What Can Two Recent Grants Tell Us About the Warhol Foundation's Funding Priorities?

It's no secret that the Warhol Foundation likes to fund visual art that pushes boundaries. Yet the idea of pushing boundaries is a relative one without some real-world examples to provide much-needed context. And so it's always illuminating to look at specific installations from winning organizations and thereby get a better idea of what, precisely, tinkles the Warhol Foundation's fancy.

This wisdom is doubly—no, triply!—important since the foundation made public its plans to ramp up its giving to U.S.-based institutions earlier this year.

Today brings two examples, 3,000 miles apart. Both incorporate elements of the natural world that broaden the canvas (pun intended) of common perceptions of modern art. Both compel viewers to reconsider traditional conceptions of performance space. And both work to connect their respective communities with their natural environments. 

Let's start with the first. That would be the Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS) at UC Santa Cruz and the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in San Jose, in collaboration with the UC Lick Observatory. The Warhol Foundation awarded this outfit a $30,000 grant to support an innovative artist residency featuring exhibition artist Russell Crotty, a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow. Crotty will work at the observatory to use Lick telescopes for direct observations and photographs that will serve as the basis for new, astronomy-based artworks.

The collaboration will result in an exhibition at the San Jose ICA in 2016, combining Crotty’s new work with objects and images from Lick’s rich historical archive. To reach students and the community, his residency will include a stargazing night on campus in the Great Meadow, co-organized by astronomy students. A special, two-day student seminar at Lick Observatory will also bring Crotty together with students and faculty in the visual arts and astronomy to consider the nature of "seeing" and "knowing" in their respective disciplines.

Only seven organizations west of the Rockies received a Warhol Foundation grant this last funding cycle.

In fact, let's shift our attention to the other side of those very Rockies to New York State, where the Parrish Art Museum netted a $65,000 grant from the Warhol Foundation in support of the new exhibition "Radical Seafaring." The exhibition will feature a gallery of artists' projects on the water and will be on view at the museum from May 8 through July 24, 2016.

According to the Water Mill-based museum, "Radical Seafaring" is a "deeply multifaceted exhibition, publication and program initiative that will include two-dimensional works, sculptural objects, vessels, models, films and videos, as well as on- and off-site commissions." As for curators' efforts to engage local audiences, field activities created in collaboration with artists will connect to communities and the region’s history, "opening the door for complex conversations on art, the environment, the development of coastal areas and the long-term impact on life and the biosphere."