What Do Two Major Foundations See In The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft?

Be honest. Let's say you stop by your local museum and peruse a collection. More often than not, your aesthetic experience is confined to the four walls of the museum itself. It's rare for viewers to intuitively link a collection to, say, a broader national trend surrounding a specific genre of art, be it a painting or a sculpture. Most of us lack that knowledge anyway.

Yet it poses some intriguing questions. How does a certain collection in St. Louis or Atlanta or Santa Fe connect to larger trends across the art world? Can we broaden our experience by interacting with art beyond what's immediately in front of us?

These are heady questions, to be sure. Fortunately, the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft (KMAC) is on the case. Let's start with the basics.

The museum recently netted two big grants. The first grant is the result of a matching challenge and totals $500,000. It came from the James Graham Brown Foundation. As evidenced by related news in which the foundation approved a $750,000 grant to the Louisville Library Foundation to finance the construction of a new library, the foundation supports civic-oriented projects in Kentucky and Louisville in particular.

The foundation's support contributes to KMAC’s ongoing Capital Campaign, which funds educational efforts, endowments, and future exhibitions. "KMAC is a cultural institution uniquely tied to the evolution of downtown Louisville," said Executive Director and Chief Curator Aldy Milliken. "This grant will allow us to pursue more ambitious education programs that connect local people and visitors to art and the creative process."

The second grant, at $100,000, came courtesy of the Andy Warhol Foundation. This support will allow further exploration of exhibitions and artist relationships through 2017. Followers of the foundation understand that Warhol tends to fund some of the most innovative and experimental museums in the country. So what is it about KMAC that compelled them to cut the check?

For an answer, we turn back to Milliken, who noted, "This grant is symbolic of direction of the KMAC curatorial department and an acknowledgment of how our exhibitions contextualize local artists in a national conversation about contemporary art."

And here, dear reader, is where this brief little post comes full circle. By using exhibitions, collaborations, outreach, and its permanent collection to create a dialogue between Kentucky artists and national contemporary art, KMAC broadens the horizons of the average Louisville museum goer. Context is everything. Pieces and experiences can fit into a larger continuum. No art is an island! It's a powerful organizing principle.

One last point. The twin grants, in their own interesting way, reflect KMAC's inclusive and contextualized approach. One gift came from the Louisville-centric James Graham Brown Foundation and the other from the nationally oriented Warhol Foundation.

Elegant, isn't it?