Germany, Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands are just some of the destinations for this year’s round of grant recipients from the Lighton International Artists Exchange Program. The 10 winners of the program’s up to $6,000 travel grants include three artists from Kansas City and one each from Topeka, St. Louis, Chicago, New York and Maine. The list also includes Kukuli Velarde, a Peruvian-born artist now based in Philadelphia, who Kansas City knows well from her knockout show of ceramic sculptures at the Nerman Museum in 2013. Velarde and her husband, ceramic artist Doug Herren, will travel to Italy in their quest to merge their individual aesthetics into a shared language.
Since its founding by ceramic artist Linda Lighton in 2000, LIAEP has enabled some 137 artists to travel to 48 countries and the Arctic Circle. Lighton believes that the perspective afforded by travel is essential to an artist’s growth. “Going to a foreign land is a special way of making everything new,” Lighton says. “When you can’t read the writing or talk to anyone on the street, you see things as if for the first time.” And to be sure, these grants have changed the face of Kansas City art through exposure to new techniques and aesthetics.
Kansas City arts professionals, including Lighton, artist Christopher Leitch, “KC Studio” contributing writer Elisabeth Kirsch and Weinberger Fine Art Director and LIAEP program administrator Courtney Wasson, served as jurors for the 2018 cycle; rounding out the panel were two New Yorkers: Rose Dergan, curator and researcher at Gagosian Gallery, and Will Cotton, internationally recognized artist.
With funds from this year’s LIAEP grant, veteran Kansas City artist Nedra Bonds, known for her extraordinary quilts, will travel to Cuba, where she will continue her research into African and indigenous patterns. Ceramic artist Joey Watson, a 2014 Kansas City Art Institute alum, will seek inspiration in Chile. Iceland is the destination of KC digital multimedia artist Cody Kauhl.
Bath, Maine-based sculptor Jackie Brown, whose work explores our complex relationship with nature and biology, is headed for the Netherlands, as is St. Louis artist Lyndon Barrois Jr. Painter Magalie Guerin will travel from Chicago to Germany; Jackson Heights, New York-based Jason Cady, creator of contemporary operas, is going to Italy. From Topeka, choreographer Tori Lawrence will go to Sweden.
The artists benefit from travel, but it is Lighton’s belief that the U.S. does too: “I think artists can be great ambassadors. We can break down barriers and promote world peace, culture and cooperation. We can put a face on America that is not what is seen in the news.”