Amber Hansen’s project “The Story of Chickens – A Revolution” is funded by a program called Rocket Grants, which in turn receives its funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This program is a collaboration between the Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City and the KU Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, but all the selected projects are driven by artists and occur in the public realm. There are no exhibits of any kind that occur in the spaces of either of the partner agencies.
The Rocket Grants program is specifically intended to fund artists in our region who wish to engage with the public in meaningful ways. We recognize that artists may choose to address issues that are controversial or unpopular, and support and encourage the freedom of expression that typifies our national culture. The role of artists as agents of social change, or as forces who generate thinking and dialogue around critical issues, is an important feature of contemporary art practice – and, we believe, contemporary life.
The application and selection process is a rigorous one. Artists submit project outlines, motivations, historical grounding, examples of previous work, budgets and more. The award selections in 2011 were made by a panel of five jurors – two national figures and three from the Kansas City region – all of whom are distinguished artists and arts professionals. These five individuals engaged in lively, thoughtful discussions and reviews that resulted in the final choices.
We realize that there are many individuals who have ethical or moral standards that differ from those expressed by this artist. The questions that are being posed by many in this debate are ones that the artist has deeply considered herself, and around which she hopes to raise awareness and dialogue. We trust that the decisions she makes with the development of this work will be considered, respectful and useful to our community, and we hope that dissenting opinions will be similarly intended and delivered.