The Warhol Foundation puts $3.6 million toward art for social good

The arts organization is putting money toward projects that explore climate change and racial inequities.

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For the last 30 years, the goal of The Warhol Foundation’s grants for advancing visual arts has been to “explore new territory, take creative risks, and engage with issues relevant to our contemporary moment”. But with the world heating up, and the country shifting toward nationalistic, isolationist, and discriminatory agendas today’s creatives are becoming particularly proactive. “This work is inspiring at a time when many groups in this country feel threatened—women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, to name a few,” added Warhol president Joel Wachs in a statement about the current grants.

This year, the foundation awarded $3.6 million to 42 different organizations as part of its annual round of spring grants. That’s just part of what the organization, which operates a $300 million endowment, is slated to give out this year. Warhol awards $14 million total annually, and another $8 million in biannual grants.

The majority of that money has been devoted to exhibitions, programming, and scholarly publications centered around a common theme: vexing social and environmental problems. “There’s a sense that everything is imperiled, so artists’ responses run the gamut,” says Rachel Bers, the foundation’s program director in an email to Fast Company. “Projects address climate change, racial and gender inequity, gentrification, and housing issues, as well as freedom of artistic expression.”

Each grantee receives between $35,000 and $120,000 depending on the ambition of the project. Many of these groups are community -related art spaces with budgets of less than $1 million, so the money goes a long way. It’s not hard to find examples of what this work might look like.

Several of Warhol’s previous activist-related grantees are exhibiting this around the country this summer. That includes “History Keeps Me Awake at Night” at the Whiney in New York, an exhibit that features the work of the late David Wojnarowicz, who used a wide range of techniques including blending photography with painting and graffiti to document the AIDS crisis and cultural backlash that surrounded it.

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