with the cover letter. Your cover letter should be neat, well organized, and professional. Proper grammar and correct spelling are always important.
Since you are applying for an artistic commission or opportunity, the aesthetics of your submission is crucial—it must be appropriately professional.
But it is a huge missed opportunity if you are not taking advantage of the extra information you can convey in a letter.
You can make a positive impact on a committee by conveying in the cover letter that you are aware of the organization and how you, personally, are already connected to their project. If possible, include information about how you have an affinity or personal relationship to their organization, business, mission, or location.
Many committee members believe that if the artist already has a personal connection to the project, then they will be more committed to its success. A succinct statement telling them of your connection will also give them a bit of an insight to you.
Cover Letter Checklist
Use this list as a check against the content of your next cover letter.
- Correct date
- Your contact information: Name, Address, Phone(s), Email
- Salutation addressed to correct name and organization
- Evidence of awareness of organization and project
- Mention of personal connection to organization, project, or location
I hope it helps you to stop sending wimpy cover letters and start taking advantage of the opportunity to connect for a successful submission.
About Our Guest Blogger
Debby L. Williams is the Director of Oklahoma Art in Public Places. She’s been a curator, museum director, and arts administrator. You’ll run into her frequently on this blog.