In late February, the Charlotte Street Foundation announced three recipients of its 2018 Visual Artist awards. Each received an unrestricted cash award of $10,000, and the winners’ works will be featured in the 2018 Charlotte Street Visual Artist Awards Exhibition later this year at H&R Block Artspace.
The three winners — Jillian Youngbird, Jarrett Mellenbruch and Marie Bannerot McInerney — remind us that we live in a beautiful, yet fragile and endangered world. In the absence of Washington’s political will to redress environmental, social and cultural deterioration, artists traditionally stand up. All three Kansas City artists remind us that we have a shared responsibility to one another, the future, and to the past.
According to Youngbird, her roots growing up in the hills of the Ozarks account for her interest in the traditions of storytelling and in gathering up the things around her that she can use in her art. Like the women she was raised with, Youngbird does not believe in wasting anything, physically and metaphorically. “Within my practice, I become a hunter-gatherer of discarded or overlooked materials, building sculpture, installation and performance to investigate our impact on the natural world, create a new visual story and honor the teachings of those that came before me.”
Youngbird names her Cherokee heritage as part of her narrative. Her visual storytelling often focuses on her rather fantastical animal sculptures. About her win, she writes, “I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with all of it, but I do know I’d like to get a (Kansas City Art Institute) Fab Lab membership and some new studio equipment so I can start working on some new projects. I also want to do a little traveling.”
Conceptual artist Mellenbruch’s focus on the collaborative intersections between art and science, community and the individual informs his work. He is well known for his participatory public art “Float,” comprised of custom hammocks, in which the public was encouraged to lounge and interact with each other and with their environment.
Other notable works include “Haven,” his series of functioning beehives, designed to protect and raise awareness of the environmental threat to honeybees. Of his award, he writes, “I’m so appreciative of the incredible role that Charlotte Street winners have played over the years in making KC the vibrant community it is for artists. It’s very exciting to be part of that ongoing history.”
McInerney, a Kansas City Art Institute assistant fiber professor and alumna, works across a variety of media within her installation-based art. Fiber, paint, the planet’s rotational movement, sunlight, all may thread through her work, which “investigates conceptions of fragility, instability, truth and experiential knowledge.” About her award she writes, “Opportunities such as these provide artists the freedom to expand their ideas, and I look forward to using this award to further develop my studio practice.”
The current round of awards brings the total amount disbursed to visual artists since the program’s founding in 1997 to $671,000. Ninety-one visual artists have received awards.
Above: Marie Bannerot McInerney, one of three winners of the Charlotte Street Foundation’s 2018 Visual Artist Awards, created this multimedia installation work, “That Which Has Become Known (South),” in 2017. photo by Logan Acton.