Kathryn Mikesell, along with her husband Dan, is the founder of the Fountainhead Residency, which offers artists a place to live and work in Miami. It all started from their mutual passion for collecting art, their wish to get to know artists better and support them beyond collecting. The residency will celebrate its 10th anniversary and it counts over 300 artists from all over the world.
Her passion, knowledge of artists and experience led her to switch careers and create her art advisory service, Your Fountainhead where she helps collectors finding art that they will fall in love with. Just like they have themselves listened to their heart to pursue their passion for art and support as many artists as they can. Thanks Kathryn for your time and support of the art!How did you become involved in the art community?
We’ve been a part of the art community for a long time; we began collecting art 20 years ago. Dan’s family collected art, and he had two artworks that we hung in our home and I thought it was extraordinary to live with them. At that time my husband and I would travel a lot for our jobs and art became our way of staying connected.
How did you come up with the project of creating an artist residency?
We got involved in the Miami community; we bought work of local artists and got involved in local institutions. We also bought works from artists outside of Miami and we would always try to know the artists, at least on the phone. At that time it was not always easy because the galleries would not always want to make that introduction, probably being afraid that we would try to buy around them even if that was not the intent. The intent was to know the artist behind the work, and the more artists we met, the more interesting it was. We had been collecting for 10 years and Miami was really starting to grow in the arts. At the same time institutions and galleries were struggling and we came up with this idea of the residency as a different way to give back to the artists. We wanted to give them a new place to work, new inspiration, bringing them into the art community and at the same time collaborate with institutions to host artists for them, so they can actually stay and meet the public beyond being at an opening. And knowing that art is a solitary practice, we thought it would be valuable to put them together with other artists so they can share ideas, connect and collaborate.
I understand you support diversity in the residency. Can you mention a few resident artists who come from minorities and benefited from your support?
We’ve had so many young talents through the residency that have risen to stardom after doing the residency. I could name Ebony G Patterson who just got a USA Grant, Derrick Adams who has been in the press for everything from his art to his curation and Dineo Soshee Bopape who won the Future Generation Prize… and many more! (Ed. List of the alumni)
With all the art that you’ve collected, do you have any projects of showing it?
We would love to do something, and it would be great to do it in a University for example to reach a different public but we haven’t worked on it yet.
Amy Sherald who painted Michelle Obama portrait will soon be a resident with your foundation. Her portrait generated a lot of comments, which shows the power of art to share a message. What did you think about the different reactions?
I must admit that I don’t follow social media a lot but I can imagine that there was a wide range of comments. The one thing that it shows is that the most incredible thing about art is that it cannot be dismissed. It addresses subjects that people would not necessarily talk about. It starts a conversation and that is extraordinary valuable.
It was women history month in March. Is there a woman that was a source of inspiration for you either an artist or a patron?
Well there are so many! I think it’s so brave to become an artist, and it’s even more for women artists. One of the persons who inspired me the most is a collector Estel Burg who recently passed away. She and her husband Paul have collected art for 50 years. Her passion for artists and the way she lived with art was an inspiration to me but it’s difficult to name only one. I’m lucky to meet so many people … and my daughter also inspires me everyday!
You also are an art advisor, how did it start?
It’s something that just happened! I had a consulting firm but I really wanted to spend more time working with the art. People were telling me that I should help people to buy art but I didn’t want to monetize my passion. Then a person told me that I could support artists and galleries by doing this and this gave me a new perspective. I know that there is a market for art and that some people see it as an investment but it’s not where I play! I want people to fall in love with the art!
What is your biggest challenge as the founder of this residency?
Probably the same challenge that any person involved in business and non-profit: time and money! There are so many opportunities to make a difference in the live of artists but I have to take one step at a time. I have actually sent an email to our alumni’s because we turned 10 years old, and I asked them how we could make the residency more valuable, what can we do more and then what made the experience unique for them. I have ideas but I’d like more responses to make sure we do the right thing to make a difference in their life and their career.