by Suzannah Friscia
It's only been a year since Oolite Arts launched the Ellies, a grant program that funds work by local artists, but already the results are impressive.
“The first year results of the Ellies have surpassed our expectations,” says Dennis Scholl, president and CEO of Oolite Arts, formerly known as ArtCenter/South Florida. “We knew how much our visual arts community had grown, and we thought the city was ripe for this type of awards program, yet we had no idea that over 500 artists would apply.”
Named for Oolite Arts’ founder Ellie Schneiderman, the program offers funding for Miami-Dade visual artists and art teachers. In the inaugural year, 44 working artists received grants, and this year’s award winners will share up to $500,000 in financial support. Applications for the 2019 awards are now open, and artists have until May 20 to apply.
So, what are some of last year’s winners doing with their grants? Their projects, which span a variety of mediums, couldn’t be more different or more fascinating.
Gonzalo Fuenmayor | The Act of Undoing Ruins (Diptych), 2018 | Charcoal on paper | 90 x 104 inches
Working with charcoal was nothing new for Gonzalo Fuenmayor, but winning an Ellies Award helped him scale up his ambitions — literally. His two massive drawings, which will make their West Coast debut in San Francisco’s Dolby Chadwick Gallery on May 2, measure about 12 feet wide and eight feet high apiece, and took more than two months to make.
Fuenmayor has long been interested in drawing Victorian-era, Rococo-style rooms, “as a way to explore how power is camouflaged,” he says. The gilded, decorative ornamentations of a palace room, for instance, can act as a sort of disguise, masking an uglier truth. “For those rooms to gain so much power, perhaps there was exploitation, colonization, and very questionable dynamics in other parts of the world,” he says. Working in black and white, the Colombian-born artist also hopes to challenge stereotypes about Latin American artists — like the expectation that they always use a palette of bright colors in their work.
“We’re always struggling between negotiating time, money, and studio time,” says Fuenmayor of receiving his grant. “The Ellies was a blessing in the sense that it provided the resources to pay my rent, buy materials, and just focus on making the work.”
Click here to watch Ellies grant recipient video featuring Gonzalo Fuenmayor