Why Did Puerto Rico's Beta-Local Net a $80,000 Warhol Foundation Grant?

Beta-Local, a Puerto Rico-based cultural organization, recently received an $80,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The grant will be used for the production of new works and to fund existing program offerings.

Whenever we hear of new grants issued by the Warhol Foundation, we tend to pay attention. And that's because the Warhol Foundation's decisions are far from predictable. They can't be neatly placed in a given box. They keep you guessing.

For example, as we note in our Grant Finder page, the foundation recently awarded generous grants to fairly established entities like the Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art ($90,000), the North Carolina Museum of Art ($100,000), and the Salt Lake Art Center ($120,000.) Based on this aggregate funding, one could naturally assume that the foundation prefers larger "mom and pop" entities. Not so fast.

We also noted that the Warhol Foundation funds San Francisco's Southern Exposure, an arts organization known for supporting highly experimental work in the Bay Area. In fact, Southern Exposure proudly notes that it doesn't expect any of its recipient artists to strive for traditional metrics of success like the number of paintings sold or improved audience engagement. To quote Southern Exposure program director Courtney Fink, grants reward work that "accomplishes something in a given moment that is really necessary."

We imagine Warhol would be pleased.

So it's within this framework that we view the recent news surrounding Beta-Local. What camp does this award fall under? The Warhol Foundation that prefers established entities or the one that rewards experimental rebels? A closer look at Beta-Local's program offerings suggests the latter, more or less.

The organization, established in 2009, drives "artistic and cultural practices in Puerto Rico through collaborative processes, experimentation, and critical thinking." Its crown programming jewel is La Practica, a nine-month interdisciplinary program focusing on research and production for individuals with a background in art, architecture, design and cultural production. This program is particularly designed for those interested in creating new conditions, relationships, and positions which occur in and outside of established circuits.

We can't say for sure what, precisely, compelled the foundation to award Beta-Local the $80,000 grant, which is to be spread across two years. We can, however, say that foundations like Warhol look for compelling program offerings that serve as creative engines for any given organization — offerings that push boundaries, challenge stakeholders, and drive collaborations. Beta-Local has La Practica, its unique flagship program, and now it also has $80,000 from the Warhol Foundation to work with.