Photo by Mitchell Snyder

The Portland Institute for Contemporary Arts announced today a major new granting program for unincorporated visual art collectives, alternative spaces, and collaborative projects called the Precipice Fund. Supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which funds four similar initiatives around the country, the Precipice Fund will award $75,000 annually in grants ranging from $500 to $5,000, and signals a major investment in local artists.

“What’s different is the program will really support emerging, experimental, contemporary, artist-driven practice,” PICA’s Visual Art Curator Kristan Kennedy told Culturephile. “There’s not a mandate for it to be super diverse or go across a lot of forms. It’s really about driving contemporary practice forward.” 

Unlike RACC and many other local granting bodies, which fund either formal nonprofits or individual artists, the Precipice Fund will support informal collectives and alternative projects, which can range in form from websites to events to publications to gallery spaces (we can think of a few garages and fishing boats that very well would qualify), although they “must have a public presence, intersect with diverse audiences, and contribute to the vitality of contemporary art practice.”

“This has been a niche of funding that has not been represented in Portland,” says Kennedy. “There’s not the financial or legal security that [the projects] are going to be sound. This is giving seed money to projects that aren’t supposed to be here forever, they’re not supposed to be the next PICA, but they should be supported now while they’re doing good work in community.”

PICA has long supported such artists informally by lending equipment, advice, and exposure, but to become a granting organization signals a new step in the organization’s evolution—one it ultimately decided aligned with its mission and its current growth into new permanent offices and year-round programming. “After 17 years, we wanted to have a more engaged role in supporting artists in the community,” says Kennedy.  “We were interested in having something vital and direct in terms of money.”

PICA joins four other organizations who oversee similar re-granting programs with the Warhol Foundation: Southern Exposure in San Francisco; Charlotte Street Foundation and Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO; Threewalls and Gallery 400 in Chicago; and Diverse Works, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses in Houston.

Full application details and granting guidelines will be available April 1, with the first round of awards being decided in the fall. The selection panel, consisting of local and national artists and curators, will operate independently of PICA’s staff and visual-art programming, and the award recipients must present their funded projects outside of PICA. The Warhol Foundation has committed to two years of funding, with the potential for extension (Southern Exposure has been running since 2007).

The announcement of the Precipice Fund comes on the heels of the unannounced decision by the Warhol Foundation to give PICA $150,000 over two years to support the organization’s cross-disciplinary visual art programming. Both of which are the culmination of a relationship between the two organizations that has been a decade in the making, and has since incorporated other local organizations (including YU’s recent announcement about receiving a $60,000 grant).  

“The investment Warhol is making in region shows not only its long term commitment to PICA, but it shows they’re taking notice here,” says Kennedy. “They’ve been coming to Portland for 10 years because of TBA and seeing other groups. For a long time we’ve been the singular organization funded, but now PNCA, YU, Cinema Project—now you can see they’re making a commitment.