Artist-built environments and community arts organisations across the US receive $1.5m in grants

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The Noah Purifoy Foundation, Corita Art Center and WOW Project are among the 15 arts non-profits to receive funds totaling $1.5m from a new initiative that supports creative engagement with a deep connection to place. The programme, called Sites & Stewardship, is the latest grant stream from the Milwaukee-based Ruth Foundation for the Arts, which launched last year to support artmaking with a focus on community-building.

The funding cycle, announced today (9 March) awards one-year grants ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 to 13 organisations, as well as multi-year grants of $400,000 to two organisations. The inaugural cohort includes artist-built environments, such as the Noah Purifoy Foundation in Joshua Tree, California and the L.V. Hull Legacy Center in Kosciusko, Mississippi; archives, such as the Black Art Library in Detroit; and artist-led spaces, such as the historic Self Help Graphics & Art arts centre in East Los Angeles and Dirt Palace, a feminist art collective that resides in a once-abandoned library building in Rhode Island.

A workshop at the WOW Project Courtesy of the WOW Project

“Our Sites & Stewardship programme nurtures the ever-evolving relationships between artmaking and place and the indelible imprint artists make on our cultural landscape,” Ruth Arts executive director Karen Patterson says in a statement. “To build this new programme, we met with artists, architects, curators, scholars and site stewards whose practices intersect with all facets of the built environment. At once retrospective and forward-facing, the programme aims to recognise lesser-known narratives amidst a changing and uncertain world.”

The recipients of this year’s multi-year grants both emerged from neighbourhood mainstays that preserve culture through grassroots efforts. One is the WOW Project, an incubator for community-centred arts that is based in a near-century-old, family-owned porcelain shop in New York’s gentrifying Chinatown. The other is Doll Museum Forward, a new Philadelphia project to catalogue and circulate the collection of the Philadelphia Doll Museum, established by Barbara Whiteman in 1988 to preserve and study Black dolls.

The Doll Museum collection Photo © Meredith Edlow, courtesy of Doll Museum Forward

The Sites & Stewardship funds brings Ruth Arts’ total grantmaking streams to $14.25m since it launched in the spring of 2022. Grants of varying amounts have been awarded to individual artists as well as arts organisations through a $440m bequest from the late collector and arts patron Ruth DeYoung Kohler II. Kohler, who died in 2020, was the long-time director of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, and more recently led efforts to develop the Arts Preserve, a museum dedicated to neglected art environments. A well-known champion of overlooked and self-taught artists, she dedicated her career to nurturing art with an impact far beyond itself.

“If I could do it again, I would get involved more,” she said in 2020, speaking about her decades-long work with the Kohler Arts Center. “I would still proselytise for this organisation forever, with my last breath.”

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