The West Oakland nonprofit gallery Aggregate Space announced Tuesday the receipt of a $90,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. It is one of five Bay Area arts organizations to receive funds from the New York-based nonprofit in this round of grantmaking—but also the newest, and by far the smallest, with a staff of one.
Other recipients include the Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco, the Museum of the African Diaspora, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Institute of the Arts and Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.
Aggregate Space Gallery (ASG), located on an industrial stretch of West Grand and founded in 2011, shows the work of emerging and mid-career artists, focusing on large-scale installation, video and performance—genres often unsupported in the commercial gallery world. The nonprofit is also rare in that they provide on-site fabrication and installation assistance to help artists realize “unimaginable” projects and museum-quality exhibitions.
“From the beginning, we have relied solely on volunteer labor to develop our community and build the space,” says Conrad Meyers, ASG’s co-founder and executive director. “This funding helps us on our journey of growth from an artist-run space to a reliable long-term resource for emerging artists.”
Meyers is technically ASG's sole full-time employee, though he says he and Willis Meyers (co-founder and board president) both dedicate about 30 hours a week to the nonprofit. In addition to volunteer labor, ASG runs its programming with the help of part-time contract workers and grant-funded positions. The Warhol Foundation grant, which cannot be used for general operating costs, will fund 16 exhibitions, 40 artists and 64 public events over the next two years. The funds will also allow ASG to pay artists substantial stipends (upwards of $2,000 for a solo project, Meyers says) for the first time in the gallery’s seven-year history.
"That's still less than what people put into a show at Aggregate Space," he says, "but I'm looking forward to using it as a bargaining chip to work with people who have said no in the past. It's tough to do things for free in the Bay Area."
In the Spring 2018 grant round, the Warhol Foundation awarded 42 recipients from an applicant pool of 224 nonprofit arts organizations, giving out a total of $3.6 million to organizations across the country. Individual grants range from $35,000 to $120,000. ASG and the Chinese Culture Foundation’s grants will go towards visual arts programming over the next two years, while MoAD, SFMOMA and UCSF received funding for specific exhibitions, all scheduled for 2019.
For ASG, this kind of national recognition is vindicating. "It feels like a lot of hard work paid off," Meyers says. "It feels like it's actually possible to do what a lot of people told us was impossible to do. Which was start a nonprofit with nothing and build toward something."