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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: Susanna Thornton

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: trip to Alaska to photograph the northern lights

BACKGROUND: Thornton, 28, an Alexandria native, holds a BFA in photography from the Corcoran College of Art & Design. At the time of her application, Thornton had begun a photographic series, her project description says, “thematically based on the idea and metaphor of the Sky.”

PLAN: Thornton’s proposed itinerary was to feature several stops along the “Van Allman Belt, a magnetic sphere in Northern Alaska.” Her route would have also included the Chena Hot Springs Resort, a full-service spa whose waters, its Web site claims, “became famous for curing crippled prospectors…as long ago as 1905.” Thornton asked the city to help cover her travel costs.


EVALUATION: “What if she goes to Alaska and no Northern Lights?” wrote one of the six panelists who assessed Thornton’s application. “I can’t see how the development benefits the DC community,” wrote another. A third panelist noted that the artist’s “slides were poor quality.”

STATUS: denied

UPSHOT: Thornton has still never seen the northern lights. She did complete the Sky series, mostly in D.C. But she says she also “traveled to Florida and took pictures from the plane.”—Rachel Beckman