The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

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For Immediate Release
Contact Joel Wachs, President; Pamela Clapp, Program Director (212) 387-7555
MAY 2, 2006 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Announces Major New Arts Writing Initiative

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is pleased to announce the launch of the Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writing Initiative, a three-year, three million dollar program to support independent, progressive arts publications and individual arts writers. The Initiative amplifies the Foundation’s longstanding support of critical writing about the arts by focusing attention on critical writing as an essential component of a thriving visual culture. Designed to encourage and reward accessible, intellectually rigorous writing about art, the program aims to strengthen the field as a whole and to highlight its significance in the cultural landscape.

The Arts Writing Initiative is the result of extensive research conducted by the Warhol Foundation into the current needs and challenges facing arts writers. The Foundation convened several gatherings of critics, art historians, editors, reporters, and journalism educators to determine which issues practitioners in the field deemed most crucial to address in the immediate future. The new program was designed directly in response to the information they provided and the insights they shared.

Following are some of the main concerns raised by participants: 

With the demise of NEA grants for critics and the recent closure of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, traditional mechanisms of support, organization and advocacy for arts writing are scarce to non-existent. At the same time, the art world is increasingly large, complex and international in scope and demands flexibility, quick turn-around and extensive travel from writers. There is virtually no training system for arts writers and there are few residencies or journalism fellowships that recognize their work. Little is done to advance the visibility and prestige of the profession, though it is clearly a necessary component of a visually literate culture. 

Cultural discourse on art is most often conducted through journals, newspapers and other art periodicals. However, many of these publications—especially small, regional and special interest journals—lack money, stability, management-expertise and the tools for proper self-promotion. Their survival is uncertain in a competitive marketplace dominated by larger commercial rivals, and if independent publications are to remain a vital platform for alternative voices, they must stabilize their business practices and increase their audiences.

 Severely inadequate compensation for writers and the instability of published outlets for their work create an inhospitable environment for arts writers and threaten the viability of the profession. Yet thanks at least in part to on-line media, new voices are entering the dialogue on art all the time. With the explosion of exhibitions, festivals, biennials, and experimental art events around the country and the world, it is an exciting time to be a critic. However, in order for writers to do their best work and for its impact to be felt broadly in the culture, the infrastructure of the field must be reinforced and the importance of writers’ work recognized and rewarded.

The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writing Initiative takes a two-pronged approach to this task: one aimed at improving the viability of independent, progressive art publications through capacity-building grants and one aimed at sustaining the work of individual arts writers through project-based grants.

The grants to individual writers will be made for projects that range from books and essays to experiments in new media and will be administered by Creative Capital using their model of project-based grants augmented by individually tailored technical assistance and professional development. Art historians, critics, journalists, curators or experts from other disciplines who focus on the visual arts and culture are eligible to apply. The aim of the grants is to recognize talent, promote critical discourse that is both rigorous and accessible, foster innovation in arts writing and nurture connections between art and the public. We hope that the grants will function as both an honor and an opportunity for writers to explore challenging, risk-taking work. For more information on grants to individual writers please see www.artswriters.org.

Grants to independent, non-profit publications will be administered directly by the Warhol Foundation.  Capacity-building grants to publications, including those representing unique regional, national or minority points of view, will allow them to stabilize business practices, increase audiences, and explore new forms of publishing, new partnerships and distribution channels. The Arts Writing Initiative hopes to encourage journals to take on creative risks and to showcase ambitious, intellectually committed writing. 

Towards the end of the third year, the Foundation will organize an international convening of Arts Writing Initiative grantees and other professionals in the field to evaluate the program and to explore possibilities for its expansion. The Warhol Foundation is committed to keeping arts writing a dynamic and evolving part of the visual arts and hopes that the Arts Writing Initiative can serve as a model to others concerned about the future of the field.