New grant gives Alabama artists much-needed support through pandemic

“Infantree Project” by Larry Thompson, 2015 featured at Space One Eleven. Photo via Space One Eleven

The creative community suffered great loss in 2020, but the Verdant Fund provided a welcome relief to Alabama artists. The new initiative distributed $76,000 in emergency grants to creatives across the state affected by COVID-19. Learn more about how this impacted Birmingham and beyond, as well as future plans for the fund.

The Verdant Fund is essential to arts organizations’ missions

 “Art on the Inside“—art and poetry exhibition at Space One Eleven. Kyes Stevens, Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project Founder and Director and Dena Dickerson, Offender Alumni Association Program Director discuss the value of educational programming for people living in prison. Photo via Space One Eleven

The Verdant Fund is an expansion of the Warhol Foundation’s Regional Re-granting program. Alabama arts organizations, which include Alabama Contemporary Art Center (ACAC), Coleman Center for the Arts and Space One Eleven, initially received $60,000 from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to distribute to artists.

The first phase of this grant supported survival through the pandemic. By the close of 2020, the Verdant Fund distributed $76,000 in $1,000 emergency grants to visual or multidisciplinary artists in the state.

In this first installment, initial funds from the 2020 grant were meant to cover basic living expenses such as rent, groceries, child care, medications, utilities and more.

Let’s break down why these funds are so important

Commitments to support the creative community, like the Verdant Fund, are vital in displaying tangible messages of hope during the pandemic and for the future.

“In times of great uncertainty, the arts become a refuge and means for deeper understanding. Supporting cultural production is about bolstering our cultural integrity. The arts provide a space for communities to reckon with the nuance of personal experiences, to find representation and to build empathy and a sense of possibility.

Elizabet Elliott, Executive Director and Curator, Alabama Contemporary Art Center

More on future funding + plans for 2021

assorted-color paints
In 2021, all Alabama artists will be able to apply for the Verdant Fund grant. Photo via Unspalsh

While this year the grant was used in an emergency sense, in 2021 the Verdant Fund will shift to a “project grant.” The plan is for it to focus on areas where certain artists or types of artistic practices have been left out of existing support systems.

Priorities for the grant will go toward traditionally under-supported projects such as: 

  • Women artists, artists of color, artists with disabilities, and LGBTQ artists
  • Artists whose practice may operate outside regional market systems and work in what is perceived as new disciplines to include but not limited to – video, new media, installation, conceptual, anti-aesthetic, anti-monumental, etc.  
  • Socially engaged and culturally relevant projects
  • Creation of new work, or exploration of new territory 
  • Artists creating “experimental” space including, but not limited to, unconventional exhibition or program concepts 

“The opportunity to support new public-facing unconventional projects is a seamless extension of our (ACAC’s) mission, which focuses on the social and cultural relevance of the artists and work we support.

Likewise, all three of our individual organizations, as well as the Verdant Fund itself, seek to fill critical gaps in Alabama’s cultural ecosystem.”

Elizabet Elliott, Executive Director and Curator, Alabama Contemporary Art Center

The nuts and bolts of what comes next

In order to be considered, each artist must submit a project proposal. Artists will then be awarded between $5,000 and $7,000 each for projects based on artistic merit—distributing at least $60,000 per year in the state.

Outreach is important as we head into the new year

Not a lot of opportunities like the Verdant Fund exist in Alabama. So, it’s incredibly important to actively educate and help connect people to this opportunity and others like it.

We are planning to do a lot of travel this next year to provide information sessions in key locations around the state of Alabama. Our hope is to make the project grant as accessible and achievable as possible for any artist with a strong project idea willing to do the work.”

Elizabet Elliott, Executive Director and Curator, Alabama Contemporary Art Center

Providing outlets for Birmingham artists

Birmingham’s own Space One Eleven is a gem in our artistic community. It’s known for its educational opportunities to local and national artists alike. The visual arts center also plays a substantial part in gaining recognition for Alabama artists. The Verdant Fund helps continue this mission.

“This perhaps provides a way for us to help artists to be able to stay in Alabama. Especially with children in our program, it’s really important to have an outlet. I’m also hoping it will elevate the profession in the state where people understand the importance of art.”

Peter Prinz, CEO and Co-Founder, Space One Eleven

Let’s keep growing

In order to continue growing the arts in Alabama, grants from national organizations, like the Warhol Foundation, give credibility to the state’s artists. It cements a place of importance for local creative’s in the minds of others.

“When we received the notification that we’re included in the Andy Warhol Foundation Re-granting program, it became one of the ways in which we can continue to support artists in Alabama.

One of the challenges artists and contemporary arts organizations, visual arts organizations, in particular, have, is there’s just not a lot of funding available for the type of work we produce”

Peter Prinz, CEO and Co-Founder, Space One Eleven

What would the Magic City be without its magic? If you love having a space to create, consider donating to Space One Eleven so we can ensure everyone has access to express themselves for years to come.

Be on the lookout! You can visit VerdantFund.org in a few months for a list of times and locations regarding information sessions in 2021. 

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