A big boost for Miami artists

ArtCenter South Florida announced a major new artist grant program Wednesday, the most striking product yet of the possibilities created by the $88 million sale of one of its Lincoln Road properties in 2014 and the first major initiative of new CEO and president Dennis Scholl.

The Ellies, named for ArtCenter founder Ellie Schneiderman, will award up to $500,000 annually to Miami artists – the often-overlooked heart of Miami’s much hyped visual arts scene. The program includes the $75,000 Michael Richards Award, for a single, established artist; the Ellies Creator Awards, with grants of $2,500 to $25,000 for working and emerging artists; and the Ellies Teacher Travel Grants, which will give $5,000 to three art teachers for trips that will enrich their teaching.

ArtCenter's President and CEO Dennis Scholl
ArtCenter president Dennis Scholl. Courtesy of ArtCenter South Florida.

Miami artists should start dreaming up proposals now. Applications for the Creator and Teacher Travel awards can be submitted April 18 through May 24th. (A jury of national and local curators and experts will pick nominees and the recipient of the Michael Richards Award, named for an ArtCenter residency alum whose work focused on racial inequality and social injustice, and who died in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.)

The program is rooted in the original inspiration for the ArtCenter, which Schneiderman started in 1984 on a then desolate Lincoln Road to give Miami artists cheap studio space and an exhibition platform. The ArtCenter was key to the rebirth of South Beach, and to Miami’s change from escapist party and drug capital to a city known for culture. But since the launch of Art Basel Miami Beach, much of the attention – and the money – has been on that glamorous, market-centered event, and on the growing number of public and private museums and collections, mostly centered on big national and international names. In many ways, we’ve become known for arts tourism, not art production.

Resident artist Jillian_Mayer
ArtCenter resident artist Jillian Mayer. Courtesy of ArtCenter South Florida.

The Ellies counter that trend, boosting the people who could make Miami’s visual art scene about what gets made here, rather than enjoying what’s made somewhere else. While both are important, we’ll never be a real cultural capital if we don’t develop our human creative capital.

“Over the past decade, Miami’s artists have steadily built an international reputation for themselves, and have changed the way people perceive our city,” Scholl said in a statement. “The Ellies will provide our artists with the resources they need to advance their work and elevate their artistic practice.”

ArtCenterSouth Florida, view from Lincoln Road
ArtCenter South Florida’s main building on Lincoln Road. Courtesy of ArtCenter South Florida.

Recipients will be announced Oct. 24th at Miami Beach’s Bass Museum, which will co-commission and exhibit a work by the Michael Richards award winner.

There’s lots more information, including a voluminous and straightforward FAQ section, on the new ArtCenter website. There’ll also be info sessions on May 10 and May 22nd. Artists, take a look at your wish list. The rest of us look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Grand opening of ArtCenterSouth Florida. Founder Ellie Schneiderman pictured center (1)
ArtCenter South Florida founder Ellie Schneiderman at the center’s 1984 opening. Courtesy ArtCenter South Florida.

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