The size of this fund, $215,000, is more than double what the collective first projected when the program was announced last year. The awards will help 106 small-scale arts organizations in 21 different states with critical needs such as rent, infrastructure, safety improvements, materials and equipment.
Meow Wolf will also offer consultation and support around legal issues, building codes, and organizational structure improvements. DIY community art spaces in need of assistance submitted hundreds of applications to Meow Wolf. The fund was originally set to award $100,000 but that figure was tied to Meow Wolf’s projected annual revenue. The collective’s success with their first permanent installation, House of Eternal Return, throughout 2016 and into 2017 far exceeded expectations, leading to more award money.
It was a pleasure reaching out to the different award recipients to tell them about the funding. One space, Project Project, responded to the e-mail with an excited "You just gave us 30 percent of our annual budget!" In addition to excitement, talking to the different DIY facilitators revealed exactly how judicious they have to be with their funding if they are to succeed. There was much gratitude for things as humble as plumbing repairs. These less-than-glamorous needs are tackled by creatives in service of loftier goals.
For example, Chris of the Raw Paw zine and print house in Austin plans to use the money to extricate Raw Paw from "a two-year long red tape limbo with the city" in regard to codes. Once this is out of the way, Chris can focus more fully on the true mission of Raw Paw.
"We want to re-focus a lot of our media output energies to give a platform for under-served voices and to combat the current political climate that would undermine art, free-thinking and empathy," Chris wrote. "...Most of all we want to keep creating things that fill people with wonder and hope."
The funds not only help the artists, but also the people attempting to access the space. Mattie of Chicago's Charm School hosts benefits that pay for things like emergency contraceptives and fire safety kits. The fund will pay for safety improvements to her own building and possibly ramps that can improve access for people with disabilities.
Meow Wolf started the community arts fund last winter in response to the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, California. One of those lost at Ghost Ship, Chelsea Faith Dolan (Cherushii), collaborated on music for the House of Eternal Return installation in Santa Fe.
Meow Wolf is honored to help nine art spaces in Oakland and the collective expresses love and respect for these creative peers as they heal their community.
“Our entire collective was of course deeply saddened and wounded by the news out of Oakland,” said CEO Vince Kadlubek. “We knew immediately that we had to take action—and take not only a financial role in helping to prevent this from happening again, but also to offer experience, talent and insight to help collectives be as safe as possible while also being as cutting-edge creative as their vision takes them.”
The fire was a wakeup call for DIY artists to come together and support one another at a time when bureaucratic red tape, unfair scrutiny from municipalities, and rising rent threaten to push many art spaces out of the communities they serve. Meow Wolf began as a DIY collective in 2008 and recognizes that small artistic communities are vital to the cultural health of their hometowns.
Even though this fund will help keep the lights on in dozens of DIY venues across the country, Meow Wolf calls on other businesses and individuals of means to follow this lead and support creative culture. Spaces in twenty-one states received awards, and Meow Wolf was able to support ten DIY spaces in New Mexico, including three in the collective’s home of Santa Fe.
Bobby of the nine-years-running Unity Center music venue in Roswell said he tossed the phone to an associate when he saw the e-mail from Meow Wolf notifying him of the award.
"I was like, 'Holy crap! can you read this for me, please?'" he wrote.
Bobby said the venue found its first permanent home two years ago.
"We give touring musicians a place to stay while they're on tour. It's a safer place than a Wal-Mart parking lot!"
Meow Wolf thanks all guests to the House of Eternal Return who made it possible to double the size of the award. Thanks to visitors who are showing up in this year because that means the 2018 DIY Fund can be even larger. The following are just a few of the community art spaces who received funds. Meow Wolf wishes them luck as they continue to blow minds.
Thanks, as always, for your kind attention. — Billiam