Why Did The Warhol Foundation Award Illinois State University Its Second Grant In Three Years?

Readers of IP know that there's no shortage of examples of alumni who donate to their alma maters out of sheer gratitude, or good ol' fashioned school spirit. But sometimes an alumni can help a college or university net a grant through less direct means. Take this example out of Illinois State University (ISU), where the school scored a $99,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation to support a survey of video works by acclaimed artists and Illinois State alumnus Terry Adkins.

In total, the grant, which comes three years after ISUl received a $75,000 gift from the foundation, will fund three major exhibitions at ISU's University Galleries.

From our vantage point, Warhol was attracted to ISU for a few reasons. The first is University Galleries' new space, called Uptown Normal. Presentation matters, and the space—we're quoting Director Barry Blinderman here—is "particularly well-suited for the exhibitions we have planned, which include a great many photographs and video works." 

Secondly, there's the exhibitions themselves. One will support the first comprehensive presentation of works by artist Carrie Schneider. Another is the first-ever survey of ISU's favorite son, Mr. Adkins. Both presentations carry a degree of historical weight, and that's not insignificant.

There's also the fact that the third exhibition, a collection of works by emerging and established women artists inspired by the works of women authors, is akin to aesthetic catnip for the Warhol Foundation, which, after all, is drawn to challenging and experimental work like moths to a gallery flame. (Bear with us as we try to squeeze in one more animal-related metaphor before the conclusion of this post.)

Lastly, there's the matter of Terry Adkins. Adkins, who received a master’s degree from Illinois State, was a multimedia artist and musician whose works encompassed sculpture, performance, sound, printmaking, photography and video. We obviously can't say for sure that his alumnus status carried disproportionate weight with the Warhol Foundation, but the narrative itself is compelling. And like presentation, narratives matter.

The Warhol Foundation isn't content with mere exhibitions acting as the sole vehicles of exposure for artists. The grant also supports the creation of three exhibition catalogs with photographs of the featured artwork, original poetry, essays by prominent scholars, and interviews with the artists.

"The Warhol Foundation is dedicated to providing pivotal opportunities for artists," said University Galleries Senior Curator Kendra Paitz. "This grant allows us to commission new works from several artists and to provide them with publications that will both contextualize and expand the reach of their work."