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In 2005, 528 applicants sought cash from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for various projects. Sometimes they got what they wanted.

NAME: John N. Grunwell

GRANT APPLIED FOR: Young Emerging Artist Program; city offers up to $2,500 to artists between the ages of 18 and 30 as “support for innovative art projects.”

MONEY NEEDED FOR: promotional portfolios

BACKGROUND: Grunwell, 30, is a self-taught artist. “My art is rooted in the doodles I’ve been making for much of my life, but is an attempt to visually render an inner-landscape deep within the nether-regions of my mind,” he wrote in his artistic statement. He described his oil paintings as “what cartoon characters would see when they suffer detached retinas.” Grunwell wrote that he felt alienated from the “conservative/traditional/trendy” Washington-area galleries and received “very little support from the D.C. arts community in general, though I’m convinced of the value and quality of my current work.”

PLAN: Grunwell wanted to assemble 66 portfolios of his work and send them to galleries across the country. In his project description, he admitted that the attention-seeking method was “unconventional, bold and a little impractical,” and he added this disclaimer at the bottom of his budget: “As this effort might very well be a total loss, I can not anticipate any income whatsoever.”

AMOUNT ASKED FOR: $2,500

STATUS: denied

UPSHOT: Grunwell credits fate with his rejection. “I really feel like serendipity is a big influential force in my life,” he says. He’s still waiting for his big break, but he might have to rely on outside forces for that, too: “I’m a lazy dude.”

—Rachel Beckman