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What does it take to get an arts grant from the D.C. government?

In 2003, 588 hopeful applicants sought cash from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for various projects. Sometimes they got what they wanted.

NAME: Nicholas “DJ Tao” Webster

GRANT APPLIED FOR: City Arts Projects; city offers up to $4,500 to “expose the arts to the broader community.”

MONEY NEEDED FOR: a spoken-word poetry album

BACKGROUND: Webster, 26, has performed his poetry at various D.C. haunts including Java Head Café and Bohemian Caverns, according to his résumé. Though he has been a spoken-word poet only since 2002, he has been spinning hiphop since 1996.

PLAN: The album, titled Unspoken: The Premix, contains 17 original poems and hiphop beats, according to the project description. One of the poems, “Black Tear,” is about Ricky, a man who “encounters two lewd characters that insult his wife and he feels the urge to react violently,” according to the application. Another track, “Babylon,” addresses “prostitution, dysfunctional families, and deadbeat dads.” He proposed using the grant money to master, duplicate, and distribute the album, which he planned to sell at poetry open-mic nights that were “open to a diverse crowd as well as handicapped accessible.”


STATUS: denied

UPSHOT: The album is three-quarters done, but Webster is having trouble motivating himself to finish it. Because he didn’t get the grant, he has to rely on his connections in the industry to give him production discounts. “I haven’t given up per se. I’m just in a little bit of a rut, to be honest with you,” he says. “I feel like I’ve been there and done that.” —Rachel Beckman