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Hammer Museum Awarded $1 Million Grant by The James Irvine Foundation's Arts Innovation Fund
Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Gary Minnaert.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Hammer Museum announced today that it has received a $1 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation’s Arts Innovation Fund—one of only four major grants made state-wide from this fund. The grant is payable over four years and will enable the Hammer to create a new kind of interactive museum: an artist-driven visitor engagement and education program that encourages daily contact among visitors, artists, and Museum staff and activates the spaces, exhibitions, and website in imaginative ways. In addition, the grant will allow for continued support for the Hammer‘s Artist Residency Program and Artist Council, which were established in 2006 through a $700,000 grant from Irvine’s Arts Innovation Fund.

“Thanks to the past support from the Irvine Foundation, the Hammer has created an organic way of working with artists– not just in their capacity as object makers but as problem solvers – we are engaging them to help us to be a better, more dynamic institution,” says Ann Philbin, Director of the Hammer Museum. “This new grant of $1 million enables the Hammer to build on the work we started in the last three years and continues to push boundaries and try to stay ahead of the curve.”

“We are pleased to award an Arts Innovation Fund grant to the Hammer Museum for its innovative approach to engaging visitors and enhancing their experience both onsite and online,” said James E. Canales, Irvine’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Through this support, we hope that a new model of arts participation will emerge for Hammer that can be shared more broadly in the museum field.”

At the heart of the new grant is the creation of a new model for visitor engagement that departs dramatically from traditional models of visitor services and education programs generally used by art museums. Beginning in Fall 2009, the Hammer will enlist artists to conceive, develop, and implement a new visitor engagement program with artists as the driving force behind the visitor experience and the Museum’s education program. Artists will explore and address all aspects of a visit to the Hammer, from basic amenities, way finding and maps to the creative and unexpected activation of spaces around the Museum so as to inspire curiosity and collective learning. The Hammer also intends to create more transparency between its staff and audiences by exposing some of the inner workings of the Museum. For example, visitors may be presented with spontaneous opportunities to have a brown bag lunch with curators and the director or to visit the Hammer conservation studio.

The first sign of this fresh approach will be seen in the Hammer lobby, where a revamped central reception desk with artists, staff, volunteers and digital programming and installations on huge monitors will offer new ways to experience and engage with artworks, exhibitions, collections and spaces of the Museum. By encouraging visitors to navigate spontaneous encounters through out the Museum, this approach will activate every space in the Museum, from the galleries and bookstore to elevators and stairwells with artist inventions.

Guest artists will be invited for one year terms to design, implement, and averse the visitor services and education program and will report to the curatorial department. Mark Allen, executive director of Machine Project, will be the first guest artist to work with the Hammer during the first year of this new initiative. Allen has conducted artist-based and performance experiences with visitors to MoMA in New York City and to LACMA here in Los Angeles.

In addition to this new initiative, the Hammer will use the grant to continue support for the Artist Residency Program and to expand its engagement with California artists and to connect those artists more firmly to UCLA students and faculty as well as to the Museum’s visitors. The award will also enable the Artist Council to take on an even more active role in devising innovative approaches to the challenges of Museum operations, including visitor services, academic initiatives, and social engagement. The Museum will seek to strengthen the ties between the Artist Council and the Artist Residency program and create more connections and interactions between the two programs.

Hammer Museum | James Irvine Foundation | Ann Philbin | James E. Canales | LACMA | Mark Allen | Machine Project |

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