UC Riverside Wins NEA Fellowship

UCR receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant to support Susan Ossman’s work “On the Line”

“On the Line,” is a project made up of three outdoor pop-up exhibitions, and a digital platform, on the poetics and practice of hanging out laundry.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) – By giving grants to thousands of nonprofits each year, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) promotes opportunities for people in communities across America to experience the arts and exercise their creativity. That’s what UC Riverside’s Susan Ossman did with her project, “On the Line,” which helped her secure a $10,000 award for the University of California, Riverside.

This is the second major grant announcement made by the NEA in 2015. The NEA will give 1,023 awards totaling $74.3 million nationwide.

“The NEA is committed to advancing learning, fueling creativity, and celebrating the arts in cities and towns across the United States,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Funding these new projects like the one from the University of California, Riverside represents an investment in both local communities and our nation’s creative vitality.”

“On the Line” is a project made up of three outdoor pop-up exhibitions and a digital platform on the poetics and practice of hanging out laundry.

“Hanging laundry on the line is a theme that is evocative of memories and cultural differences. It can illustrate gender and class relations and changing relationships with the environment,” explained Ossman, a painter and an anthropologist.

While doing research on gender, beauty and globalization in Morocco during the 1990s, Ossman painted “On the line #1.” Much of her artwork focused on domestic, household work. She said even when she lived in colder climates, like Paris or London, she always hung her laundry outdoors.  But when she moved to Riverside in 2007, she found that the practice was seen as odd by many of her neighbors. This inspired Ossman to explore the scent and movement of laundry on the line. She recalled her grandmother and mother exchanging news with the neighbors across the clothesline; a type of connection and communication that has been lost now that people use dryers.

“This project links a workday activity and art, and brings it to people in their neighborhoods or during popular events like the Festival of Lights. It makes art seem less distant and ‘elite’ for people who might be intimidated at the idea of entering a gallery or museum,” she said.

Artists will have the opportunity to develop new works, and the audience will have a chance to share “laundry stories” in interactive performances and storytelling sessions. Interviews and events will be recorded by anthropologists, adding to an already existing archive developed in previous exhibitions on this theme. It will show artists and anthropologists at work in a cutting-edge collaboration that will be enable new connections and ideas for everyone.

“I hope that through encouraging people to tell stories, these events will inspire people to see more art and lead to discussions among viewers of diverse origins and across generations,” Ossman said. The grant will be used toward soliciting new artwork and performances, and for researchers to collect “laundry stories” at events and develop an online archive.