21c Museum Hotels, a multi-venue contemporary art museum and award-winning hospitality company, and Artadia, a nonprofit grantmaker and nationwide community of visual artists, curators, and patrons, are thrilled to announce Ruben Castillo, Jill Downen, and Kathy Liao as the 2022 21c Kansas City Artadia Award Finalists.
The Finalists will each receive virtual studio visits with the jurors, who will ultimately select one artist to receive $10,000 in unrestricted funds. The 2022 21c Kansas City Artadia Award is generously supported by 21c Museum Hotels, the Artadia Board of Directors, Artadia Council Members, and individual donors across the country.
The 2022 21c Kansas City Artadia Awardee will be announced in mid-August.
Launched last year in Louisville, KY, the 21c Artadia Award marked the beginning of a long-term partnership, which will annually provide $10,000 in unrestricted funds to one artist living and working in the unique creative communities where 21c Museum Hotels are located. The 21c Artadia Award is designed to provide essential funding and recognition to artists at pivotal points in their careers, strengthen arts communities, and spur new levels of career achievement.
“We are excited to continue our partnership with 21c, which allows us to broaden Artadia’s geographic reach and honor artists and arts communities that already thrive outside our program cities,” Executive Director Carolyn Ramo shared. “We look forward to witnessing and recognizing the undeniable rigor and brilliance of artists within Kansas City through this opportunity.”
“We are thrilled that the second 21c Artadia Award will be given to an artist based in Kansas City, home to a vibrant, inclusive arts community,” says 21c Chief Curator and Museum Director Alice Gray Stites. “21c and Artadia share a commitment to supporting today’s most dynamic, engaged artists across the country. Last year’s Awardee, Louisville-based Kiah Celeste, continues to make compelling work that is being exhibited in numerous galleries and has gained broad attention. We expect that the opportunity the award cycle will bring to Kansas City will elevate national awareness of the richness and strength of talent here.”
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Ruben Castillo (he/him)
Ruben Bryan Castillo is a visual artist and educator born in Dallas, TX, and currently working in Kansas City, MO. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally and is included in collections such as the Crossroads Hotel (Kansas City, MO), Mulvane Art Museum (Topeka, KS), Mexic-Arte Museum (Austin, TX), National Museum of Mexican Art (Chicago, IL), the Zuckerman Museum of Art (Kennesaw, GA), the Turner Print Museum (Chico, CA), Queer.Archive.Work (Providence, RI), and The University of Colorado Special Collections (Boulder, CO). He was awarded a Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency from 2017 – 2019, has been an artist-inresidence with Arrowmont School of Craft for Summer Pentaculum and In Cahoots Residency, and served as a studio assistant at Penland School of Craft.
Ruben’s work investigates themes of intimacy, queerness, memory, and desire using drawing print-based media as a conceptual foundation. His most recent imagery draws from a personal archive of photographs and materials, providing evidence of queer traces from everyday phenomena. Whether they are images of places, rituals, or things shared between lovers, his work is about the hope, ability, and fantasy to connect.
Jill Downen (they/them)
Jill Downen, (born 1967) is a non-binary American artist based in Kansas City who works in sculpture, drawing, and site responsive installations. Significant awards include the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Stone and DeGuire Contemporary Art Award, the Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artists Award and a Santo Foundation Grant. Jill Downen has created site responsive installations at The Momentary/Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, The Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and for Open Spaces: The Exhibition. Their residencies include MASS MoCA, the MacDowell Colony National Endowment for the Arts residency, and Cité International des Arts residency in Paris. Downen has lectured about their work extensively, including the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and the Luce Irigaray Circle Philosophy Conference in New York. They hold a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis. Jill Downen is the chair of sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute and is represented by Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis.
Jill Downen invites viewers to understand the world through bodily senses and ways of knowing that are often private and experiential. Their art merges the body and architecture with themes of construction, destruction, restoration and meditation. A key motif is the blue plumb line, a construction tool and metaphor for truth(s), that offers viewers an orientation as they adjust their pace, alter their perception, and maneuver through fragile environments in a post truth culture.
Kathy Liao (she/her)
Kathy Liao was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Liao received her MFA in Painting from Boston University and BFA in Painting. She is a recipient of various awards including the 2020 Charlotte Street Foundation Visual Artist Award, Elizabeth Greenshield Foundation Grant, and the public art commission for the new Kansas City International Airport. Her recent exhibitions include the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Intimate routines of travel, connection, and bridging distances are etched in Liao’s memory like a well-worn track through repetition; these are familiar rituals performed by many immigrant families, navigating the liminal space in between. Liao’s recent paintings and wall drawing installations document the fluid state between experience, memory, and place. Like well-worn film negatives, she revisits images, snapshots, and memories through iterations, until they begin to morph, overlap, and degrade. The result may be an invitation to enter into an overwhelming yet familiar space, or only a flat wall with traces of history left visible.