CICF News / 2008 / August / News Post
August 26, 2008
Five artists from the Midwest receive $20,000 each from the Efroymson Family Fund

In its fourth year, the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship has again extended its geographic reach, awarding five $20,000 grants to artists from Indiana, Louisville and Cincinnati. The Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowships are made possible by the Efroymson Family Fund, which is based in Indianapolis.

The 2008 Efroymson Fellows are Letitia Quesenberry (Louisville), Brian Priest (Indianapolis), Michael Lyons (Indianapolis), LaRinda Meinburg (Bloomington) and Anthony Luensman (Cincinnati). In all, 235 artists submitted qualified applications, up from 158 for the 2007 program.

Created to recognize gifted contemporary artists, the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship originally focused on Central Indiana. In 2007, the program managed by the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) expanded to include artists from across Indiana; this year, it welcomed applications from artists in Louisville and Cincinnati as well.

“Contemporary art constantly expands its boundaries, so it’s only fitting that we should, too,” said Jeremy Efroymson, vice chair and one of three Efroymson family members who advise the Efroymson Family Fund on its gifts to the community. “We were delighted to see the number of applications increase once again, and to see such high-quality work coming from artists.”

The Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship is unique among fellowships nationally, most notably because it has very few restrictions. While eligible artists must live in Indiana or in the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) of Louisville or Cincinnati; be 25 or older; and work in photography, painting, sculpture, new media or installation art, those applying for the award aren’t required to have a degree or a minimum amount of experience. In addition, Efroymson Fellows can use the grant money any way they choose to further their artistic careers – for living expenses, equipment and supplies, studio rental, travel essential to artistic research or to complete work.

The idea behind the Fellowship is simply to encourage emerging and established contemporary artists to continue their artistic development. Since the Fellowship’s inception, The Efroymson Family Fund has awarded a total of $400,000 to 20 artists, and many of those artists say the Fellowship was a career-altering award.

The 2008 Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellows are:

• Letitia Quesenberry, 36, Louisville, painter. The large-scale, three dimensional pieces that Quesenberry creates are intended to provoke uncertainty. “Not knowing invokes more interest than knowing,” she says. Quesenberry draws from found photographs and other cultural documents in creating works that drive the viewer to fall short of understanding for just a little longer than usual. She strives for subjects that reveal themselves slowly, thereby drawing the most benefit from the state of not knowing. She will use her grant to support her work by offsetting living expenses, purchasing materials, renting a larger studio space and traveling to the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, where she will work in a community of artists.

• Brian Priest, 30, Indianapolis, installation art. Science, technology and art converge in Priest’s works to challenge our perceptions of the human place in a natural world, and examine how those perceptions shift in relation to science, technology and innovation. Priest creates large-scale interactive installations where sound, video, technology and sculpture redefine the human landscape. In one installation, the sounds of nature are converted by computer into Morse code recitations of the Bible, Koran, Art of War or Origin of the Species. As a result, what might seem like the sounds of a forest are in fact the rediscovered sounds of humankind. The Fellowship grant will allow Priest to purchase new equipment, lease studio space, and pay technicians who help him in his work. In addition, it will allow him to focus on two new major works and also travel to collaborate with artists in other cities.

• Michael Lyons, 27, Indianapolis, sculpture. While many artists work to complete their pieces, Lyons works for the sake of the process, without a preconceived notion of when a work will be completed or what it will be when it is done. His creations often marry light, shadows and everyday objects into works that expose a fascination with things he does not understand. He uses a variety of techniques, merging art and manufacturing to reveal not a finished project, but the course that was followed to arrive at this point in a continuing journey. Lyons will use his award to rent studio space that will give him more freedom to work, and to offset living expenses so he’ll have more time and focus for his work.

• LaRinda Meinburg, 31, Bloomington, sculpture. Meinburg is fascinated by the material she uses for her sculptures. She likes to study it, manipulate it and investigate it the way a scientist might. Then she likes to use unusual materials or processes to create her art. Her work is typically simple in presentation, but involves an intricate process and engages with nature and society to create opportunities for new perspectives and to pose new questions. In one work, she created a sheet of latex paint, forcing viewers to see color as an object; in another, she carved a salt lick into the shape of a bomb and placed it in Berlin, allowing time and nature to dissolve it, and allowing its salt to kill the weeds around it. Because she is intrigued by the notion of documenting her work, Meinburg will use some of her grant award to purchase a new camera. She’ll also use funds to purchase art and marketing materials; to support travel to promote her work; and for living expenses.

• Anthony Luensman, 42, Cincinnati, sculpture. Luensman uses objects, constructions, lights, sounds, electronics, photography and more to create art spaces and places in which the viewer can enter as a witness or participant. His work evolves from his curiosity and invention, and draws from his intellectual and cultural experiences to emerge as investigations into the relationships and disproportions of nature to humanity, the individual to society, technology to psychology and the self to self-fulfillment. The grant will allow Luensman to embark on an ambitious new body of work, supporting the cost of studio space, contract labor and studio assistance, materials, travel and marketing.

A four-member selection committee consisting of national and regional representatives chose the five recipients in a blind selection process. The selection committee members were Jeremy Efroymson, vice chair of the Efroymson Family Fund; Kat Parker, director, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago; Jay Jordan, director and curator, New Center for Contemporary Art, Louisville; and Cyndi Conn, curator, Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe.

Fellows are selected for the quality, skill, creativity and uniqueness of their work, their commitment to developing their work and the impact the award will have on the artist’s career.

“By expanding the geographic range of these awards, the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship is also expanding the awareness of Indianapolis as a cultural leader,” said Brian Payne, president of CICF. “I applaud the Efroymsons for their support of the arts, and for demonstrating that contemporary art has a home in Central Indiana and beyond.”

The Efroymson family has supported the art community in Indianapolis for decades, believing that art is a vehicle for exploring new ideas and stimulating community dialogue. To further plan and maximize their philanthropy, in 1998 Dan and Lori Efroymson established the Efroymson Family Fund with Central Indiana Community Foundation. Their initial gift to the fund was$90 million. Today, Efroymson Family Fund is one of the largest donor-advised funds in the United States, with total assets exceeding $127 million, and it has awarded more than $53 million to local, regional and national organizations. In addition to their arts support, in Indiana, the focus of the family’s community contributions are to improve the viability of Indianapolis by providing funds for the welfare of the disadvantaged; the natural environment; historic preservation; and the well being of the Jewish people.