Tuni Chatterji, Okul Nodi (Endless River) (film still), 2012, 16mm film and DV video, 52 minutes. Art © Tuni Chatterji, all rights reserved.
Tuni Chatterji, Okul Nodi (Endless River) (film still), 2012, 16mm film and DV video, 52 minutes. Art © Tuni Chatterji, all rights reserved.

Mike Kelley Foundation 2019 Artist Project Grants Announced

Los Angeles, CA. April 11, 2019 — The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts announced today the recipients of the 2019 Artist Project Grants, marking the fourth year of the organization’s successful initiative. The grants reflect artist Mike Kelley’s longstanding commitment to inventive and groundbreaking work and support dynamic collaborations in any medium between artists and Los Angeles nonprofit organizations—including projects by under-recognized artists or those that have proven difficult to undertake or fund due to their content, complexity, or other factors. In the 2019 cycle, $400,000 will be awarded to ten organizations: 18th Street Arts Center, California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), Dirty Looks Inc., Echo Park Film Center (EPFC), Equitable Vitrines, Ford Theatre Foundation, IF Innovation Foundation, Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), Pomona College Museum of Art (PCMA), and The Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens. 

The 2019 projects will be presented by small, midsize, and large arts organizations and universities, and include film, performance, installation, and sculpture. The projects funded range from solo, group, and collaborative exhibitions to interactive workshops and related publications. "This year’s recipients of the Artist Project Grants exemplify the innovation, rigor, and daring that the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts supports,” said Mary Clare Stevens, Executive Director of the Foundation. “It will be exciting to see the culmination of multi-year efforts from artists such as Sharon Lockhart, whose film emerges from her collaboration with young girls in Poland, or Todd Gray, who will be mining his archives of photographs from West Africa and Europe for a large-scale exhibition at Pomona College Museum of Art. Other projects are in earlier stages of development, such as The Newsreel Project at the Echo Park Film Center, which encourages filmmakers to create works that explore place, identity, and inclusion; and Edgar Arceneaux's live stage production, Boney Manilli, which will take place during the artist’s five-month residency at the Ford Theatres. There is such depth and breadth to Los Angeles's artistic and curatorial practices, and it's an honor to help realize these adventurous projects.” 

Six of the grant-supported projects involve multiple artists, including that of 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, now celebrating its 30th anniversary as the largest artist residency in Southern California. The Center will organize Commons Lab: Place and Public Life, a series of five new artist commissions anchored by live events, which will examine the ways institutional architecture and cultural policy determine the social life and civic engagement of American communities. Using the organization's rapidly changing Pico neighborhood as a test case, the participating artists will engage art audiences and local communities in a dialogue about the role art should play in the public sphere. "The award from the Mike Kelley Foundation empowers 18th Street Arts Center to develop 2019–20 programs that consider the future of artistic practices, our growth in Santa Monica, and the ever-present demand for innovative cultural experiences by directing artists and other creative thinkers to focus on how the built environments of cultural spaces encourage or inhibit social connection with and through the arts," said Anuradha Vikram, Artistic Director, 18th Street Arts Center. 

Dirty Looks Inc., a curatorial collective founded by Bradford Nordeen, uses historical and contemporary time-based media to explore the queer histories, spaces, and aesthetics of New York and Los Angeles. In 2020, the organization will mount Dirty Looks: On Location, a 31-day, 31-site festival in Los Angeles that will enlist over 75 artists and arts professionals to produce, organize, and screen presentations throughout July. “Mike Kelley’s distinctly punk collage of performance, film, and site-specificity laid the groundwork for something like On Location to exist in the first place. It’s a remarkable honor to have our festival fostered within that lineage,” said Nordeen. “Support from the Mike Kelley Foundation will enable us to commission new works as part of Dirty Looks: On Location 2020, as well as to foster a deeper engagement within our curatorial team as we embark on the year-long process of filling Los Angeles’s queer spaces with film and performance that trace or complicate our unique city histories."

Other funded projects focus on the work of individual artists including Lauren Halsey, who explained: “My residency with CSUDH’s PRAXIS program grows out of my ongoing engagement with the people and environments of South Central Los Angeles. I’m excited to collaborate with the students and broader community associated with CSUDH to work on my upcoming public project, The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project. The C.D.H.P. is a hybrid public art installation and community market created in collaboration with the District to build and reinforce local economies of South Central that aim to resist the pressures of rapid displacement. With support from the Mike Kelley Foundation, the PRAXIS program and I will work towards carving and building the pavilion of hieroglyphic-style engravings that will allow community members the freedom to commemorate and monumentalize themselves and one another in a city (and nation) where the placemaking strategies of black and brown subjects are increasingly deleted from the landscape.”

The 2019 grantees were selected through a competitive application process by an independent panel that included Ruth Estévez, Senior Curator-at-Large of the Rose Art Museum and Co-curator of the XXXIV Sao Paolo Biennial; Jamillah James, Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Co-curator of the 2021 edition of the New Museum Triennial; Heather Pesanti, Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, The Contemporary Austin; artist Lari Pittman, whose career retrospective opens at the Hammer Museum next fall; and artist Gary Simmons, whose current installation Fade to Black is on view at the California African American Museum. Totaling $400,000, the grants cover project-related expenses, a modest portion of the organizations’ overhead costs, and recognize the participating artists with a dedicated fee. The grant-supported projects will take place throughout 2019 and 2020, during which time the Foundation will share updates regarding performances and exhibitions on its website.

“Mike Kelley was deeply engaged in the Los Angeles arts community and started his foundation to support other artists and institutions creating vital and necessary work. Since the grants were launched four years ago, it’s been an honor to carry on his commitment to boundary-pushing work by supporting projects like those of the 2019 grantees,” said Stevens. "We are thrilled to be able to play a key role in bringing the visionary ideas of this diverse group of artists and arts spaces to fruition.” 

For organizations interested in applying for the next round of Artist Project Grants, updated information about the 2020 cycle will be posted later this spring on the Foundation’s website (last year’s guidelines remain online for reference only). 

About the Foundation 
The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts seeks to further Kelley’s philanthropic work through grants for innovative projects that reflect his multifaceted artistic practice. The Foundation also preserves the artist’s legacy more broadly and advances the understanding of his life and creative achievements. The artist established the nonprofit foundation in 2007. For additional information, please visit the Foundation page.

About the Artist 
The work of artist Mike Kelley (1954–2012) embraced performance, installation, drawing, painting, video, sound works, and sculpture. Kelley began his career in the late 1970s with solo performances, image/text works, and gallery and site-specific installations. He came to prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of common craft materials. The artist’s later work addressed architecture and filmic narratives using the theory of repressed memory syndrome coupled with sustained biographic and pseudo-biographic inquiry into his own aesthetic and social history. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of our time, Kelley produced a body of deeply innovative work in dialogue with American popular culture as well as both modernist and alternative traditions.