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Mike Kelley Foundation debuts $250,000 grant program for L.A. arts organizations

L.A. artist Mike Kelley long supported experimental arts orgs. Now his foundation will do that in a major way

Over the course of his long career, Los Angeles artist Mike Kelley was a dedicated supporter of the city's small arts organizations — regularly making donations to groups such as Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in Hollywood, the literary arts center Beyond Baroque in Venice, and the experimental sound art outfit SASSAS (Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound). Now the artist's namesake foundation is getting ready to do much the same thing — but on a much bigger level.

The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts announced Monday that it will be making $250,000 worth of grants to arts organizations producing "compelling, inventive and challenging projects by visual artists or artists' collectives working in any medium." 

"Mike helped establish Los Angeles as a really vibrant arts scene, and this is a part of that," says Mary Clare Stevens, the foundation's executive director. "He was very explicit in the paperwork that he wanted to fund arts organizations, especially smaller ones and ones that he believed were doing good work — work that other folks weren't paying attention to."

Kelley died in 2012, but he established his foundation in 2007 and began giving discretionary grants a year later. (There was no application; he would simply donate to organizations that he felt were supporting compelling artists and art projects.)

This year the foundation is looking to formalize the process — and cast a wider net for interesting not-for-profit arts groups working in Los Angeles County. Applicants will have until Aug. 5 to submit a letter of inquiry, after which, the foundation will invite those who qualify to submit full proposals. The application process will be completed in October, and recipients will be announced in March.

Grants will likely be in the $5,000 to $50,000 range, with a focus on organizations that support artist projects. But the foundation is trying to be flexible about what exactly those parameters mean.

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FOR THE RECORD

June 9, 8:02 p.m.: An earlier version of this article, using information provided by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, said grants will likely be in the $500 to $50,000 range. The foundation has since reported that the range will be $5,000 to $50,000.

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"We're following what Mike laid out in terms of not being too restrictive and really trying to fund a variety of organizations," says Stevens. "It's through organizations, but we're making an effort to focus on the artists. And we're asking for letters of inquiry from super-small organizations to small collectives with nonprofit status, up through larger museums and other institutions. We're just looking for great art projects."

Stevens says the hope is that this will become an annual grant-making opportunity once the foundation has set up the infrastructure necessary to support it. 

"This is L.A.," she says. "We're fairly cutting edge. We expect to see some great proposals."

Information about the grants will be posted to the organization's website at mikekelleyfoundation.org.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

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