How the Warhol Foundation is Modernizing the Field of Art Writing

Is arts writing a dying art? For many critics and professionals in the art world, the answer is a resounding yes. But the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program begs to differ. The program recently announced $619,000 in grant funding to 20 winners for its 2013 cycle, and given the thematic breadth of the recipients' work, one can't help but paraphrase Mark Twain in noting that the death of arts writing has been greatly exaggerated.

But before we look at the winners and their respective projects, let's first examine the program itself that made it all possible. A partnership with Creative Capital, the program aims to encourage an expansive range of arts-related writing, including contemporary visual art, general-audience criticism, and academic scholarships. Grants are allocated across five project types: articles, blogs, books, new and alternative media, and short-form writing. So what exactly makes this program and the new round of winners so exciting? Here are just a few reasons:

  • It refutes the stereotype of "privileged consciousness." Art criticism gets a bad rap. The general public often stereotypes the field as one inhabited by elite intellectual snobs (the elite, snobby term for this is "privileged consciousness"). As such, art writing comes across as insular rather than democratizing. This program, however, goes a long way to refute the stereotype. Many of the winners focused on real-world issues. So much so, you'd be forgiven for thinking these were photojournalists rather than art writers. Examples include Claudia Calirman's book, "A Study from the Margins: Female Practices in Brazil and Chile," and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert's book, "Troubled Waters: Ecology and History in 21st-Century Caribbean Art."
  • Its sole focus is emerging artists. If you're an established writer, the Warhol program isn't interested. As long as the applicant meets the criteria according to project type, they'll be considered. 
  • It embraces new media. The program awarded three $30,000 grants to blog writers who use the platform as a vehicle for open-ended dialogue, commentary, and reader engagement. After all, why should art criticism be one-sided?

If you listen to the skeptics, they'll tell you that art writing is in its death throes due to the rise of social media, that the general public is detached from the arts, and they'll bring up the aforementioned stereotype of "privileged consciousness." These all may or may not be true. What is irrefutable however, is the work that Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation are doing to ensure that art writing thrives in the 21st century.

For a deeper analysis of the Warhol Foundation's work, click here.