How to Write a Compelling Letter of Interest

Are you interested in winning public art commissions but find yourself overwhelmed by the application process? Many public art projects begin with an RFQ, or request for qualifications. Answering an RFQ with a compelling letter of interest is crucial to advancing past the initial stages of selection. Each letter you submit should be specific to each project.

The following frame for writing an effective letter of interest is drawn from Lynn Basa’s Creative Capital online workshop, “Demystifying Public Art.”

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Specifically address your interest in the project. Refer to the RFQ, but be careful not to just reword what it says. Your letter of interest should show that you understand what the agency or selection committee is looking for, that you feel an affinity for it and that you took the time to do some research.

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Elaborate on your vision for the project. Describe the direction you’d like to explore if you are chosen as a finalist and tell them what you’re excited about. Draw connections between other projects you’ve done. They don’t have to be public art projects, but you should certainly mention any relevant experience you might have with public art or community projects.

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Convince the selection committee you are capable of completing this project. In Lynn’s words, “Toot your own horn.” Sum up what makes your qualifications and what makes you the best candidate for the commission.

Like any process, the key to success in winning public art commissions is practice. Don’t get discouraged. Successful public artists respond to many calls per year. Lynn Basa herself submits about thirty letters of interest per year. To learn all of the ins and outs of applying for public art commissions, sign up for Demystifying Public Art on December 17.

Lynn Basa is a full-time artist living in Chicago. Her practice is focused on painting and public art. Formerly an instructor in the Sculpture department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she is currently attending graduate school at SAIC in its new Low-Residency MFA program. Lynn is also the author of The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions

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