LOS ANGELES—The Underground Museum in Los Angeles has announced the appointment of Meg Onli as director and curator. She joins the museum from the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she served as associate curator.
Onli is taking on a co-leadership role at the Black-founded museum with Cristina Pacheco. A nonprofit leader, Pacheco is UM’s new director and chief operations officer. She has been a member of the museum’s board since 2015 and transitioned to co-interim director and COO in 2020, before her current appointment.
HAVANA—At least five participants of this year’s Havana Biennial have withdrawn from the state-sponsored show, the country’s largest visual arts event, in solidarity with the hundreds imprisoned and persecuted by the Cuban regime. Artists Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro, Ursula Biemann, and Aimee Joaristi Argüelles, as well as curator Maria Belén Saez de Ibarra and critic Nicolas Bourriaud, said they will no longer exhibit their work or contribute to biennial programming.
Their withdrawal comes as an open letter calling for a boycott of the show, published last week in e-flux, has gathered over 400 signatures and counting. Among the signatories are prominent cultural figures based outside of Cuba, such as Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Theaster Gates, Pablo Helguera, Luis Pérez-Oramas, and Laura Raicovich; as well as Cuban artists who have participated in previous editions, including Tania Bruguera, Coco Fusco, and Tomas Sánchez.
“We say NO to the 14th Havana Biennial because Cuban artists have been in prison for months, because dozens of cultural workers are under house arrest, and because over 1,000 of our fellow citizens were arrested during the mass protests that took place on July 11. Of those arrested, more than 500 Cubans are still in jail, among them several minors,” says the letter, written by a group of Cuban arts workers associated with the 27N Movement for human rights and freedom of expression on the island.
RALEIGH—Anchorlight, a creative space founded with the intent of fostering artists at varying stages of their career, has launched a new era of the Brightwork Fellowship, a fully funded residency program for North Carolina-based visual artists. Beginning in January 2022, the Fellowship will provide a 500+ square-foot studio space at Anchorlight, an exhibition opportunity at the gallery, and an unrestricted financial award of $50,000 to one artist per year who is at a pivotal moment in their career.
Anchorlight is proud to welcome artist Precious D. Lovell as the inaugural artist of the new Brightwork Fellowship. Lovell’s creative practice explores the narrative potential of cloth and clothing. She uses excluded, under-told and forgotten stories combined with a passion for making and materials to merge and unfold new storylines.
NATIONAL—The primary purpose of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), approved by the US Congress at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, was to help affected businesses retain their workforce through extended shutdowns and mounting revenue losses. But a new report says that some of the most prominent cultural institutions were quick to lay off workers at the first opportunity after receiving over $1 billion combined in taxpayer-funded forgivable loans and grants.
Released last week by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the report analyzed federal data, audited financial statements, and media reports relating to thousands of museums, zoos, and botanical gardens. It found that out of $1.6 billion given to about 7,500 cultural institutions that qualified for PPP loans, nearly half of the money ($771 million) went to just 228 recipients. These same 288 institutions collectively laid off more than 14,400 employees, or at least twenty-eight percent of their workforce.
In an analysis from October 2020, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) reported that fifty-three percent of museums had laid off or furloughed staff. Most affected by the cutbacks were low-paid staff working in frontline services, education, maintenance, and security, museum positions historically held by people of color.
BENTONVILLE—Crystal Bridges and the Momentary have announced the appointments of Argeo Ascani, programmer of music and festivals, the Momentary; Ayanna Bledsoe, director of inclusion and belonging; Roland Liwag, digital media director; and Polly Nordstrand, curator of Native American art, Crystal Bridges. “As we enter Crystal Bridges’ second decade, each of these roles is essential to pursuing the institution’s vision and bringing great experiences to our visitors across our two locations,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer.
NEW YORK—On Wednesday, October 13, the Joan Mitchell Foundation announced the inaugural recipients of its new Joan Mitchell Fellowship, which annually awards fifteen artists working in the evolving fields of painting and sculpture with $60,000 each in unrestricted funds, distributed over a five-year period. Announced in February 2021, the Foundation’s new Fellowship program re-envisions the impact of its earlier Painters & Sculptors Grants by increasing the financial award and expanding the professional development offerings that are a hallmark of the Foundation’s approach to supporting working artists. The fifteen artists were selected in a multi-phase, juried process from 166 applicants who were identified by a diverse pool of nominators from across the country and who reflect a wide range of backgrounds in the arts.
Margaret Curis, an artist based in Tryon, North Carolina, is one of the fifteen recipients of the inaugural fellowship.
CHARLOTTE—Talking Walls, a citywide public art & mural festival in Charlotte, announced its return with a new roster of artists for Charlotte’s growing mural collection. The festival opened on October 18 and will be running through October 24. Now in its fourth year, the community venture will be exhibiting the work of Abel Jackson, Naji Alali, Nnekkaa, and Hnin Nie, among others.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—On Tuesday, October 5, President Biden nominated Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, of Los Angeles, California, as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Biden-Harris Administration made the announcement during National Arts and Humanities Month with the selection of Dr. Jackson to lead the nation’s arts agency. She will be the nation’s first African American and Mexican American to be appointed as NEA chair.
Dr. Jackson has served on the National Council on the Arts since 2013 when she was appointed by President Obama. She is a tenured Institute Professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA) at Arizona State University, where she also holds an appointment in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.
AUSTIN—The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the thirty-third annual Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Cherise Smith for her book Michael Ray Charles: A Retrospective (University of Texas Press, 2020). The book is the first in-depth examination of the artist’s provocative paintings that sample images of racism from consumer culture.
An independent panel of jurors selected Smith’s book because it “offers a comprehensive, richly illustrated and deeply researched chronicle of an important artist whose work processes found images and objects depicting the sordid tradition of American minstrelsy, confronting the viewer with difficult materials…In addition, we believe that both the topic of this book and its format push forward a vital contemporary discussion about how art and visual culture can engage critically with the painful history of racism.”
Smith is the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in African American Studies and a professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies and art and art history departments at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research centers on African American art, the history of photography, performance, and contemporary art.