Mini golf in downtown L.A.? That and other arts projects win grants from Mike Kelley Foundation

A miniature golf course will take up residence near downtown L.A.’s skid row in early 2017, but instead of featuring windmills and waterfalls, the course will be studded with buildings and other symbols of current and historic zoning issues in the area.   

“The Back 9: Golf and Zoning Policy in Los Angeles” is a collaboration between the performance group Los Angeles Poverty Department and the artist Rosten Woo, and it will be made possible with $50,000 in funding from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, which on Tuesday is announcing its inaugural Artist Project Grant recipients.

The grants, going to nine nonprofits in L.A., total $310,000. 

Other grant recipients are the Echo Park Film Center, Frogtown’s Clockshop, the Mistake Room and Coaxial Arts Foundation in downtown L.A., Pasadena Arts Council/KNOWLEDGES, Culver City’s Center for the Study of Political Graphics, the Los Angeles Filmforum in Hollywood and the in-flux Santa Monica Museum of Art, which last year left its longtime Bergamot Station home and will soon be relocating to downtown L.A.  

“These grants are in line with Mike's concerns and an incredibly important part of his legacy,” says Mary Clare Stevens, executive director of the foundation. “They recognize longstanding arts organizations such as Los Angeles Poverty Department and very new organizations like Coaxial that take risks, provoke thought and support artists and ideas that might be overlooked.”

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics plans to use its grant money to exhibit digital reproductions of political posters, vintage and contemporary, that explore police violence against people of color. The Los Angeles Filmforum will feature visiting international artists, including Claudio Caldini of Argentina,  Apichatpong Weerasethakul of Thailand and Joost Rekveld from the Netherlands.

Supporting small, innovative arts organizations was of the utmost importance to Kelley, who died in 2012. He established his nonprofit foundation in 2007. Its Artist Project Grants program called for submissions in June and invited 64 organizations to apply. Grant money goes toward paying for project supplies and other costs and also provides a fee for the artists. 

The grants are meant to support artists who are creating cutting edge projects, particularly work that’s been overlooked or that has seen logistical or funding challenges.   

The Mistake Room will stage an atypical survey show of L.A.-born, Guadalajara-based Eduardo Sarabia’s work. The exhibition will reinterpret many of the artist’s previous works in immersive sculptural installations, and it will connect those works, telling a narrative of sorts, in a new film by the artist. It’s a project, Mistake Room director Cesar Garcia says, that was difficult to translate when applying for grants because it’s unusual for a survey show.  

“It’s hard to get grants for things like this,” Garcia says. “There aren’t many foundations that take big chances on projects that are so experimental in nature, and we’re grateful and so excited.”

The Santa Monica Museum of Art will present a survey exhibition of work by Norm Laich, a classically trained artist and sign painter who, over three decades, has produced hand lettering for artists such as Kelley, John Baldessari, Alexis Smith and Lari Pittman. Baldessari and artist Meg Cranston are co-curating the exhibition.   

“This first round [of projects] looks broadly at what's happening curatorially and artistically in L.A.,” Stevens says. “My hope is that these grants, like Mike, will inspire and challenge.”

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter: @debvankin   

  

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