Russell Crotty/Lick Observatory/ICA Project Receives Warhol Foundation Grant!

View of Lick Observatory, with housing and dining hall in foreground and Observatory domes in background
View of Lick Observatory, with housing and dining hall in foreground and Observatory domes in background

I am thrilled to report that our artist residency and exhibition project with Russell Crotty, Lick Observatory, and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) has been awarded a prestigious, $30,000 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts grant! This is great news. Warhol grants are highly competitive, and in fact only seven institutions west of the Rockies received a Warhol grant this year, so we have been high-fiving since we got the news last month.  

The project brings Russell Crotty, an acclaimed California-based artist and 2015 Guggenheim Fellow, to Lick Observatory and UC Santa Cruz for an extended, intermittent residency. Russell's work has long been involved in astronomy, and he is an advanced amateur astronomer himself. 

Russell Crotty, "The Milky Way (Northern Hemisphere), 2000, 36 inch sphere, ink on paper mounted on lucite   

Starting this August, Russell will be using the Lick telescopes for new observations that will serve as the basis for new drawings and sculptures on cosmological subjects. Thanks to Lick interim director Claire Max and Graeme Smith, Lick managing director, Russell will have the expert assistance of Lick Support Astronomer Paul Lynam in his work on the historic 36-inch Great Refractor and the 40-inch Nickel telescope. He'll also be spending time in the Lick Archive with Lick curator Tony Misch and me, perusing the 19th and early 20th century log books of legendary astronomers such as Edward Emerson Barnard and researching other objects and images in the Lick collection.

Together, we'll be working toward a unique exhibition at the ICA that will show Russell's new, Lick-based work, some of his previous work, and a selection of archival log books, historic astronomical photographs, and scientific artifacts from the Lick instrument collection. Cathy Kimball, the ICA Executive Director, generously offered to host the exhibition in their new space and collaborate on its content. 

San Jose ICA with exhibition by Amy Ellingson, 2014

Located on First Street in the heart of downtown San Jose, the ICA has a beautiful space and an adventurous program. Having Russell's work and the exhibition from Lick there will bring our efforts to Silicon Valley audiences we would never get on campus. That's one of the goals of the IAS:  to originate compelling, innovative exhibitions and events that draw on UC Santa Cruz's strengths and take them off off campus. And while I'd love to open the Crotty/Lick exhibition first on campus and then travel it, right now we simply don't have the space here to do a show like this. That's why we need a new building!   

Nevertheless, we will definitely still do student events on campus for this project. Russell has already met with one painting class and will be speaking with more students next year. We're working with grad students in astronomy to do a public stargazing night this fall, and we're working with art professor Melissa Gwyn and with Greg Laughlin, the chair of the astronomy and astrophysics department, to host a fascinating, two-day student seminar at Lick itself. Called "Seeing and Knowing," the overnight seminar will be a unique opportunity to consider the nature of vision, meaning, understanding and knowledge in both art and astronomy. I'll be writing more about it as we get closer to the event, but in the meantime I'll just say that I am incredibly excited about its potential to impact our students, and faculty as well!  

Getting the Warhol grant with the ICA was a real honor, and we are also grateful to the UC Santa Cruz Foundation for an earlier $10,000 grant to the project. Artists residencies at the IAS are also supported by the Alumni Fund for Visiting Arts, and by annual IAS donors.

Stay tuned for more information and images about this exciting project as we move forward. In the meantime, thank you Andy Warhol Foundation, and thanks to the many collaborators who are making this project happen!