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Helen Frankenthaler Foundation announces its first round of climate grants to art institutions

Stipends, ranging from around $7,000 to $100,000, will help museums jump-start clean energy, climate disaster protection and sustainability projects

The California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa, California, which will harness a $100,000 grant from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation to create a resilient power system and cleaner air system California Indian Museum and Cultural Center

The incentives for US art museums to green their operations are expanding, with an announcement today from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation that it is awarding $5.1m to 79 institutions across the US in its first round of climate grants.

The New York foundation, devoted to the legacy of the Abstract Expressionist painter, also says that it is expanding its previously announced $5m Climate Initiative to $10m, with the remaining $4.9m in grants to be distributed over the next two years.

The organisation is partnering with the non-profit clean environmental engineering group RMI, or Rocky Mountain Institute, and the non-profit Environment & Culture Partners to ensure a fount of expertise. Museums of all sizes with a significant visual arts component are encouraged to apply for the next cycle of grant deliberations, which are expected to begin early next year.

The foundation describes the initiative as the largest private national grant-making program to address climate change through cultural institutions. “The Frankenthaler Climate Initiative was conceived to move art museums toward net zero, and to set an example for all institutions and citizens to follow suit,” says Fred Iseman, the foundation’s president, in a statement. “We wanted to help U.S. art institutions join the climate fray. There is a void to be filled: a crying need to provide technical know-how and financial support to art institutions to scope their needs, define problems and implement solutions.”

This year’s stipends range from $7,312 to $100,000: Among the many outlays detailed by the foundation and recipients are $100,000 grants to help the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Yale University Art Gallery define their clean energy needs through audits with an engineer and assist the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa in creating a resilient energy system and cleaner air system that could help supply a haven for at-risk residents in disasters like forest fires. Similarly, a $50,000 grant to the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico will finance assessments for wall insulation and repair to create a climate-ready, earthquake-ready museum.

This year’s disbursements also include a multitude of grants to help replace dated engineering systems, bring buildings up to standards, comply with state and local energy policies and help visual arts institutions pay back their green energy investments in the short term.

The organisation hopes that the grants will prove inspirational: “The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation wants to help galvanise the arts community to reach for a net-zero carbon footprint, starting right now,” says the foundation’s chairman, Clifford Ross.