The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is expanding its Regional Regranting Program to Cleveland and Denver and will bring back Baltimore’s program, the Grit Fund, which took a one-year hiatus. The roster of the program is positioned to distribute $1.4 million to organizations for approximately $840,000 in yearly grants for artist-driven projects across 14 cities. The nonprofit arts organizations SPACES (Cleveland), RedLine (Denver), and Baltimore Arts Realty Corp (BARCO) will administer grants respectively.
SPACES’s Satellite Fund will offer ten $6,000 project-based grants to artists in Cuyahoga County; RedLine’s INSITE Fund will award 10 to 15 grants of up to $5,000 each to artists and arts collectives in the Denver Metro area; and BARCO’s Grit Fund will provide 9 to 12 awards of up to $7,000 each for Baltimore-based projects. Each regranting organization will receive funding for program administration and outreach in addition to the artist and project grants.
As Joel Wachs, president of the Andy Warhol Foundation, explained to Hyperallergic, the Regional Regranting program developed when the Foundation observed incredible creative communities operating under the radar without any traditional funding mechanisms. “It can be someone doing exciting things in their garage on a Sunday or a collaborative that wants to complete their project. We found them all over and asked how can we reach that person?”
The program started in 2007 in San Francisco with Southern Exposure acting as administrator of the grants. The next year the program extended to Houston. The Regional Regranting program has awarded $6.4 million in grants, which has resulted in $3.6 million in direct support of 848 artist projects to date through organizations in Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), Portland (ME), and San Francisco. According to Wachs, the aim is to expand the grants geographically. “My goal is a program in 50 states,” he said. “To do that we would need more money and partners in each state capable of administering that program.”
What is the impact of this financial support in communities arguably on the periphery of the art market? In Cleveland, Christina Vassallo, executive director of SPACES notes, “we don’t have a collector base, so artists are making their living through grants or their side hustle. This will fill the gap.” Louise Martorano, executive director of RedLine agrees, “there are very few direct funders for artists in Denver. If you don’t get a public commission or win an award, now you can also go for the Regranting program. It adds options to support art careers with multiple levels of entry.”
That was the case for Ori Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Creators Maya Vivas and Leila Haile planned for a year to transform a traditional gallery into a community space for exhibitions and workshops focused on the voices of Queer and Trans artists of color. Portland’s Regional Regranting program, the Precipice Fund, provided the necessary support to open their doors. “We used it to pay rent, get utilities on, secure supplies, build a wheelchair ramp, install a bathroom and lay a concrete sidewalk. We were also able to pay members of the community working in the space.”
Direct recipients of the grant aren’t the only beneficiaries, notes Roya Amirsoleymani, managing director of the Precipice Fund. She observes the open design of the program promotes more activity outside conventional structures. Since February 2018, Ori Gallery hosted 18 community events and workshops, eight exhibitions and seven fundraisers. Haile of Ori Gallery notes, “so many partnerships and people taking ownership of this space is the marker of success.”
An important contribution both SPACES and RedLine provide to their respective communities is initiatives in social justice and community action. In addition to the Satellite Fund, SPACES is launching the Urgent Art Fund which finances art responding to political or cultural concerns. RedLine manages many service programs addressing the needs of Denver’s homeless, public education, and veterans. Martarano stated that was not a factor for the Regranting program, “the Foundation is focused on supporting the artist whether there is a social justice component or not.” Yet institutional boards and their financial resources are increasingly scrutinized due to their political implications.
When asked if the Foundation had a position on the funding sources of exhibitions sanctioned by the Foundation, such as in the case of the Whitney Museum’s relationship to a tear gas manufacturer. Wachs responded,
No, we don’t have any decision making on the Whitney board. I read the statement by the staff and the statement of Adam Weinberg and I admired it. We couldn’t conceivably get into the internal aspects of every organization we fund, because we fund hundreds of groups. I could imagine a situation where we would, but we were unaware of any of this in advance of the exhibition [From A to B and Back Again]. I do watch how these things are handled. I thought Adam was handling it well. But I don’t know if the staff thinks it was adequate.
The Foundation has demonstrated its bandwidth to hold institutions accountable on topics of censorship. As its financial reach expands, the recent revelation at the Whitney raises questions about its capacity to manage the partners and projects it endorses.
SPACES’ info sessions and application deadline is scheduled for spring 2019. RedLine’s info sessions will being January for a summer 2019 application deadline. BARCO’s applications will open in February with info sessions in March 2019.