Funding Artists’ Mobility

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Michael Schonhoff, Exhibition Director, Lighton International Artists Exchange •

Good Afternoon,

My name is Michael Schonhoff and I am the Exhibition Director for the Lighton International Artists Exchange Program (also known as LIAEP). I am also honored to have been a recipient of a LIAEP travel grant in 2008.
First, I would like to thanks Dan Blask, Mary Sherman and everyone at TransCultural Exchange for inviting our program to participate in this conference. We are very honored to be here. Today I am going to briefly introduce LIAEP and talk about its founder, the inspiration, program details and then some examples of funded projects.

Ceramic sculpture of flowers by LIAEPís founder Linda Lighton

Work by Linda Lighton

LIAEP has funded over 135 artists for travel to and from six continents, 52 countries and the Arctic Circle.

The founder of LIAEP, Linda Lighton, riding a camel in the Gobi desert

Linda Lighton
Here is the founder of LIAEP, Linda Lighton, riding a camel in the Gobi desert.

A quote by another fellow Missourian, Mark Twain, is fitting to understanding the program’s intention. It reads: ”Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness."

Composite image of ceramic sculptures by Linda Lighton

Works by Linda Lighton

Lighton is an internationally recognized ceramic sculptor, art activist and agent. Some of her work is pictured above. Throughout her career, she has had over 60 solo exhibitions and participated in over 150 group shows. She has worked and shown internationally in China, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Spain and Turkey. Lighton’s work is also included in numerous private and public collections. Within the art community, Lighton has served on numerous arts boards and is a member of the International Academy of Ceramics. Lighton has received an Outstanding Achievement award from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, a Missouri Arts Award as an individual artist and an Award for Excellence in Visual Arts and Education from the Kansas City Art Institute.

LIAEP Moments

The above photo montage is a snapshot of the moments that have inspired the creation of LIAEP. Embracing the raw wonderment of travel to meet other people, experience other places and inspire her practice, Linda journeyed across the globe. In 1989, she was invited to go to Latvia to what had been the Soviet Artists’ Union. She was shocked to see 60 artists from around the world working together. There was room for everyone to have their own room and studio space. No one made any money. The goal was to simply exchange ideas. In Linda’s words, “I was knocked out that this was happening. In the US, someone always has to be making money! Someone has to teach or something. It would be so great just to make better art. To foment ideas and exchange thinking about your work. And see how people from other countries are relating.”

LIAEP believes that travel is a great way to broaden and expand one’s practice and global understanding. Artists can be great ambassadors. They speak a language without words. Imagining one person at a time going to make friends and work in another country, the program initiated a pilot residency with artist Peteris Martinsons.

A ceramic tea set by the artist Peteris

Work by Peteris Martinsons

Peteris is probably the best-known ceramist from the former Soviet Union. His art and personality have inspired ceramists of different generations across the globe. His artistic achievements, awards, legacy as a teacher and radiant personality made him the perfect inaugural recipient of the Lighton International Artists Exchange program grant.

Martinsons’ residency in Kansas City came during the NCECA ceramics conference, where he was exposed to Kansas City’s enthusiastic clay community. He exhibited his ceramic works and drawings and presented a two-day workshop on china painting.

People and boats on the water in rural China

LIAEP works to make the world a smaller place by giving artists of different cultures the opportunity to work together, in the hope that lasting friendships and understanding will develop.

Artist Peteris sculpting a hand in ceramics

Peteris Martinsons

The goal of LIAEP is to encourage and reward dedicated artists with the unique opportunities afforded by travel, which allow for the exchange of ideas and expertise between peers. We hope to enrich creative development, expand access to the art of other cultures and deepen mutual understanding across borders.

LIAEP funding criteria:  

1. The program seeks applications from dedicated mid-career visual artists who create work of exceptional quality and whose work and career is at a level to benefit from international exchange.

2. The program is especially interested in funding artists who have not yet traveled to a foreign country and in funding travel to countries that are less westernized.

3. Artists from Kansas City and the Central Plains/Midwest area receive priority consideration for funding.

4. LIAEP does not fund students, groups, exhibitions, equipment or shipping.

Hirotsune Tashima (see image below) completed Residencies at the International Ceramics Studio in Kecskemét, Hungary, and the Ceramic Research Center in Skælskør, Denmark.

Abstract ceramic figurative sculpture

Tashima attended his residencies to expand his worldview and communicate with other international artists.

“After arriving in Skælskør, I started to make a meticulously detailed sculpture inspired by an image I saw in an old church,” he said. “My entire stay in Denmark was spent working on this one piece, which is a self-portrait as a Danish Viking.”

Jaimie Warren (see image below) completed her independent Research in Tokyo, Japan.

