There was a time when letters traversed the globe the way that emails do today. Letters were the only way to communicate with friends and family far away. They were the means by which people expressed themselves, pouring the contents of their minds and hearts onto bits of paper to be sealed and sent out to the minds and hearts of others. There is a different quality to letters than email or other forms of digital communication. Letters possess an inherent authenticity that is more difficult to achieve electronically.
As an artist who relies on independent funding to continue in your chosen craft and career, patrons and sponsors play a potentially large role in keeping you afloat. But how do you communicate with potential patrons and sponsors to make them aware of your existence, your work, and your need?
Whether you write it by hand or type it out onto beautiful paper, a letter is a great way to be noticed by a potential patron or sponsor. In these times we are all too used to receiving emails all the time for just about any reason imaginable. What we don’t receive are letters. This beautiful method of communication has been lost in the shuffle of our fast-paced digital lives. No longer do we sit awhile with pen and ink letting thoughts form at the pace of our handwriting. Instead, our fingers fly across a keyboard until we hit send and move along to the next thing.
Asking a patron or sponsor for money is an intimidating task, to be sure. Writing a beautiful letter can be a way for you to make an introduction and an impression, taking some of the worry out of that first contact.
There is a simple process to this that can be easily used for any scenario. If you are a visual artist, contact information for potential patrons and sponsors can sometimes be found on museum websites if you know where to look. Search out lists of trustees and board members, these are the museum backers who are sometimes willing to reach out to individual artists. Gather some names, do your research, and start writing.
If you aren’t engaging in an art based project, there are other avenues to pursue. Celebrities can sometimes be called upon to lend their support to an interesting cause. Again, writing a beautiful letter is a wonderful way to make an introduction.
Thing is, this day and age hardly anyone is used to receiving letters. When they do, it makes an impact. Writing out a personal, honest, heartfelt note that expresses your intentions and your desire for a small bit of support can really work.
What about the particulars of actually writing the letter? Must it be handwritten? If you have nice, legible handwriting, this is strongly recommended. If you don’t, consider using a typewriter if you can get your hands on one. Classic typeset from an old typewriter creates a lovely, nostalgic aesthetic. If neither of these is available to you, write your letter out in a computer word processing program and print it. Choose a nice font and include some personal touches on the finished piece. If you’re a visual artist, by all means, mark up that page.
Other touches to consider are a wax seal for the outside of your letter. You can create and purchase your own wax seals at various websites. This small touch gives so much to your letter. Choose your paper carefully. Rich, handmade paper will make a gorgeous impression. If this is unavailable, find a heavy, quality paper for your letter. Whether you’re writing by hand or printing, paper should be carefully considered.
The contents of your letter should be heartfelt. Be honest about who you are and your needs. Write as eloquently as you can, using formal greetings and never, under any circumstances, resorting to any sort of text speak or modern abbreviations. Proofread your letter more than once, walk away from it and come back to re-read checking for any confusing or poorly written passages. It’s best to write a draft on plain paper before turning to your final product.
Be sure to include all of your contact information in the letter, even your digital contact. Just because you’ve written this letter doesn’t mean that the recipient will want to pen one back in the same fashion. Be sure to let them know how to reach you in the 21st century.
Consider enrolling in the Patrons and Sponsors course through Praxis. In this class, you will learn more about the art of communicating with potential backers, how to find them, and what to do once you have them on board.
Letters are an all but extinct artform. Let their beauty and rarity work for you. Write with confidence, know your audience, and speak from the heart.