In contrast to Smith’s book project, journalist and culture writer Kriston Capps received his $30,000 grant for short-form writing, which the Warhol grant intends as support for “the ongoing practice of writers who regularly produce short texts that respond to current exhibitions, events, and issues in contemporary visual art.” Texts range from 250 to 1,500 words, and qualifying writers publish at least one text per month in print or online publishing platforms.
Based in Washington, DC, Capps is a staff writer at CityLab, part of the Bloomberg News network, where he reports on architecture, housing, and the built environment. He has written about art and culture since 2002 for the Washington City Paper, Washington Post, Artforum, Hyperallergic, New Yorker, and a number of other publications.
Capps says he has applied for the Warhol Writers Grant multiple times over several years, but this time his application felt more urgent, more organic. “In past applications, I write about the lack of critical art writing in DC, looking broadly at the media landscape here,” he says by phone. “This time, I focused on the politics shaping public art right now and the application flowed directly from what I have been writing about over the last year or so.” Much of his reporting on architecture for Bloomberg CityLab touches on some of the same issues—like Trump’s “Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” order, questioning the Commission of Fine Arts, or controversy at museums on the National Mall, which overlaps with his proposal for the 2021 Warhol award.
“Public art was an unusually charged issue in 2020,” Capps explains. “Activists on the left, especially Black Lives Matter, were taking down more and more Confederate monuments, and so many Christopher Columbus statues fell. While president, Donald Trump wanted to build a National Garden of American Heroes, like a ‘US Social Studies Hall of Fame.’ His administration banned modernism for federal buildings. It was a steady emergency of stories and I’ve never used the verb ‘toppling’ more often.”
Capps says that right now is a great time to be writing about public art, and he has spent the last year caught up in this sweeping moment, where so many public monuments are being taken down and cities are thinking more carefully about what monuments should or could look like. “National publications aren’t necessarily interested in what democracy looks like from the ground in the District, but I plan to focus on DC artists who are on the front lines of the culture wars unfolding in DC,” says the writer, who believes it is essential that artists reflect and respond to issues facing democracy.
Recent articles by Capps include Art and Protest in the Capital (Artforum), a review of Lynda Andrews Barry at the Arlington Art Center (Washington Post), Kehinde Wiley’s Anti-Confederate Memorial (New Yorker), and how a controversial Trump-era protection enacted for monuments is still being used by Homeland Security to spy on US citizens (Bloomberg CityLab). For contemporary DC-based artists deserving press and attention for their projects, Capps’ Warhol grant is a huge gift. He says that the grant will enable him to write more deeply about their work in the region for a variety of publications.