Should you consider the age and gender breakdown of the previously successful applicants when considering if you should submit an application for an arts residency?

Recently I got a rejection letter back  from a Sydney based organisation in response to an application I had submitted for a fantastic looking arts residency. As previously I have had a very high success rate with applications for residencies, I started thinking that maybe I should have undertaken a bit more research on who they had selected in the past and did I fit the profile even roughly.  Did I set myself up for rejection?

While past behaviour is not always a good predictor of the future it is as least something to go on, some indicator of the way the organisations’ belief structures are played out. It may not have been prudent to rely just on what they said.

So the gender breakdown was of the previously successful applications was;

male∗ 65%

female∗ 35%

∗Gender was taken from the personal pronouns used in the biographies of the artists. This of course may not be how the artists identify themselves.

And the age breakdown was;

25-30   18%

30-35   47%

35-40   18%

40-45   6%

45-50   6%

unknown  5%

Based on this, the expected likelihood of my application being successful as a woman over 50 years of age was 0%.  That probability was confirmed by the result.

Of course other factors may be at play – older  and younger artists may not apply at the same rate as the 30-35 year old artists. The devil’s advocate would reply that older artists have been trained out of it while younger artists may still be finding their feet.

Secondly male artists may apply at a much high rate than other genders but given that male students account for much less than 50% of art school students at all levels I would tend not to think this is a factor could be at play.

It is hard to ignore the conclusion that male artists between 30 -35 years of age are somehow the preferred recipients of this opportunity. Not a digestible pill to swallow. An easier pill to swallow is the realisation that twenty minutes of investigation would have uncovered this prior to my preparing an application.