Over the last 25 years, the Joan Mitchell Foundation has awarded grants to more than 1,000 artists, totaling over $15 million in direct, unrestricted funding. Hundreds more artists have been supported through $8 million in grants given to arts organizations nationwide, as well as through the Foundation’s education programming, free online resources, and residency opportunities at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. To celebrate the work and achievements of its artist community and to examine the impact of its initiatives, the Foundation will release a book and open a companion exhibition, both titled Widening Circles: Portraits from the Joan Mitchell Foundation Artist Community at 25 Years, this December. Featuring anecdotes and testimonials by 25 artists, the book captures the real-life experiences of working artists and shares their perspectives on the importance of ongoing support for art and artists. Developed over the course of 2018, each impact statement is accompanied by a large-scale, color portrait of the artist, captured by photographer Reginald Eldridge, Jr., who traveled from Alaska to New York and many places in between to engage with the featured artists in their studios and hometowns.
The exhibition, presented at the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s headquarters at 137 W. 25th Street, will feature all 25 of Eldridge’s portraits. A gallery guide that includes the artists’ impact statements will be available as part of the exhibition experience. Together, the exhibition and book shed light on the diversity of Joan Mitchell Foundation’s community, with artists ranging widely in age, background, and location, as well as in the breadth of their creative practices and personal and professional experiences. At the same time, their voices make tangible the realities and business of being an artist. They underscore the importance of financial stability to artistic innovation and the need for and nature of meaningful funding.
The idea for the Widening Circles project came from a desire to illustrate the impact of artist Joan Mitchell’s vision to support artists directly and immediately through grants and programs, and to celebrate the artists the Foundation has had privilege to intersect with the during the past 25 years. Mitchell’s wishes—as set out by her in her will—were to establish a Foundation that would “aid and assist” a wide spectrum of artists in a manner that nurtures their work and supports their livelihoods. Widening Circles serves as a testament to Mitchell’s pioneering notion of generosity and steadfast belief in the creation of a community of support that provides resources for artists to have time and space to think, create, and innovate. The artists’ impact statements, which form the core of Widening Circles, also help to illuminate how the Foundation can continue to fulfill and enhance its mission in the current philanthropic and cultural landscape.
“Joan Mitchell found inspiration and solace in poetry throughout her life, so it is felt fitting to turn to a poet that she read often in her youth—Rainer Maria Rilke—in naming this book and the accompanying exhibition. And the idea of ‘widening circles’ is also particularly apt, as we look at how many artists have been engaged and supported through Joan’s foresight and spirit of generosity, and how many other lives and voices their work has in turn enriched and inspired,” said Christa Blatchford, CEO of the Joan Mitchell Foundation. “As the Foundation reaches its 25th anniversary, it is important to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of our community, and it is equally essential that we, as a Foundation, continue to refine our support for artists, especially in a moment in which artists have such a critical role to play in fostering dialogue and understanding.”
The exhibition will be on view from December 6, 2018 through May 31, 2019, with public hours Tuesdays through Fridays from 12-3pm. The book will be available in print format at the Joan Mitchell Foundation headquarters and will also be made available digitally on the Foundation’s website. After the New York showing concludes in May, the portrait exhibition will travel to the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans.
To read excerpts from the participating artists' impact statements, download the full press release.