July 30, 2018; Fast Company
We update NPQ’s assessment of the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts with this report on how the foundation is helping to explore and advance political and social issues by funding challenging exhibitions, programming, and scholarly publications.
There were 42 recipients of $3.6 million in the foundation’s latest round of grants, ranging from $35,000 to $120,000. With an endowment of $300 million, the foundation awards $14 million annually. Many of these 42 grantees (listed here) are community-based organizations with relatively small budgets.
“This work is inspiring at a time when many groups in this country feel threatened—women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, to name a few,” added Warhol president Joel Wachs in a statement about the current grants.
The foundation also teams up with artists such as Lin-Manuel Miranda to provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico, and like its namesake, the foundation does not shy away from controversy. Several days ago, Wachs expressed his support of a Creative Time flag art project called Pledges of Allegiance that Kansas University censored.
We stand with the National Coalition Against Censorship, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kansas in our belief that it is crucial that the work be seen as the artist intended and not be censored as a result of political pressure… Artists play a unique role in our culture, igniting through their work difficult, but necessary, conversations that promote empathy and propel social change. These voices must not be silenced by those who find them threatening or distasteful.
The spring 2018 grant cycle grantees, selected from an applicant pool of 224 nonprofit arts organizations, create work that is experimental and under-recognized by other foundations.
“There’s a sense that everything is imperiled, so artists’ responses run the gamut,” says Rachel Bers, the foundation’s program director in an email to Fast Company. “Projects address climate change, racial and gender inequity, gentrification, and housing issues, as well as freedom of artistic expression.”
The Fast Company article and the foundation’s announcement offer details about the funded projects, each one expressing social and political urgencies. Warhol’s oeuvre is remembered mostly for its conspicuous headlines, the personalities, and his revolutionary factory for making some of the most memorable and collaborative art of the second half of the twentieth century. In his day, Warhol provided a chronicle of what mattered most to many people, from the suicide of Marilyn Monroe to the rise of pop art. But, in the end, Warhol worked with the cultural content of the times, and in these times, his legacy is being shaped anew by new voices and important causes.—Jim Schaffer