Insights from working in the Frame Grant Committee

Frame’s grants are awarded based on peer review by a Grant Committee appointed every two years. The call for 2023–2025 is currently open. We talked to current members of the Committee, artists Ramina Habibollah and Hannaleena Heiska to hear their thoughts on the committee’s work.

Frame’s grants support international exhibitions, publications, participation in art fairs as well as art professionals’ international travels. Grant decisions are based on peer reviews by a Grant Committee appointed by Frame’s Board of Directors.

In 2021–2023, artists Ramina Habibollah, Hannaleena Heiska, Sandra Kantanen and curator Pontus Kyander worked as members of the Committee. Their two-year term will end in October 2023, after which they will hand over the task to the committee selected for 2023–2025 through the current Open Call.

Hannaleena Heiska recommends the committee work to anyone with a broad interest in contemporary art.

“You have to be interested in and inspired by diverse artistic practices, without being attached to a particular medium or a form of expression”, says Heiska.

Also, Ramina Habibollah thinks everyone interested in the task should apply, still reminding us that the committee members are not able to apply for or receive grants from Frame during their term. 

“I think the best time to apply to the committee is when you’re not a potential applicant of Frame’s grants yourself.”

Hannaleena Heiska at Frame’s Grants breakfast in 2020. Image: Frame

Constructive discussions and challenging decisions

Annually, Frame receives around 700 applications, which the committee evaluates individually. An evaluation meeting is held after every project grant call, where applications are assessed together. With Frame’s travel grants, the committee members take turns in making the propositions.

Reflecting on the past two-year term, Hannaleena Heiska highlights the constructive and rewarding discussions had while making decisions.

“Even when we have strongly disagreed on something, we have always managed to find a common solution through discussions,” she says.

Ramina Habibollah agrees the group has had a good dynamic and working together has been easy. At the same time, Habibollah points out that assessment work takes a lot of one’s own creative energy.

“The committee work has been intense, and I feel I’ve been evaluating applications throughout the year. In my experience, the task requires extreme sensitivity and responsibility.”

Annually, Frame awards 270 000 euros in grants. Approximately 25 % of  applications receive a positive result. Both artists underline that in the committee work, one must accept the fact that not even all the good projects can get funded.

“It has been inspiring to see how many different exhibitions and projects Finnish artists have abroad. At the same time, it’s difficult to accept the fact that it’s not possible to support all the projects because of limited resources”, Heiska remarks.

“It’s important to remember that the decisions are always made comparatively in the pool of applications, by one or few reviewers. The application can be very good, but in the end, won’t get supported in comparison to others”, Ramina Habibollah describes.

Hannaleena Heiska thinks that creating international network opportunities for artists requires input from the whole field.

“I hope that more and more artists will get opportunities to meet international curators and art professionals in person. No one can do it alone, but we need art professionals and organisations to help us.”

International relevance at the core of the decisions

The assessment of Frame’s grant applications is based on criteria defined in Frame’s Grant Directive. The decisions are based on the quality of artistic work, the scope of the project, the significance of the partners, the significance of the project to the artist’s career, and the project’s financial and practical feasibility.

Both Habibollah and Heiska highlight especially the importance of the project’s international significance.

“When reviewing Frame’s applications, the most important things for myself are the artistic quality of the project and how important the funding is for artists’ international career”, Habibollah says.

The Grant Committee members are required to have good knowledge of contemporary art and experience in international exhibitions and also the ability to assess the artistic standard of the project and its relevance to the international career of the artist.

“One of the most important questions is whether the project contributes to the international networking of the applicant: what is the relevance of the exhibition project and venue, how do they relate to other actors in the local and international art scene, and if the project can lead to other opportunities for the applicant”, Heiska says.

The call for applications for the grant committee is open until April 

Are you interested in the international activities of the Finnish contemporary art sector? Do you have experience exhibiting abroad and a good knowledge of contemporary art? You may be an artist, curator, researcher or other contemporary art or museum professional. We are now looking for four peer reviewers to join our grants committee for the 2023–2025 term. Apply by 30 April – for more information take a look at the open call.