31 January 2014

McKnight Photographers Becoming Visual Artists

What do Anthony Marchetti, Paula McCartney, Alec Soth, and Mohamud Mumin have in common?
  • They are all recipients of 2013 McKnight Fellowships for Photographers, chosen from a pool of 108 applicants by three photography professionals from outside of Minnesota. As such, each received a cash award of $25,000 to use over the course of a year.
  • They resided in Minnesota for at least a year prior to receiving the award, and they intend to remain residents for the Fellowship year, July 2013 to June 2014. 
  • They are all artists who have used photography as a primary means of creative expression over a period of time that would mark them as beyond emerging in their careers. Marchetti, McCartney, and Soth have each received at least one previous McKnight Fellowship; Mumin was a first-timer. 140 photographers have received financial assistance, in amounts varying from $2,500 to $25,000 since the program began in 1982. (All awards, in all the McKnight Artist Fellowship programs, were pegged at $25,000 starting in 2001; that year 53 awards were made in twelve disciplines, and the number has seen an overall downward trend since then. Click here for the Foundation's list of all Fellows in all disciplines, from 1982 to 2013.)
  • Finally, Marchetti, McCartney, Mumin, and Soth are the last four artists to receive McKnight Fellowships awarded specifically to photographers. As the Foundation's May 10, 2013 press release explains, the visual arts program hosted by the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (organizations outside of the Foundation serve as administrative hosts for all the programs) will "expand to include photography" starting with this coming spring's awards.

Photographers will continue to receive funding. I have no concerns about photography "falling short" when put head-to-head with other visual arts. Fellowship recipients will have work that is strong and may emulate the more conspicuously "arty" photography that is being done today. This is worst-case scenario thinking: A culture of commercial imitativeness may emerge among Minnesota photographers seeking McKnight funding. Risk-takers will be at a disadvantage, as will those whose image-making drives them to document realities that move them personally, profoundly, but quietly, often over periods of many years.

The work Marchetti and his fellow 2013 Fellows do is diverse and divergent. These artists, aside from the similarities cited above, bear little resemblance to each other. The same extends to the other 136 recipients of McKnight Photo awards, noted in the list below. Photography is as polyglot and vital a visual language as any expressive mode extant today. I understand that the MCAD program will make eight fellowship awards instead of four. But will there be a provision, or an insistence, that some of those be directed toward photographic artists? That kind of direction towards a quota tends to make review panels very uneasy. Here's what the 2014/2015 guidelines state about the reviewers:

Maybe I'm cynical. Maybe my experience of running the McKnight Photography Fellowship Program for ten years slants my perspective. But I feel that this change not only deprives Minnesota's photographers and shortchanges the audience for their work, it creates a precedent for further consolidations. How about lumping all of the ceramic artists, currently under the Northern Clay Center's McKnight Fellowship program, and the media artists at IFPMinnesota, into MCAD's program? Why not put all the word-smiths under one roof as well? Musicians, dancers, theater artists--they're all on stage, so why not unify them?

In the wake of this decision there are ten programs that next spring will award 32 Fellowships to mid-career Minnesotans with the following titles: Ceramic Artists (2 $25,000 Fellowships to be awarded); Choreographers (3); Composers (4); Dancers (3); Media Artists ("independent producers, directors, writers, and developers in film, television, radio, web, computer/video games, transmedia, and other emerging forms of media"- from the program's web site) (3); Musicians (4); Playwrights (2); Theater Artists (3); Visual Artists (4); and Writers (4).

Composers, choreographers, playwrights, writers--all of these original target groups remain autonomously funded groups in the McKnight array. Why not photographers? Why deny the prescience that the foundation demonstrated when commencing the Artist Fellowship program in the early 1980s? Conversely, why did it take thirty years to recognize that photography qualified as a visual art? And on a third tangent, why have there never been painting or sculpture centers in Minnesota? I guess photographers need to be happy that, like printmakers, they remain in the running at all.

I will be very interested to see what the MCAD panels select in future grant rounds. What kinds of photography will be identified as viable (fundable) visual art? The practitioners and consumers of an inquiring medium want to know. In the meantime I say goodbye, good McKnight Photo Fellowships. You served us well.

The deadline for uploading your submission to the MCAD 2014/15 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Visual Artists is noon on Friday, March 21, 2014. Here's a link to MCAD's site.

McKnight Photography Fellows, 1982 to 2013
Jen Ackerman + Joseph Allen + Thomas Allen + Eric Altenberg + Chuck Avery + Jack Bardon + Andrew Baugnet + Doug Beasley + Sara Belleau + Mae Benson + Elizabeth Berardo + Vicki Berg + Carol Berlin + Ricardo Bloch + Keith Braafladt + Thomas Bremer + Priscilla Briggs + Linda Brooks + Gloria DeFilipps Brush + Bruce Charlesworth + Peter Happel Christian + Richard Copley + J. John Corbett + Bill Cottman + Dorit Cypis + Gina Dabrowski + Stephen M. Dahl + Michal Daniel + Ioana Datcu + Todd Deutsch + Tom Dodge + Beth Dow + Natasha D’Schommer + Amy Eckert + Osama Esid + Sheila Farrell + Chris Faust + Teri Fullerton + Linda Gammell + Gretchen Garner + Lynn Geesaman + Vance Gellert + Frank Gohlke + David Goldes + Wayne Gudmundson + Terry Gydesen + Monica Haller + Gary Hallman + Barry Hansen + James Henkel + Stephen Hermann + Kristine Heykants + Keith Holmes + Wing Young Huie + David Husom + Jennifer Jenkins + Richard Johnson + John C. Johnston + Kathy Hemingway Jones + Dale Kakkak + Leigh Kane + Stephanie Kays + Diana Keller + Kel Keller + Shannon Kennedy + Ellen Kingsbury + Lynn Klein + Angie Klidzejs + Stuart Klipper + Jim Knipe + Jeff Krueger + Sue Kyllonen + Timothy Lamb + Peter Latner + Vince Leo + Peter Lindman + Lauren Lippman + Lynn Lukkas + Paula McCartney + Heather Mackereth + Anthony Marchetti + Roger Mertin + Jeff Millikan + Deirdre Monk + David Monson + Colleen Mullins + Mohamud Mumin + Robert Murphy + Barbra Nei + Celeste Nelms + Gary Ness + Justin Newhall + Jila Nikpay + Meg Ojala + Wendy Olson + Sheryl Olson + David Parker + Jason Pearson + George Peer + Sarah Penman + Bambi Peterson + Phuong Phan + Keri Pickett + Gail Rapson + Karl Raschke + Stevie Rexroth + Thomas Rose + Linda Rossi + Molly Rucks + Orin Rutchick + John Schlesinger + Barbara Schubring + Richard Sennott + Rik Sferra + Paul Shambroom + Mickey Smith + Rosemary Smith + Alec Soth + Carla Steiger-Meister + William Stieger + Angela Strassheim + Xavier Tavera + Carrie Thompson + Lex Thompson + Peter Haakon Thompson + Jim Tittle + Tobechi Tobechukwu + Stephanie Torbert + Mary Tortorici + Andree Tracey + Katherine Turczan + Charissa Uemura + Inna Valin + JoAnn Verburg + Diana Watters + Catherine Whipple + Tom Wik + Steven Williams + Mark Wojahn + Vue Xiong