Mike Kelley Foundation grants: 10 winners split $400,000 to make daring art


The Mike Kelley Foundation is expected to announce Thursday that it has awarded $400,000 in grants to 10 Southern California arts organizations, including the Echo Park Film Center, the Ford Theatres, the 18th Street Arts Center and the Pomona College Museum of Art.

The Artist Project Grants, now in their fourth year, support nonprofit institutions that have paired with artists to create work in the same innovative and daring vein as Kelley’s.

“We look at the precedent [Kelley] set and who he was an artist, teacher and person,” said Mary Clare Stevens, executive director of the foundation. “Our mandate comes from him in many ways. It’s an attempt to reflect the spirit in which he worked and his commitment to the arts.”


The foundation promotes boundary-pushing projects that create lively dialogue. Projects that have proved difficult because of complex subject matter or other factors and work by under-recognized artists are given special consideration.

The If Innovation Foundation received $45,000 for a collaboration with Sharon Lockhart, who spent years working with young women from the Youth Socio-Therapy Center in Rudzienko, Poland. The resulting trove of photos, publications and films tackle an array of issues surrounding what it means to be a child. Lockhart is creating a film that challenges viewers to conquer the unknown to imagine a better future. The film will be screened at local children’s advocacy organizations and juvenile centers, where Lockhart plans to organize educational workshops.

“She’s a filmmaker, but the process of that residency yielded new ideas. It was generative,” Stevens said.

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The Pomona College Museum of Art received $40,000 for the large-scale exhibition “Todd Gray: Euclidean Gris Gris.” The exhibit will be up for an entire academic year and features an evolving selection of Gray’s photographs, which examine the legacy of colonialism in the United States, Europe and West Africa. Public programs investigating similar themes will run concurrent with the exhibit.

The Ford Theatres is being granted $46,000 for its work with the artist Edgar Arceneaux, co-founder of the Watts House Project. Arceneaux is creating an immersive live experience titled “Boney Manilli,” which will receive a work-in-progress showing at the Ford Theatres on Aug. 8. The surreal piece of performance art sheds light on a little-known German music producer named Frank Farian, who created the songs that built up, and later destroyed, the 1980s pop duo Milli Vanilli. The show will examine “how artists of color have systematically been exploited by the white establishment.”


“He’s an artist who is really expanding his practice,” Stevens said of Arceneaux. “This is at the Ford Theatre, so my sense is that his audience is also expanding. He’s a force of nature, this is a huge undertaking for him.”

The remaining grantees are:

The 18th Street Arts Center, which received $45,000 for five new artist commissions tied to live events examining the roles architecture and cultural policy play in social life and civic engagement in American communities.

The University Art Museum, Cal State Dominguez Hills, $28,000, for a residency with Lauren Halsey as part of the university’s Praxis program, which pairs artists from South Los Angeles with students and South Bay residents to create experimental work.

Dirty Looks, $45,000, for a 31-day, 31-site festival in L.A. exploring queer histories, spaces and aesthetics.

The Echo Park Film Center, $36,000, for “The Newsreel Project,” which invites filmmakers to examine ideas relating to place, identity and inclusion in local communities.

Equitable Vitrines, $25,000, for commissioning a new site-specific work by German audio installation artist Florian Hecker.


The Los Angeles Poverty Department, $45,000, for “Compassion and Self-Deception,” a multidisciplinary project by artist Robby Herbst and the Los Angeles Poverty Department, which presents an in-depth examination of homelessness and attitudes surrounding the issue in L.A.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, $45,000, for partnering with the multidisciplinary arts organization Clockshop as part of a series of year-long collaborations called “/five.”

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