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.
“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 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.”