An Arts Foundation Ramps Up Its Grantmaking—And Finds Its Voice in the Process

We've been keeping an eye on the L.A.-based Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts since it stepped up its grantmaking a couple of years ago.

After all, Los Angeles is teeming with artists, grantmakers, and museums that the region may (or may not) need. How will this funder-which launched in 2007, but only recently became active in the traditional grantmaking sense—establish its voice in a crowded city?

For an answer, we turn to the foundation's 2017 Artist Project Grants, which were announced earlier this spring. Now in its second year—I wrote about its inaugural call for submissions back in 2015—the initiative seeks to advance Mike Kelley's philanthropic work and honor his legacy by supporting innovative projects with artists at Los Angeles institutions and organizations.

The foundation awarded a total of $319,000 in eight project grants to L.A. organizations.

Which brings me back to the foundation's emerging philanthropic voice. Mike Kelley (1954–2012) embraced performance, installation, drawing, painting, video, sound works and sculpture, drawing from both modernist and alternative traditions.

Writing in the New York Times, in 2012, Holland Cotter described the artist as "one of the most influential American artists of the past quarter-century and a pungent commentator on American class, popular culture and youthful rebellion."

Unsurprisingly, his foundation embodies his boundary-pushing aesthetic. "These artists and organizations exemplify the ambitious and imaginative spirit of this grant," said Mary Clare Stevens, executive director of the foundation. The projects "reflect the remarkable scope and variety of artistic and curatorial practices in Los Angeles."

The recipients include a diverse range of small and mid-size organizations, which will highlight a mix of individual practices, collaborations and group exhibitions. Case in point: Regeneración: Three Generations of Revolutionary Ideology, is a research-driven exhibition at the Vincent Price Museum, exploring three generations of Los Angeles artists engaged in the exchange of revolutionary and anarchist ideas between the U.S. and Mexico.

The grants cover project-related expenses, allow for a modest portion of the organization’s overhead costs, and recognize the participating artists with a dedicated fee. The projects will take place throughout 2017 and 2018, and the foundation will share updates on performances and exhibitions on its website. 

For Artist Project Grant guidelines click here.