News & Politics

A New Funding Source Offers $500 Micro-Grants to Young DC-Area Writers and Musicians

Grantees' work will also be featured in virtual events.

Photo by Dekdoyjaidee/iStock
Coronavirus 2020

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It’s no secret this is a challenging time for writers and musicians, with closed reading and performance venues as well as many lost day jobs. One segment of this population in the DC area—those between ages 18 and 35—now has a new opportunity for both financial support and audience-building, via Emergent Seed, an organization offering $500 micro-grants as well as virtual events to showcase their work.

Founded by Washington writer and poet Adrianna Smith, the privately funded Emergent Seed is calling for submissions of two-to-five-minute videos in four categories: poetry; storytelling; song and lyrics; and instrumental. Applicants must be financially affected by the Covid-19 crisis and live in the District; Alexandria; or Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery, or Prince George’s County. The application deadline for the first round of grants is June 15.

Submissions will be evaluated by a volunteer team of practicing artists, and grantees’ work will be featured in virtual events curated by Smith, who until the coronavirus crisis hit was hosting in-person open-mike events called Makars (from a Scottish word meaning both “maker” and “poet”).

“I’ve seen through these and a lot of events I’ve attended around the area just how much amazing talent lives here,” Smith says. “I wanted to start something that would address the financial stress of the situation we’re living in but also, perhaps more importantly, the lost opportunity for work and the lost audience and lost visibility.”

The initial round of funding will be followed by a second in the summer and, Smith hopes, others after that.

“I have no idea when we’re going to be able to gather in person,” she says, “and there really isn’t any substitute for what we can experience live together, but I have a lot of ideas on how we can support artists and have a long-term vision for Emergent Seed that goes beyond just this coronavirus period.”

Details about how to apply are at

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Bill O’Sullivan is senior managing editor; from 1999 to 2007, he was a features editor. In another lifetime, he was assistant managing editor. Somewhere in the middle, he was managing editor of Common Boundary magazine and senior editor at the Center for Public Integrity. His personal essays have been cited three times among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays. He teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.