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LA’s small art spaces get a boost from the Mike Kelley Foundation

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LOS ANGELES — The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts today announced the recipients of this year’s award Organizational Support Grants, which will distribute $400,000 to 16 Los Angeles-based nonprofit arts organizations. Unrestricted grants range from $10,500 to $30,000 and are intended to help small and medium-sized organizations meet the ongoing challenges they face as a result of the pandemic.

“By the time we gave grants, they had gone through eight months [of the pandemic]. Fundraising, which is often done in person, had to be halted,” said Mary Clare Stevens, executive director of the Mike Kelley Foundation. Hyperallergic. “Small nonprofits operate from year to year. It was a huge success from which they are still recovering.

Institutions selected in this round of funding include the Armory Center for the Arts, Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Feminist Center for Creative Work, Fulcrum Arts, Human Resources, The Industry, LA River Public Art Project, Los Angeles Filmforum, JOAN, LA Artcore, Los Angeles Poverty Department, Pieter Performance Space and the Vincent Price Art Museum Foundation, as well as five organizations honored for the first time: Los Angeles Nomadic Division, LA Artcore, Avenue 50 Studio, LA River Public Art Project and the Panorama of Velaslavasay.

Located in a former theater just southwest of downtown LA, the Velaslavasay Panorama is perhaps one of the most unusual art spaces in the city. It is home to a revival of a hybrid art form from the Victorian era: painting in the round augmented with lights, sounds and sculptural elements. The current panorama depicts a landscape scene of the city of Shenyang in China at the beginning of the 20th century. The grant will be used to create a complementary installation of printed ephemera, dioramas, display cases and peepholes, adding context and information to the panorama.

“These grants refocus commercial momentum, emphasizing what artists can and will create when financial success is not the common thread,” said Panorama co-curators Sara Velas and Ruby Carlson.

Khalil Joseph, “BLKNWS®” (2020-), installation view at Hank’s Mini Mart, a family-friendly mini-mart serving South Central LA since 1997, in the Hyde Park neighborhood (© Khalil Joseph; photo by Jeff McClane; with Courtesy of Angeles Nomadic Los Division)

The winners were selected through an application reviewed by an independent panel including Taylor Renee Aldridge, curator of visual arts at the California African American Museum; curator and freelance writer Michael Ned Holte; Clara Kim, Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs at MOCA; and artists Alexandro Segade and Rosten Woo.

The Foundation was established in 2007 by Mike Kelley, the late Los Angeles-based artist whose diverse practice defined by a transgressive, playful and personal spirit had a profound influence on his contemporaries and subsequent generations of artists. Its mission is to continue Kelley’s legacy by supporting exhibitions and publications, as well as providing grants to organizations and artists who are also driven by an ethos of experimentation and curiosity.

In 2016, the Foundation began offering Artist Project Grants focused on specific works or performances, and in 2021 it transitioned to Organizational Support Grants to help institutions cover operational costs in response to losses. finances related to the pandemic.

The Lord + Petra Haden perform at the opening of 2022 Fulcrum Festival: Deep Ocean/Deep Space. (photo by and courtesy of Ian Byers-Gamber)

For Joseph Valencia, curator of exhibitions at the Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM), even in 2023, support for associations is still lagging behind.

“Individual donation levels have fallen by 30% since the start of the pandemic,” Valencia said. Hyperallergic. “We are still working to rebuild this fundraising area, so this funding is essential for ongoing operations and staff support.”

Andrew Gould of the Armory Center of the Arts, a returning grantee that has an exhibition program as well as an educational studio art component, says their earned income has been cut in half by the pandemic. Funding from the foundation has helped them “weather through the worst” of the pandemic and navigate new strategies such as virtual exhibitions, art supply deliveries, distance learning programs and virtual tours on field.

The unlimited nature of the grant allows organizations to apply it to everything from day-to-day operations to new initiatives and upcoming exhibits and performances. John Birtle, managing director of longtime Chinatown arts space Human Resources, said they would use the money to plan a retreat with the board and ‘keyholders’, a group of volunteers who help to plan and manage the collaborative place. The volunteers running the space – Birtle is the only employee – are rarely in the same room, so it’s an opportunity “to have long conversations, break up groups, or even just eat a meal together”.

Presentation of the exhibition Exhibition: Indigenous Art and Political Ecology at the Armory Center for the Arts, 2023 (photo by Milly Correa, courtesy Armory Center for the Arts)

Although the grants were not tied to a specific project, applicants were required to list one project they would present in the following year. Working at the intersection of art, performance and homelessness advocacy, the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) will create an immersive installation in its Skid Row location. During the pandemic, LA County health workers converted motels and hotels into quarantine sites for people without homes and those living in overcrowded situations.

“Staff were enthusiastic about what they had accomplished. They helped keep everyone alive and found suitable housing for them,” said LAPD founder John Malpede. Hyperallergic. “Everyone was together, engaged with each other and with their patients.” The LAPD will recreate the interior space of one of these motels, both as a facility and as a site for public conversations about public health and housing advocacy. “It will combine the reality of a motel with a medical emergency facility, as if it really happened,” Malpede says.

The LA River Public Art Project was founded in 2014 with the intention of revitalizing the area around the waterway with cultural projects and events that engage the community. With his fellowship, he plans to bring together a civic art cohort of Indigenous councillors, curators, artists and community representatives “from all 51 miles of the river,” said executive director Jenna Didier.

“As we look to our 10th anniversary, we want to create an important civic art statement on the river,” she added. “To provide audiences with a way to be even more involved in creating their own moments of magic.”

Diana Markessinis, “The 4th Tree,” Los Angeles River, 2015 (photo by and courtesy of LA River Public Art Project)

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