Takes One to Know One: Meet the Artist-Run Tanne Foundation On the Lookout for, Well, Artists

The Los Angeles-based Whaley Foundation recently launched because its founders felt there wasn't enough unrestricted support following to artists in the Southern California region.

According to the foundation, the rare monies going directly to artists does not fund mid-career or under-recognized artists in supporting their work in the studio. L.A.'s Department of Cultural Affairs COLA Master Fellowship grant, for example, goes to accomplished artists and their Artist in Residence grant supports an artist heading up a workshop for an underserved population.

Fortunately there are exceptions to this trend. Take the Boston-based Tanne Foundation. Now in its eighteenth year, the foundation announced the winners of its Tanne Foundation Awards for 2016. The awards, totaling $55,000 in unrestricted funding, honor seven artists in recognition of their artistic achievements as well as one artist-run organization—Cambridge, Massachusetts' Mobius, Inc.—which has presented exceptional work for over 39 years.

Founded by artists, the foundation is led by a board comprised of a majority of artists. Its philosophy? "In the creation of art, however unrecognized or obscure the voice, the sound may be extraordinary and it is vital that it be heard."

Awards to individual artists "recognize prior outstanding achievement by individual artists who have demonstrated exceptional talent and creativity but have limited financial resources or have difficulty obtaining funding. The awards are intended to enrich the recipient’s artistic life and are unconditional."

Awards to organizations, meanwhile, honors those that "directly serve artists and seek to expand the artistic experience for artists and audiences alike." The awards are made for the overall artistic contributions of the organizations and are not intended to support specific projects. Preference is shown for organizations that receive little or no funding from other sources.

Indeed, the foundation likes unearthing artists and foundations deeply under the radar. To that end, it operates according to a "Don't call us, we'll call you" credo. Much like, say, Windham-Campbell Prizes for literary excellence, recipients of Tanne Awards are chosen by an internal selection procedure. There is no application process.

So how can artists and organizations get on Tanne's radar? The foundation's website is rather cagey in this regard. "The Tanne Foundation is committed to providing support to artists whose work the Trustees experience directly in their communities and the communities that they visit," it says. "The Tanne Foundation encourages artists to continue pursuing their art and seek funding through available resources, such as regional and state arts associations."

Fair enough.

Check out the winners of the 2016 Tanne Foundation Awards here.