A Blade of Grass Looking to Support Artists Who are "Conduits for Social Change"

It's a good time to be an artist with an interest in activism. For example, we recently looked at how the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation launched a new grant program called "Artist as Activist." The foundation was reacting to an increased demand for activist-oriented programs. Foundation philanthropy director Rise Wilson noted, "There is a recent swell in the aspirations to work this way, which we recognize does not fit neatly into a box."

This, of course, doesn't suggest that there is a dearth of activist-oriented programs available to artists. Take New York's A Blade of Grass (ABOG), for example. The organization "provides resources to artists who demonstrate artistic excellence and serve as innovative conduits for social change." And sure enough, BOG is currently accepting Letters of Interest for its Fellowship for Engaged Art.

Fellows will participate in the following:

  • A two-day orientation that explores ABOG's documentation and assessment models and includes workshops on strategies for community engagement.
  • Quarterly co-assessment meetings with other fellows to share progress and offer feedback to one another.
  • Support and feedback sessions for ongoing self-assessment in the form of collaborative action research.
  • An assessment by an outside evaluator.

So what, exactly, is ABOG looking for? On a broad level, they seek projects that:

  • Promote art as a catalyst for social change.
  • Feature artists in leadership roles.
  • Emphasize active and sustainable partnerships with communities.
  • Engage community members as equal partners on locally relevant issues.

After reading these requirements, our reaction was one that is probably pretty common amongst artists interested in such fellowships: How do these goals play out in the real world? In other words, can aspiring fellows draw from the examples of previous winners so that these somewhat abstract concepts seem more tangible?

The answer is, fortunately, yes. We spent some time looking at previous fellows and their respective work so that applicants can get a better idea of what truly resonates with ABOG. Here are three:

  • Brett Cook uses his creative practice and portraiture as a vehicle to explore and transform "outer and inner worlds of being." His public projects typically involve community workshops featuring arts-integrated pedagogy, along with music, performance, and food to create a fluid boundary between art making, daily life, and healing.
  • Jody Wood is an artist whose work is time-based and performance-based, using video, installation, performance, and community organization to engage with "socially charged content." Primarily focusing on transitional experiences of death, trauma, and social isolation, her work aims to unpack and meaningfully interpret these issues by working one-on-one with members of her community.
  • Jan Mun is an artist who explores the generative principles of how complex systems such as botany and fungi, economies, and social networks function and the effects of interactions between different entities, whether cultures, plants, or people.

To summarize: ABOG is drawn to projects that intergrate the arts with daily life, provide community-based workshops, and include one-on-one interactions with community members around powerful issues.

Click here to learn more about the fellowship and to apply.