In 2016, Robert Blackson was at a business meeting with a grants officer from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to discuss Temple Contemporary. He was unexpectedly asked about his interest in becoming a partner for the foundation’s Regional Regranting Program.
The foundation partners with institutions across the country to support artistic activity with grants of up to $7,000, as part of its Regional Regranting Program. The program has funded hundreds of projects in the past 10 years.
“My jaw kind of hit the floor,” said Blackson, director of Temple Contemporary at the Tyler School of Art. “And I was thinking, ‘Wow, would they really want us to do that?’ And then in subsequent conversations, it came to pass that [the foundation] really would welcome this with Temple Contemporary.”
The Regional Regranting Program is based in 12 cities. Philadelphia’s Regranting Program, The Velocity Fund, will be headquartered at Temple Contemporary.
The foundation was created in 1987 after the death of Andy Warhol, a filmmaker and artist from the 1960’s pop art movement. Warhol wrote in his will that nearly his entire estate should be used to create a foundation focused on the “advancement of the visual arts.”
“It speaks volumes of our generosity as a culture that someone like Andy Warhol would have the forethought and the capacity to make a seismic change in supporting artists for generations to come,” Blackson wrote in an email.
“The Warhol Foundation could have selected, I would guess, just about any arts organization across the city and offered them the same deal,” said Blackson, who was an Andy Warhol Curatorial Fellow in 2012. “So it was wonderful and very humbling for them to have chosen Temple Contemporary.”
“These things are always a matter of, is there enough happening in the city to warrant this program, and is there somebody that we can partner with who we can trust?” said James Bewley, the foundation’s senior program officer.
The Regional Regranting Program “aims to support vibrant, under-the-radar artistic activity,” according to the foundation’s website.
Blackson said “under-the-radar artistic activity” is art that has not been officially sanctioned by the mainstream art world. This is where The Velocity Fund will come in.
As part of the program’s inaugural year, 10 to 15 Philadelphia artists or collaborative teams will be awarded $5,000 grants for a specific artistic project this September.
The deadline for applications is June 1, and Tyler School of Art students must graduate by this May if they want to apply.
“If you are interested to do an exhibition or create a new website or have a performance or make a projection or make a book, and all of those public outcomes affect the way that we relate to art in the world around us, that’s what we’re interested to help support,” Blackson said.
There will be information sessions across the city about The Velocity Fund. The Vox Populi gallery on 11th Street near Callowhill will host a session on Friday, and The Print Center in Center City will host one on April 17.
The Velocity Fund includes the option of applying with multi-disciplinary collaborative teams to give artists the opportunity to work with one another.
“The hope with The Velocity Fund is that if you’re a ceramicist who has always wanted to work with potentially a poet, but didn’t really see the way to make that financially possible, here’s…your option,” Blackson said.
The Velocity Fund will also give artists a chance to receive smaller grants to fund a specific visual project.
“This isn’t money that’s earmarked to just do anything you want,” Blackson said. “It’s the understanding that art comes with a commitment to a public. We’re helping to bridge that relationship between the art and public by earmarking funds.”
Bewley said from what he has seen in other cities, the Regional Regranting Program helps “promote the idea of connectivity and collaboration” among artists in Philadelphia.
“It acknowledges the good work that’s happening and kind of strengthens it,” Bewley said. “And for Philadelphia, I don’t know what that’s going to be like yet. Each city is different. Each program is different. It’ll be interesting to see how it takes shape.”