When Robert Rauschenberg created his foundation in 1990, he thought about naming it SEED. The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation has honored the late artist’s intentions by applying the moniker to a new program developed to help young arts organizations grow.
SEED aims to nurture grass-roots organizations in cities across the country. As ArtsATL recently reported, Atlanta is one of five cities chosen for SEED’s pilot year. The foundation has awarded Dashboard Co-op, Eyedrum Art and Music Gallery, gloATL, Living Walls and The Lucky Penny grants of $30,000 each, to paid in $10,000 increments over three years.
“We wanted to have a program that really focuses on where ideas start, that moves ideas forward,” said Christy MacLear, the foundation’s executive director, in an interview from New York. “And we wanted to provide operating capital — what they most need, and what is hardest to come by. Operating support gives them the strength and flexibility to grow, to take new risks.”
The foundation looked for cities outside the major arts centers but where the arts are flourishing, such as Atlanta, MacLear said, or such as Detroit, where intervention might help reverse a decline. The other cities are New Orleans; Portland, Oregon; and Providence, Rhode Island.
The staff then requested recommendations from colleagues in the five cities and did its own research on the nominations. Although the nominators are secret, the foundation did reveal that the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center was among them.
“The best was that the awards were a surprise,” MacLear said. “One person had to pull over his car to the side of the road because he was screaming.”
The process spared recipients the tortuous application process. As MacLear noted, “Many of these groups don’t have development directors. Some don’t even have non-profit status. They work out of their garages and living rooms. They’re focused on the art, not the organization.”
She hopes that SEED will help to debunk “the myth of regional art” by giving the recipients credibility in their cities and a national platform through the foundation. “Art is art. Art is inspired by a soul, a person. The art we see in the most surprising places is often the best.”
Here are the organizations that received SEED grants in the four other cities: