The Wattis Institute receives $20,000 NEA Grant for the exhibition "Drum Listens to Heart"

The fall 2022 exhibition explores the percussive as an aesthetic and political concept through a multi-part international group exhibition and performance series

San Francisco, CA–Thursday, June 10, 2021—The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts has been approved by the National Endowment for the Arts for a $20,000 award from the Grants for Arts Projects program to support its 2022 exhibition, Drum Listens to Heart, which explores “the percussive” as an aesthetic and political concept. The Wattis Institute’s project is among the more than 1,100 projects from across America that were selected during this round of Grants for Arts Projects funding.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

“The NEA’s support will help us emerge from this challenging period by giving us the tools to produce an ambitious exhibition that connects American artists with others from all over the world,” said Anthony Huberman, director and chief curator of the Wattis Institute and curator of the exhibition. “While it is mainly associated with music, the notion of the percussive cuts across a rich range of cultural and political forms and brings together the language of protest with that of military control, emerges as a tool for celebration but also for oppression, and, in a most basic sense, relates to the beating of all of our hearts.”

The exhibition moves beyond the framework of music and outlines a broader “percussive field” as a model for art and politics. Inspired by the fragmented but cumulative structure of a percussive polyrhythm, the exhibition is divided into four consecutive parts or “beats,” each shown one after the other in the same central gallery space, allowing layers to accumulate and cross-pollinate. Over the course of five months, as the exhibition progresses, Drum Listens to Heart also includes a dynamic performance series, and the entire exhibition and performance series will be the subject of a newly commissioned film by Bay Area-based artist Alison O’Daniel.

Some confirmed artists include Marcos Ávila Forero, Lutz Bacher, Raven Chacon, Em’kal Eyongakpa, Milford Graves, Guadalupe Maravilla, Harold Mendez, The Otolith Group, Lucy Raven, Michael E. Smith, and Johanna Unzueta Rivas, among others.

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit

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