About the Rema Hort Mann Foundation (from their website)
The Rema Hort Mann Foundation was created in September 1995 by friends and family of Rema Hort Mann to honor her joyful and vivacious life after her untimely death from stomach cancer at age 30.
The Foundation was born around a kitchen table with the intent to celebrate Rema’s life. Through the efforts of friends and associates, it has evolved into a dynamic and effective organization, acting as an advocate for emerging artists and a bedrock of support for individuals suffering from cancer. To carry out these goals, we offer unrestricted grants, by nomination only, to promising artists who demonstrate an ability and commitment to making substantial contributions to the arts, but require financial support to do so. And we provide grants for travel, accommodations, child care and related expenses to help strengthen the emotional and familial support for cancer patients while they are undergoing treatment.
Combining these two missions is our way of commemorating Rema’s life and upholding the passions closest to her heart.
AF: What is your background in the arts and how did you end up in NYC?
AG: I moved out to New York a little over three years ago. I studied Art History and Psychology at the University of Arizona and stayed in Tucson for a couple of years after college. I had been working at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson (a small museum with a minuscule budget but with fantastic programming) and knew that in order to continue in the contemporary art world, I needed to be in New York and get my master’s. That’s how I ended up at Christie’s Education studying the history of the art market, connoisseurship and contemporary art criticism.
AF: You are currently the Director at The Rema Hort Mann Foundation. Can you tell us about the foundation and what they do?
AG: The foundation was established in honor of Rema Hort Mann, daughter of contemporary collectors Susan and Michael Hort. She passed away at the age of 30 from cancer. The Horts were determined to create something positive out of this tragedy, as a way to honor their daughter and the things that she was passionate about.
RHMF as an organization is all about helping people on a one-to-one scale. We give direct grants to cancer patients to ensure they have a strong emotional support network while they are undergoing treatment. Our other program awards annual unrestricted grants to emerging artists. While entirely different programs, the fundamental similarity is that we are helping individuals directly. In order to make sure that we are finding the best and most-deserving candidates, we work with a group of social workers who help us identify patients in financially dire circumstances, and a select board of nominators to acknowledge emerging artists who are at that important tipping point in their career where they need that little extra encouragement and motivation to continue their artistic practice.
AF: Saving lives and giving cancer patients hope is remarkable. Do you have any inspiring stories you would like to share from previous cancer grant recipients?
AG: Since we work directly with social workers to help identify candidates for the QOL grants, they are already very close to their patients and their stories. This means that every grant feels very personal. I think the most inspiring story recently would be a grant request from a patient in LA, a 21 year old woman. She wasn’t in close contact with her family, and she was having difficulty connecting to any peer or support group. This great organization called Imerman Angels helps patients connect with other peer mentors who have gone through a similar treatment – a perfect resource for this patient. The only problem was that she couldn’t afford a laptop. Our grant covered the cost for a social worker to buy the patient a laptop so she could connect to this outside world from her computer. The grants are always changing with the needs of our patients, which makes it even more exciting!
AF: Thanks for sharing that. How about sharing a story about a previous art grant recipient?
AG: What I like about the emerging art grants is that we have the opportunity to meet and support incredibly talented artists that aren’t necessarily on the New York or LA art scene radar as of yet. While they might have been part of group shows or DIY art space, they can’t have been part of a solo commercial gallery show or be represented. Many of the institutional grants that artists can apply for are geared more to mid-career or established artists; our grants are for the un-vetted artist that our selection committee is impressed with.
Each artist’s story is so unique and each path so different that it is difficult to choose just one. If you look at the roster of past grant winners there are some big names- Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, Dana Schutz, Sarah Sze, Virginia Overton, David Altmejd, Korakrit Arunanondchai… Many of which explain not only is the financial support of the grant helpful, but it also provides exposure and a boost of confidence for a young artist. Kehinde always tells us that he was about to give up painting and become a chef when he received the call about the grant. This was back in 2002! It’s fun to follow each of their careers and see how they are doing and really exciting when we see such a great number of them go on to be represented by big New York and international galleries, doing something they love.
AF: You recently had a fundraiser/event at Bosi Contemporary in November. Can you tell me more about it? How did it go?
AG: It was so much fun! Buy What You Love is a long-running fundraiser for RHMF. Since last May, I’ve been contacting hundreds of artists to invite them to participate by donating a unique work on paper. Each artist is given a uniform piece of white, 8.5 x 11″ archival paper to start, and then they take it from there. Artists can paint, draw, rip, cut, burn or even discard the paper- in the end it is completely up to them, but the idea of the blank sheet of paper levels the playing field. Susan and Michael started this event several years back as a way to encourage collectors to pick works of art that they truly fall in love with rather than be swayed by the artist’s name or their status. This is why for the event, all the works are hung anonymously and priced the same. Artists like it because it is a fun challenge- artists I’ve worked with often express that it makes them step away from their standard practice and often do something different to take a chance. Same thing goes with the collectors. There are hundreds of works hanging around the room, and it truly is about falling in love with a work at first sight.
This year we had a great turn out and lots of energy. I was floored by the number of artists that donated works and were really excited to support our cause. It’s a great chance for them, too, to meet collectors and connect directly with someone who purchases their work. Each frame has the artist’s name on the back and contact information so they connect directly with that artists that they love.
AF: I love the idea of a uniform piece of white paper and creating art specifically for that event. Anything coming up that we should know about?
AG: Right after the Buy What You Love event, we had a silent art auction in Los Angeles to support our grant programming there. While we have given emerging art grants in LA since 2013, this fall marked our establishment of the Quality of Life Cancer Grants on the west coast. We are thrilled to be involved with these LA hospitals and are working with an excellent team of social workers who help us to identify patients in need of emotional support. It has been interesting to see the similarities and differences between the programs in LA and NY- both the artists and the families we interact with have various different environments and needs, which has made it interesting to work in.
After a busy fall, we have another busy month in January! We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary with a special gala and auction and will be honoring Dr. David Biro for his work with the Quality of Life Grants, and Klaus Bisenbach from PS1 for his incredible commitment to emerging artist. On top of that, we are about to begin the selection process for our Los Angeles Emerging Art Grants, where we will select eight grantees from a pool of about 100 promising emerging artists.
Where do you see The Rema Hort Mann Foundation in 5 years?
The foundation is at a very exciting place. Not only are we expanding our presence in a new city, we are continuing to have a greater impact in New York City, I feel. In five years, I would like to see the foundation growing in terms of the scope of our grants. In the past few years we have begun awarding more special project grants. This allows an artist to give us a proposal with a budget to accomplish a specific goal that they might not be able to realize otherwise. These grants are meant to impact a specific population or community. This idea of community is very important to me as it allows our existing artist network to grow and potentially work together through collaborations.
I am also excited to see the quality of life grants continue to thrive on both coasts through the invaluable help of our team of social workers. We want to continue to be a minimalist organization which allows almost 100% of funds raised to go back to our grant programs.
Interview by Jamie Martinez
Photography provided by The Rema Hort Foundation