Young people in Japan

Warren traveled to Tokyo to work as a photographer for Vice magazine. There, she created photo stories for the publication, continuing her interest in creating new work that is based upon her surroundings and experiences.

“While I was traveling,” she said, “I continued a new project, creating self-portraits. Because I knew very few people in Tokyo, it motivated me to create more self-portraits at a faster rate than ever before.”

Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost (see image below) traveled to the Tasara Center for Creative Weaving and completed Independent Research in India.

Image of rural waterway in India

Leidenfrost was especially interested in temple backdrops called Mata Pachedi and in immersing herself, as an anthropologist, in studying the culture around her. She worked with the children, making and trading textiles with them and filming the entire experience.

“Going to India created a phenomenological transformation of my artwork and myself,” Leidenfrost said. “It has advanced my creative endeavors and has opened an enormous river of ideas of creation.”

Ben Radatz (see image below) conducted Independent Research at Prypyat, Ukraine.

A lone shoe in an abandoned room

Radatz traveled to the Ukraine to study and photograph the deserted city outside of Chernobyl.

“Prypyat emboldens the potential of 21st century technology while haunted by the crushing overconfidence of the 20th century’s hopes and ambitions,” Radatz says.

Carol Koffel (see image below) completed a residency at the European Ceramics Center in Den Bosch, Holland.

White ceramic screens

Koffel sought to explore how art, design and craft intersected in ceramic materials and modern architecture. With her history as an industrial designer and new interest in ceramics, she connected this knowledge together to initiate this series of wall dividers.

“My interactions with other artists informed my artistic sensibility,” she said, “and I developed connections that continue to be beneficial.”

Fashion Designer Peggy Noland (see image below) created a pop-up shop at Goddart Studios in Berlin, Germany.

Woman stretched across a window, surrounded by red frills

She went there to interact with a new audience and fresh perspective – and with the world beyond the pages of magazines. The residency led to a costuming gig with Lady Gaga and story for Interview Magazine.

“Being a recipient of the LIAEP grant has meant several things to me,” she said. “First and foremost, it catapulted me from a local scale to an international one. The exposure gained from my trip from Kansas City to Berlin is immeasurable. I was able to test my creative prowess and see immediate results of my hard work while gaining new contacts and resources. Today, I am still in contact with many of the organizations and individuals I met while in Berlin, and my creative career is impacted daily by them.”

Asheer Akram (see image below) traveled to the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan and then the ACSL Art Commune in Yeravan, Armenia.

Truck painted with arabesques

Upon arriving in Pakistan, the atmosphere was more hostile than expected. The Residency determined it was too dangerous for Akram to stay. Determined to make work abroad, Akram connected with contacts in Armenia and traveled there to work for several weeks.

“My current work,” she said, “employs Arabic calligraphy much like the decoration on Mosque doorways and inner domes. I use the calligraphy as a form of mark making and decoration rather than as a readable language.”

Steve Mayse (see image below) completed a Residency at the Bubec Sculpture Studio in Reporyje, Czech Republic.

Hanging wooden, abstract sculpture with a light suspended inside

Mayse creates art from found objects and materials and telling visual stories from those materials. He responded to the challenge of unknown circumstances that come with a new environment.

Ilona Romule (see image below) completed Independent Research in the United States in 2007 & completed a residency at Red Star Studios in Kansas City in 2012.

2 ceramic works with painted figures on them

Her residency included workshops, interactions with other artists and an exhibition on her work.

Jesse Small (see image below) worked at The PWS Experimental Sculpture Factory in Jingdezhen, China and The Pottery Workshop in Shanghai, China.

Car covered with filigree work

He traveled there to work within a collaborative framework and participated in the critical dialogue that flourishes within educational and residency programs.

“Social forces propel us to idealize and memorialize aspects of our culture in ways that will be available to a broad base of viewers, constantly creating a pan-cultural language of ornament,” he said.

Misty Gamble traveled to China to work with The Nong Collective from the Guangxi Arts Institute in China.

Named after Guangxi Arts Institute’s Master Figure Sculptor, Bangmin Nong, the collective creates projects and exhibitions that exchange craft, process, teaching and life experiences.

Lastly, to celebrate 15 years of supporting artists through travel grants, LIAEP decided to organize and present a thematic invitational exhibition in partnership with the Belger Art Center during the NCECA ceramics conference in Kansas City.


Postcard of an exhibition entitled desire

The Desire projectbrought together 37 artists from 22 countries on six continents. Many were recipients of Lighton International Artists Exchange Program grants. All of the artists were asked to interpret their idea of desire. We brought together a selection of artists’ work from all over the world and centered it around a theme that touches everyone. The exhibition celebrated 15 years of friendships and communities built on artists learning about themselves and the world through generative studio practice and organic networking. LIAEP believes peace and understanding are achieved through art and communication.