Open letter from Martha Wilson

Franklin Furnace is an undisputed authority on "performance art," a visual art field that incorporates dance, theater, music, and other traditions in hybrid, and often, activist works that define our contemporary existence. For three decades, Franklin Furnace has given Fund grants to emerging performance artists selected by peer review so that they may produce their first major works in New York.

During the “Culture Wars” of the late 80s and 90s in this country, Franklin Furnace was a steadfast defender of artists' right to freedom of expression. As a result, the organization got in trouble multiple times with federal representatives and agencies. With the arrival of a new president, we anticipate artists will continue to take urgent social issues such as rape, health, race, immigration, poverty, cronyism, ecology, surveillance, religion and speech itself as subjects of their work.

Support of emerging individual performance artists and collaborations through the Franklin Furnace Fund enables them to prepare major works that invariably range beyond the boundaries of conventional performance practice, changing cultural, social and sometimes political discourse: Three of the “NEA Four” artists, Karen Finley, John Fleck and Holly Hughes, were Franklin Furnace Fundwinners; as was Pope.L, whose 2002 retrospective at the Maine College of Art was denied National Endowment for the Arts funding by outraged legislators. With the new administration proposing to eliminate funding for both the NEA and the NEH, Franklin Furnace renews its commitment to the Fund.

The Fund has consistently identified emerging talent in advance of wider recognition: Tanya Barfield, Monstah Black, Jibz Cameron, Cassils, Patty Chang, Papo Colo, Sue de Beer, Zackary Drucker, Sherman Fleming, Coco Fusco, Kate Gilmore, Beatrice Glow, Pablo Helguera, Murray Hill, Xandra Ibarra, Joseph Keckler, M. Lamar, Liz Magic Laser, Shaun Leonardo, Kara Lynch, Taylor Mac, Erin Markey, Julie Atlas Muz, Rashaad Newsome, Brooke O’Harra, Jeanine Oleson, Clifford Owens, Pope.L, Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful, Royal Osiris Karaoke Orchestra, Emily Roysdon, Dread Scott, Pamela Sneed, Saya Woolfalk, Chin Chih Yang and Ricardo Miranda Zuñiga presented major works for the first time with Fund support. We believe this success is due to the composition of Franklin Furnace's peer review panels, which represent a diverse range of practice, ethnic and cultural background, sexual orientation, age and physical ability, as well as familiarity with new technology.

We believe it is imperative to support emerging performance artists anew with the Franklin Furnace Fund CALL FOR ARTISTS, deadline April 1, 2017.

Martha Wilson
Founding Director