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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: Saleem “H.U.E.” Penny

GRANT APPLIED FOR: Young Artists Community Service Program; city offers up to $2,500 to artists between the ages of 18 and 30.

MONEY NEEDED FOR: The “REAWAKENING” project, including the production of a book, a CD, and a series of workshops at Anacostia Senior High School. Penny’s project, according to his application, “seeks to reverse the downward spiral of cynicism and helplessness within our society through a multi-disciplinary arts education approach.”

BACKGROUND: Penny uses “a combination of written, musical, performance, and visual art forms,” according to his artistic statement. Now 25, he calls himself H.U.E., “because, among many interpretations, Hope.Uplifts.Everything.” Penny submitted his poem “Baptismal” with his application: “i came into this world where most people have/peepholes and fishbowl lenses for eyes-/my pupils were black holes, absorbing secrets like a vacuum cleaner./i didn’t realize that smiles can hide hatred like a halloween costume.”

AMOUNT ASKED FOR: $2,499.34

STATUS: approved

EVALUATION: “Look forward to hearing about the completion!” wrote one of the six panelists who evaluated Penny. Another wrote and circled the phrase “NICE POEM.”

UPSHOT: Penny never got the cash, because he moved to Virginia, making him ineligible. He then moved to North Carolina and “worked in a mental-health facility, teaching improvisational theater and music,” he says. That art-therapy experience led him to enroll in graduate school at the Catholic University of America, where he’s studying to be a psychotherapist.—Rachel Beckman