ASU Art Museum receives grant for International Artist Residency Program

The ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program received part of a $2.5 million grant recently that will help them secure their future downtown. (Courtney Pedroza/DD)

The ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program, located in downtown’s Combine Studios, recently received part of a $2.5 million challenge grant that was awarded last year by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

The program brings international artists downtown to live and collaborate with local minds and community organizations.

The ASU Art Museum has worked to create relationships between ASU staff, international artists and the downtown community since the residency program’s inception in February 2011. Through the $2.5 million awarded to the ASU Art Museum and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the program will receive funding to secure its future growth.

“This is an incredibly generous and highly impactful gift for this program,” Greg Esser, the director of the artist residency program, said. “But I also think it’s a testament to the value of the program, bringing artists into the community to develop new projects. I think that’s something the Windgate Foundation truly understands.”

The gift’s “challenge grant” classification means all money donated by people or organizations to the ASU Art Museum, the Herberger Institute or the residency program at Combine Studios will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the foundation through 2016.

This creates a total pool of $5 million donated to the three ASU art programs over the three-year period. Gordon Knox, director of the ASU Art Museum, said the challenge grant concept was a compromise between ASU and Windgate.

“We originally had asked for a $5 million gift, and they said they couldn’t do that, but they could help us achieve that by providing us with 50 percent of that as a challenge,” Knox said.

The programs are able to receive money when donation clusters of $500,000 are reached. According to Knox, the first $500,000 cluster was recently raised, and staff is currently completing paperwork to receive the grant money.

Knox said he hopes to reach the next $500,000 cluster by September. Following this timetable will allow the art programs to reach their $5 million goal six months ahead of schedule.

The $2.5 million collected over three years will be transferred into an endowment fund. Between 4 percent and 5 percent of the endowment’s interest amassed over time will be directed toward the art residency program, Knox said.

The money received by the art residency program will go toward several primary costs, including facilities and the shared common room at Combine Studios, staff and costs related to artists producing their projects.

Esser said he feels the approval of the grant speaks well for both the residency program and its growing impact on the downtown community.

“This really elevates the profile of this program,” Esser said. “By making a long-term commitment to this program, it really helps us think long into the future … about bringing artists from around the world into downtown Phoenix, and that would express itself in numerous different ways.”

Windgate Charitable Foundation Executive Director John Brown said successful leadership and a passion for three-dimensional arts have led to the successful partnership with the ASU art programs.

“I think a real interest and passion for three-dimensional arts (has supported our relationship), which is kind of our niche,” Brown said. “We support fine arts programs, American craft in particular.”

Brown also said he trusts ASU’s decision to move half of the Herberger Institute’s School of Art’s graduate programs downtown.

“We went over there and looked at that site together … It looked like it would be a very accommodating space, kind of upscale, and would present the artwork in a very positive way,” Brown said.

The Phoenix New Times 2013 “Best New Gallery,” Combine Studios has been a part of several art-focused events in Phoenix.

They collaborated with the Windgate foundation and visiting Italian artists in November to present the “Celebration of the Living” procession through the streets of downtown. The residency program also played an integral role in bringing the Feast on the Street event to fruition last April.

Some Chinese artists are residing at Combine Studios this semester, Esser said. The gallery is also working with a non-profit studio REV- to present “Project Nanny Van” starting Feb. 6.

ASU has worked with the Windgate Charitable Foundation for more than 15 years, Esser said. Windgate has sponsored two curatorial internships for the museum since 2005. They most recently helped fund a series of 2013 exhibitions at the ASU Art Museum, including “Crafting a Continuum: Rethinking Contemporary Craft,” a show displaying the museum’s craft collection.

“We’re working already across campus in creating partnerships,” Knox said. “I want the residency to be seen as a core incubator for cross-disciplinary research, particularly artist-led research.”

Correction and clarification: Jan. 22, 2014

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that $5 million would be put into the endowment. Only $2.5 will be placed in the fund and the $2.5 million in donations will stay with those organizations.

The article was also clarified to state that Combine Studios owns the building, but does not run the program; also, it has been clarified to say that Chinese artists, not students, are staying at the studio.

Contact the reporter at miguel.otarolaalfaro@asu.edu