Interview with James “Grandpa” Whiddon, 2013 Art Committee Lead

Flaming Art: Can you give us, the Apogaea community, an introduction to yourself, and tell us how you came to be involved with Apogaea?

James (Grandpa): Hi, Apogaea – I’m James, but some people call me Grandpa.  My first Apogaea was 2009 and I jumped right in by helping to bring you that year’s effigy.  I’ve been a participant ever since.

James Whiddon Interview


Art: What is one thing that people who even know you don’t know about you that you would share with us?

Grandpa: If you know me, you already know it all.


Art: What are your responsibilities as Art Committee Lead?

Grandpa: Art Committee Lead is a year-round Ignition position.  It requires knowledge of decisions made by the Board in their monthly meetings and coordination of efforts with other Leads to maximize the incorporation of art into the event.

In a nutshell, I am responsible for putting the group together that reviews art grant applications, votes on grant awards, and then presenting those recommendations to the board.


Art: Tell us a little about the funding for these grants, like where it comes from, historically how much money has been allocated to artists and how many artists receive grants?

Grandpa: Since 2006, Apogaea’s Board of Directors has allocated a portion of the event’s ticket revenue for funding community art through the issuing of art grants.  Each year around October or November, Apogaea’s Board of Directors determines the amount of ticket revenue they wish to allocate to art grants for the upcoming event.  Once that total grant amount has been set, it is up to the Art Committee to distribute that money to artists that have completed grant applications.

Here is a chart showing Apogaea’s art grant funding history:


Number of applicants

Grants Awarded

Total Amount Granted

Ticket Sales

Percentage of Ticket Sales Given as Grants

















































* Estimated


Art: What kind of commitment does it take to be a member of the art committee?

Grandpa: Timewise, being on the Art Committee requires a commitment of about 10-15 hours a month from December through March.  You are also required to spend about 2-3 hours reviewing the art at Apogaea.


Art: If members of our community are interested in applying for an art grant, what should they know?  How can an artist increase their chances of receiving a grant?

Grandpa: We get a lot more applications than we can fund.  For example, in 2012, we were only able to fund approximately 17% of the over $134,000 that was requested.  Keeping that in mind, I would suggest taking the time to make your application as detailed as possible, especially when it comes to the budget.  A complete and exact budget shows the Art Committee that your project is well thought out and researched.  The budget does not need to be exact to the penny, but a budget asking for $500 for “general materials” will be less competitive than one that shows careful consideration of the elements needed and research on costs.


Art: What types of art are typically funded?

Grandpa: We have the latitude to fund just about any type of incredible art.  We have funded everything from performances to sculpture to workshops to sound camps to temples to mutant vehicles to alien artifacts and other stuff that makes one ask: WTF?


Art: Is there anything else you’d like the community to be aware of regarding the art grant committee?

Grandpa: We want to help you make Apogaea one of the best experiences of your life.  And then, do it even better year after year.


Art: What kind of art projects would be really exciting to see at Apo in 2013 and into the future?

Grandpa: I’m a sucker for anything dangerous.  I never got to see it in person, but when I first heard about The Ladder from Burning Man, I was totally floored.  Then I was immediately taken by the fact that you’d probably never see anything like that in the default world.  What do I want to see at Apogaea?  I want to see something that really pushes the boundaries of safety and creativity.  Then make it shoot fire and serve me a beer.


Art: You have taken on a ton of other responsibilities with Apogaea besides the Art Grant Committee Lead.  Tell us a little more about that, what it takes, and why you are doing it?

Grandpa: Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.  Participation is still one of those ten principle thingys, right?



Want more detail about Apogaea Art Grants or the Art Committee?

Find it on Apogaea’s Website.