#CityArtistCorps Recipients Aren’t Winners

Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons
5 min readNov 1, 2021

October marked the culmination of hundreds of New York City Artist Corps (CAC) events across the city, so let’s take a moment to acknowledge that this relief grant is not “found money.”

Dear Fellow CAC Grant Awardees,

I am writing to congratulate you on your recent public engagement event but more importantly, to emphasize that you did not win the $5000 award created to activate the arts across NYC’s five boroughs this summer and fall.

You earned that shit.

Admittedly, I am projecting as there was an element of chance to me being selected as one of the 3,000 working artists chosen for the City Artist Corps recovery initiative created by Mayor de Blasio in the spring of 2021.

I applied at the beginning of the summer in support of No, YOU Tell It! — a nonfiction series I created where participants develop their true-life tale on the page and then swap stories to step into each other’s experiences on stage.

The powers that be didn’t select my application in the first round but deemed it eligible. Therefore, I was automatically entered into the second and third rounds alongside an enormous lottery of artists vying for this one-time grant.

Opening the notification for the third and final round to find CONGRATULATIONS screaming off the screen instead of the mewling I regret to inform you message I regularly receive in response to writing submissions, fellowships, and grant applications, felt as if I’d hit the jackpot. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped in a familiar pantomime of a sitcom character watching as their lottery numbers hit one by one.

When my check arrived in the mail in October, I did what is now required to make something real — took a selfie and posted it to social media.

Author holds up New York City Artist Corps sticker with logo.
Got my grant in the mail, looking cute, might delete later.

My post generated a flurry of LIKES and CONGRATS! A number of the messages also included amazement over my “winning” or that I “just got” five thousand dollars.

Again, I admit that the Italian, Catholic side of me who lives life bracing to be hit with a big stick that doesn’t actually exist, fixated on these replies because I felt guilty over being handed this money.



Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons

Writer, educator, and producer of No, YOU Tell It! (noyoutellit.com) Stalk my Insta adventures @KJ_Fitzsimmons @noyoutellit