Modern Art Museum in La Jolla to Use Grant on Border Art Project : Exchange: $250,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts will help finance inter-cultural programs and exhibits involving U.S. and Mexican artists.


The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art has received a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for a three-year, cultural-exchange project between the United States and Mexico, with a focus on the San Diego/Tijuana region.

The museum is one of only seven institutions in the country, and the only California museum, to receive awards from the NEA's Special Artistic Initiatives grant fund. The museum's grant was also the largest award, with the next highest amount, $100,000, going to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. The project, called "Dos Ciudades/Two Cities," will include exhibitions, residencies, commissions, publications, performances, films, symposiums, lectures and educational activities.

"This project goes back about two years to a staff retreat when we were trying to come up with a program to keep us all involved during the time we'll be closed," said museum director Hugh Davies, referring to the 1991 expansion, which will close the La Jolla museum for 18 months.

"We decided to design a project based around what we do well and are interested in, and something that addresses where we live."

The project is organized in four interrelated quadrants, the first consisting of a major exhibition that will center on the theme of the border.

"We want to find out if there even is such a thing as 'border art' and to find out how artists in the region are affected by the border," Davies said.

Project curator Madeline Grynsztejn said artists for the exhibition will be considered from the entire 1,900-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The exhibit will travel, although its initial venue isn't determined since it is expected to open in the spring of 1991, about the same time the museum is scheduled to close. Museum officials are seeking a temporary home, preferably in downtown San Diego.

"Part of the spirit of the project is that we're not fettered by a particular space," Davies said. "We want to take advantage of the situation."

Another major aspect of the project is an exchange between artists in the San Diego/Tijuana region and a yet-to-be-determined city. Davies said this aspect of the project had originally been designed with Mexico City as the partner, but the project's advisory committee has suggested finding another city or region that also has addressed border issues. Project officials said they are considering options as diverse as Berlin and Vancouver.

The 11-member advisory committee includes artists and administrators--primarily from San Diego and Tijuana--including Pedro Ochoa Palacio, director of the Centro Cultural Tijuana, and San Diegan Michael Schnorr, a member of the Border Arts Workshop.

Museum curator Lynda Forsha will manage residencies and commissions for the project. Studio space will be provided for visiting artists from both the United States and Mexico to create work that addresses the border "in the largest possible sense, using this region as a point of departure," according to Forsha. The entire project will be documented with an extensive series of bilingual publications.

The museum must match the NEA grant with $750,000 in cash and in-kind donations, bringing the total project budget to $1 million.

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