Coronavirus gives ‘heightened urgency’ to new Mike Kelley Foundation art grants


Los Angeles artists and arts institutions have been pummeled by the coronavirus crisis. But some artistic projects are nonetheless moving forward.

The Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts is scheduled to announce its 2020 project grants on Wednesday morning, which will include support for interdisciplinary performances, a sound art project by Latinx artists and an exhibition that will bring together work by three important female artists who connected with one another in the 1970s through UC Irvine’s then-nascent master’s in fine arts program.

“In the midst of a global crisis that is putting an unprecedented strain on our cultural community, grantmaking in the arts has a heightened sense of urgency,” said the foundation’s executive director, Mary Clare Stevens, in a statement. “While our grants in the past have primarily supported project-related expenses, this year we will be more flexible. We will work closely with each grantee and find the best ways to buoy their work during this time.”


The grants to nine small and midsize L.A. arts organizations represent a total of $400,000 in donations, the fifth year that the Mike Kelley Foundation has supported artistic projects “that undertake compelling, inventive and risk-taking work in any medium, particularly projects that have proven difficult to develop or fund.”

This year’s recipients include:

  • Los Angeles Contemporary Art Exhibition (LACE) in Hollywood, for “Intergalactix: against isolation / contra el aislamiento,” which will explore concepts of borders and immigration policies between Mexico and the United States.
  • The Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, for a group show that will bring together work by Nancy Buchanan, Marcia Hafif and Barbara T. Smith, three important L.A. artists who met at UCI in the ’70s.
  • Pieter, a community arts organization based in Lincoln heights, for “Knees, Schools, Urges,” a show that will invite local artists to respond to the history of modern dance in L.A.
  • The Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College for the group show “Sonidx: Audio Culture in Latinx Art,” which will explore sound art by a range of contemporary Latinx artists.

An L.A. Times survey of Los Angeles art galleries on a slimmed-down post-pandemic future. Some are banding together to weather the storm.

April 20, 2020

  • Human Resources L.A., an artist-run space in Chinatown, for a sound project — this one inspired by the influential composer and installation artist Maryann Amacher.
  • Fulcrum Arts and homeLA, two local experimental arts organizations, for a series of performance events organized by artists Julie Tolentino and the duo Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener at the Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church in Pasadena.
  • REDCAT, for a multimedia project by artist Nao Bustamante titled “The Wooden People,” which explores Mayan myth and the narrative conventions of the telenovela.
  • Visual Communications Media, which supports filmmakers of Asian descent, for a multi-disciplinary project led by artist Tina Takemoto that will explore the changing landscape of Little Tokyo.
  • Los Angeles Filmforum, for a program of newly commissioned short films by filmmakers who are based outside of Los Angeles (including South Korea, Mexico and the Philippines).
L.A. artist Nao Bustamante preps an exhibition in 2015.
Nao Bustamante preps an exhibition in 2015. She is one of many L.A. artists whose upcoming projects are being supported by the Mike Kelley Foundation.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The foundation’s 2021 grant cycle will open to artists and arts organizations in June — but guidelines may be different than in years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


“We are in discussion with the arts community to assess their needs and how the foundation can best address them in this disruptive environment,” said Stevens in her statement.

The Mike Kelley Foundation, launched by the late Los Angeles artist, who was a longtime supporter of small arts organizations doing experimental work, is also among the arts nonprofits supporting the new Artist Relief Fund, a special emergency fund for artists whose income has been affected by the pandemic.

Seven national grant-making groups have banded together to launch the Artist Relief Fund, which will provide $5,000 payments to artists in dire need.

April 8, 2020