Elizabeth Kanost
Spencer Museum of Art

2016 Rocket Grants program awards $60K to 11 grant recipients

Thu, 05/19/2016

LAWRENCE — The 2016 Rocket Grants have awarded a total of $60,000 for 11 artist projects. Eight projects received Full Project Awards, and three received Research & Development Awards. To date, the Rocket Grants program has awarded $332,000 for 71 cross-disciplinary projects involving nearly 200 artists.

“For the last seven years, the Rocket Grants program has funded artist-driven and artist-centric projects that challenge ‘normal’ and support a dynamic cultural community in the Kansas City region. This year’s diverse selection is no exception,” Rocket Grants Program Coordinator Julia Cole said.

Rocket Grants, a partnership of the Charlotte Street Foundation and the Spencer Museum of Art, supports innovative, artist-driven projects outside of established arts venues. Funding for the program is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, which recently awarded an additional $200,000 to extend the program through the 2017–2018 award cycle. Award recipients were selected by a panel of visiting jurors — Rosten Woo, Los Angeles; Cameron Shaw, New Orleans; Benjamin Rosenthal, Lawrence, and Lisa Cordes, Kansas City.

Several of the selected projects this year amplify and document marginalized voices. Kansas City–based artist Cat Mahari’s project “The Floor” will use an immersive multimedia approach to discuss post-WWI black migration patterns in the United States. Two projects will address LGBTQ experiences. “Transforming Resiliency while Queering Violence,” by Randall Jenson and SocialScope Productions, will create a video project for the voices of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and trans people of color. “Where We No Longer Gather: Liberty Memorial, Penn Valley Park and Public Queer Looks,” by Anthony Rea, will use photographic, site-specific engagement to record and question the displacement of queer communities.

“The Spencer Museum of Art is thrilled to partner with Charlotte Street and the Warhol Foundation on another round of community-focused and innovative art projects addressing relevant social issues,” Spencer Museum Director Saralyn Reece Hardy said.

A public awards ceremony for this year’s recipients will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m. June 2 at the Kansas City Art Institute Gallery. Recipients will each give three-minute presentations about their projects. For more information on this year’s Rocket Grants winners, visit

A complete list of 2016–2017 grantees is as follows:

Full Project Awards ($6,000)

  • Cat Mahari, “The Floor”: A multimedia, immersive work that discusses the Great Black Migration in the United States, at 31st & Brklyn — a new performance venue for contemporary, emerging and experimental artists of color.
  • Laura Isaac, “Arts Dojo”: A venue inside an active Aikido dojo will focus on creative process, critique and training. Arts Dojo will be an incubator for visual, literary, musical and performing arts — a place where artists can take it to the mat and throw down.
  • Jarrett Mellenbruch, “Haven Hive Monitor”: A prototype solar-powered monitor installed inside a living beehive sculpture will continuously stream hive data to a website and convert the data into accessible, visual graphics.
  • Randall Jenson, “Transforming Resiliency while Queering Violence: SocialScope Productions,” an LGBTQ multimedia organization, will create an online video project. “Transforming Resiliency” will focus on lifting up the voices of transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and trans people of color. 
  • Lara Shipley, “The New Rural”: A project investigating rural communities near Kansas City, “The New Rural” will use audio interviews and photographs to document the experiences of individuals in rural communities. The project will also produce a publication and website.
  • Jared Macken, “Two Strangers Meet Alone in a Vacant Parking Lot”: Two small architectural structures will orchestrate the face-to-face meeting of two strangers so that they leave as acquaintances. The initial site will be in a former Dillons parking lot in Topeka. The project will also produce a publication.

Modified Full Project Award ($4,000)

  • Don Wilkison, “Cut Your Hair in the Socialist Style”: Barber shops and salons have a historic role as safe zones for public debate. A salon-within-a-salon that occurs in the culminating months of the 2016 U.S. presidential election cycle will create safe space for discussion about contentious issues.

Modified Full Project Award ($2,000)

  • Melaney Mitchell, “Informality Radical Public Programming”: A yearlong series of public programs designed to cultivate a more dynamic audience. Programs like Pop Up Guerrilla Docents, Digital/Critical Critique Nights and a new video criticism series will help artists expand their reach and network.

Research & Development Awards ($2,000 up front with an option for $4,000 for implementation)

  • Paul Donnelly, "KC Urban Potters Project Space": A cooperative exhibition space providing an environment to create, educate and engage, sparking dialogue between makers and nonmakers about the importance of handmade pottery in our daily lives.
  • Emily Sloan, "The ToTLuck": A series of three, one-night-only cross-disciplinary installations, including photography, music, dance and spoken word. Installations will take place in and on a 1960 Airstream trailer, and participants are encouraged to bring food to share, potluck style.

Modified Research & Development Award ($4,000 up front with an option for $2,000 for implementation)

  • Anthony Rea, "Where We No Longer Gather: Liberty Memorial, Penn Valley Park and Public Queer Looks": A site-specific public engagement piece documenting an unrecorded history of a displaced queer community. This photographic project will ask important questions about community removal and the lack of a public queer space.

For 19 years, the Charlotte Street Foundation has challenged, nurtured and empowered thousands of artists, distributed more than $1.1 million in awards and grants to artists and their innovative projects, and connected individual artists to each other and to the greater Kansas City community. Charlotte Street – with its community of artists – strives to be a primary catalyst in making Kansas City a vibrant, creative metropolis, alive with collaboration, passion, ideas, and surprise.

The Spencer Museum of Art houses an internationally known collection that is deep and diverse, with artworks and artifacts in all media. The collection spans the history of European and American art from ancient to contemporary, and includes broad and significant holdings of East Asian art. Areas of special strength include medieval panel painting and religious sculpture; the Kress Study Collection of early modern Italian painting; 19th-century American art and material culture; old master prints; photography; European, East Asian, and Indian textiles; American Indian pottery, beadwork, and jewelry; African sculpture; Japanese Edo-period prints; and 20th-century Chinese painting. The Spencer Museum is currently closed for a major renovation and is slated to reopen in the fall of 2016.

Photo: Liberty Memorial, by Anthony Rea, who won a Rocket Grant for "Where We No Longer Gather: Liberty Memorial, Penn Valley Park and Public Queer Looks."

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