December 15, 2012

Show Me the Money: Alternative Exposure Applicants

Show Me the Money is an earnest attempt to get people to talk about money in the visual arts.

Alternative Exposure is a grant program run by Southern Exposure and funded by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, with additional support by Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund. Alternative Exposure was launched in 2007 in order to support the independent, under-the-radar work of artists and small groups that are a defining feature of the San Francisco Bay Area art community. Since developing Alternative Exposure with SoEx, the Andy Warhol Foundation has invested in the creation of a growing national network of regional regranting programs, supporting the Idea Fund in Houston, Texas; the Propeller Fund in Chicago; and Rocket Grants Kansas City, Missouri.

Since the program’s launch, Southern Exposure has awarded $351,000 in direct funds to 104 Bay Area projects. As a recipient of funds from Alternative Exposure, I can tell you that this grant has significantly impacted my practice. For the Present Group Art Subscription Service, it came at a time when we were feeling especially downtrodden, both financially and in the form of public recognition. This grant and the vote of confidence it provided helped propel us forward for another four years after receiving it. For another project spearheaded by my partner, it helped launch a new project (Art Micro Patronage) that we continue to learn from. Bay Area–wide, it has helped to spur and support a range of activity, all focused on creating systems and structures of support for artists.

This year I was asked to help jury the pool of applicants. A difficult process, but all through it I couldn’t help to wonder what all these budgets could tell us if I could look at the entire pool. I decided I should find out, and share the results. If we dream a little and imagine what would happen if all of these projects were funded, there would be an incredible burst of activity throughout a pretty amazing year. Very little of this money goes back to artists or the people that run these projects, so the economy in the area would be getting quite a nice little boost, as well. This year Alternative Exposure awarded $65,000 to 15 projects, which is still pretty great.

The information provided below is from a pool of 115 applications. There were some applications pulled before I had access to them for reasons of unsuitability to the grant.

Comments (2)

  • Hi Greg,

    I don’t know of any evaluations along these lines, but I would imagine that there has to be some. My guess would be that most evaluations along these lines may not always be made public – more for foundations’ own evaluations in determining grant priorities. It would be interesting to see if other places would be willing to open up their applications for this kind of research. If anyone knows of public reports along these lines, please let me know!

  • What a great way to bypass organizations’ reluctance to talk in detail about their finances, and instead make use of a lot of anonymous data. I think in a lot of ways the results are even more useful than when they are tied to a specific project or group as in past Show Me The Money posts. As it is here, we can see benchmarks for costs that we can apply to arts projects much more broadly, and it’s fascinating to see collectively what all the applicants are interested in producing and spending money on—in this case they’re producing exhibitions and publications, and spending money on artist fees and materials. It would be interesting to run this across multiple years of applications moving forward to see what changes. And do you know if this same treatment has ever been applied to other, even larger databases of arts grant applications?

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