Another day, another announcement for a new crop of "artist as activist" grant recipients.
As we recently noted, these are the halcyon days for artists who use their work as springboard for exploring complex social issues. We have also recently counted no fewer than six foundations with similar awards or grants programs for the taking. The verbiage may change—eg. Surdna Foundation's Artists Engaged in Social Change Grants vs. New York's Blade of Grass' Fellowship for Engaged Art—but the endgame is the same. Foundations are increasingly drawn to artists and arts organizations that "provide arts education, artistic activism, increased access to art, and art in the service of social justice."
The above quote came from Alexander Gardner, executive director of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation upon announcing the launch of its Art and Social Justice initiative. As we noted back in August of 2015, the initiative planned to offer grants to art and culture nonprofits in the five boroughs of New York City that provide services in one or more of the following sectors: arts education, public art, art in community and service centers, artistic activism, community-based museums, expanded access to art, art in the service of social justice or change, and the promotion of under-recognized artistic practice.
Since the Rubin initiative rewards organizations rather than individual artists, it does run slightly against the grain of the "artist as activist" narrative. That said, the foundation announced its inaugural winners, and you can quickly see that a strong current of social activism runs through many of the 46 winning projects.
For example, the Brooklyn Museum will receive funding for its upcoming show We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–1985. Ping Chong + Company, meanwhile, won a grant for the traveling theater piece Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity.
In addition to the grants, the foundation will bring together grant recipients at The 8th Floor—the foundation’s exhibition and programming space—for workshops, panels, and events. These events will allow organizations to engage with each other and the public to build and strengthen their work and sense of community to promote social justice through art.
Click here for a full list of the winners.