Bard College Receives $2,000,000 from the Mellon Foundation to Support the Work of Artist Tania El Khoury
Funding Will Allow the Fisher Center at Bard, the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts, and El Khoury to Implement a New Model in Which the Institution Provides Infrastructure for Holistic Supports of El Khoury’s Creative Practice and ResearchANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY —The Fisher Center at Bard (Gideon Lester, Artistic Director and Chief Executive; Aaron Mattocks, Chief Operating Officer) today announces that, in partnership with the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard (CHRA), it has received a $2,000,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support the work and livelihood of Tania El Khoury, a commissioned artist and guest co-curator at the Fisher Center, Founding Director of CHRA, and a Distinguished Artist in Residence at Bard’s Theater & Performance Program. El Khoury’s live art engages the audience in close encounters with narratives drawn from the political realities of borders, displacement, and state violence. The grant will support her live art production and touring, her scholarly and artistic research, and her curatorial work at the Fisher Center and CHRA.
Over the next three years, the Fisher Center and El Khoury will re-imagine the collaboration between an institution and an artist and will develop ways in which an institution becomes a holistic home for an artist. El Khoury’s relationship with Bard began in 2017, when Gideon Lester, the Fisher Center’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive, invited her to co-curate Where No Wall Remains, the 2019 edition of the institution’s biennial festival, which focused that year on the subject of borders and comprised eight new interdisciplinary artworks commissioned by El Khoury and Lester. El Khoury created a new work of her own for the festival, Cultural Exchange Rate, a multi-sensory performance installation that invites the audience to follow her own family’s relationship to borders and migration across a century of time. Cultural Exchange Rate continues to tour internationally in various languages, as do several other works by El Khoury.
While developing Where No Wall Remains, El Khoury and Lester began to imagine a longer collaboration. Their work on the biennial led them, along with Tom Keenan, Director of the Human Rights Program at Bard, to envision a center that explores art practices that intersect with human rights advocacy through public programming and an international low-cost MA Program in Human Rights & the Arts. In 2021, the three of them, along with scholar Ziad Abu-Rish, founded the Center for Human Rights and the Arts (CHRA), which is funded by the Open Society University Network (OSUN). El Khoury directs CHRA while continuing to pursue her artistic practice and teaching.
Lester and El Khoury have continued their curatorial work together with a second joint edition of the biennial, Common Ground: an international festival on the politics of land and food, produced by the Fisher Center in two installments: October 2022 and May 2023. In this festival, El Khoury premiered her work Memory of Birds, an interactive sound installation in the trees around the Fisher Center that evoked the imprint of political violence on contested lands. Common Ground also included three international editions, curated by artists in Palestine, Colombia, and South Africa, all of which were funded by CHRA.
Tania El Khoury said, “This generous grant from Mellon Foundation comes at a time when the live performance industry is experiencing a fundamental restructuring due to the recent pandemic and major shifts in public and private funding streams. The grant will allow me to further pursue my artistic and curatorial practices, deepen my experimentation with new models of collaboration and institution-building, and reflect on my trajectory as an artist working at the intersection of politics and research.”
The $2,000,000 Mellon Foundation grant makes it possible for the Fisher Center and CHRA to offer El Khoury tangible resources to develop and disseminate ambitious, forward-thinking work, of her own and by other artists. This new model of artist-institution engagement follows the Fisher Center awarding Pam Tanowitz an ongoing residency in which the institution has taken over touring (of work including Four Quartets and Song of Songs, which the Fisher Center commissioned and premiered to immense acclaim) and other administrative support for her company, including a salary for Tanowitz. The Mellon grant helps the Fisher Center become an artistic home for El Khoury, providing resources in three key areas:
The $2,000,000 Mellon Foundation grant comes amid a banner 20th anniversary year for the Fisher Center. The institution is currently producing its 20th Anniversary Season: Breaking Ground, including the 2023 Bard SummerScape festival, which also celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The season culminates in a groundbreaking ceremony, on October 21, for The Fisher Center’s new 25,000-square-foot performing arts studio building, designed by Maya Lin, which will offer artists at all stages of their careers vastly expanded room to explore as they build works from the ground up.
About Tania El Khoury
Tania El Khoury creates interactive and immersive installations and performances that reflect on the production of collective memory and the cultivation of solidarity. Her work is activated by tactile, auditory and visual traces collected and curated by the artist and her collaborators, and they are ultimately transformed through audience interaction.
El Khoury’s work has been translated to multiple languages and shown in 33 countries across 6 continents in spaces ranging from museums to cable cars. She is the recipient of the Herb Alpert Award, the Soros Art Fellowship, the Bessies Outstanding Production Award, the International Live Art Prize, the Total Theatre Innovation Award, and the Arches Brick Award.
El Khoury is a Distinguished Artist in Residence at the Theater and Performance Program and Founding Director of the OSUN Center for Human Rights & the Arts at Bard College. She holds a PhD in Theater Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. El Khoury is a co-founder of Dictaphone Group, a research and live art collective in Lebanon, and is associated with the Forest Fringe collective of artists in the UK.
About the Fisher Center at Bard
The Fisher Center develops, produces, and presents performing arts across disciplines through new productions and context-rich programs that challenge and inspire. As a premier professional performing arts center and a hub for research and education, the Fisher Center supports artists, students, and audiences in the development and examination of artistic ideas, offering perspectives from the past and present as well as visions of the future. The Fisher Center demonstrates Bard’s commitment to the performing arts as a cultural and educational necessity. Home is the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and located on the campus of Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Fisher Center offers outstanding programs to many communities, including the students and faculty of Bard College, and audiences in the Hudson Valley, New York City, across the country, and around the world. Building on a 163-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders.
The Center presents more than 200 world-class events and welcomes 50,000 visitors each year. The Fisher Center supports artists at all stages of their careers and employs more than 300 professional artists annually. The Fisher Center is a powerful catalyst for art-making regionally, nationally, and worldwide. Every year it produces 8 to 10 major new works in various disciplines. Over the past five years, its commissioned productions have been seen in more than 100 communities around the world. During the 2018–2019 season, six Fisher Center productions toured nationally and internationally. In 2019, the Fisher Center won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical for Daniel Fish’s production of Oklahoma!, which began its life in 2007 as an undergraduate production at Bard and was produced professionally in the Fisher Center’s SummerScape Festival in 2015 before transferring to New York City.
About the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard
The OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College (CHRA) is an artist-led center that researches and supports art and activist practices globally. CHRA is committed to creating networks of collaboration and solidarity and to enriching the conversation on the political potential of art within human rights discourse. Through its international M.A. program, it opens a space for activists, artists, and scholars to colearn and cocreate. The center teaches, studies, and engages innovative art practices that investigate human rights violations and grassroots activism that uses creative tools of resistance. Its public program, operating locally in New York’s Hudson Valley (occupied homelands of the Munsee and Muhheconneok people) and internationally, includes public talks, art commissions, activist collaborations, accessible publications, and multidisciplinary art festivals.
For more information, please contact:
Blake Zidell of Blake Zidell & Associates at
Bard Press Contact:Mark Primoff
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