Press Releases

news release Akron Art Museum to Receive Grant from National Endowment for the Arts for Upcoming Exhibition Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art

For Release: February 7, 2018

Akron, Ohio—National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $25 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2018. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $30,000 to the Akron Art Museum for the upcoming exhibition Open World: Video Games & Contemporary Art. The Art Works category is the NEA’s largest funding category and supports projects that focus on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and/or the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“It is energizing to see the impact that the arts are making throughout the United States. These NEA-supported projects, such as this one to the Akron Art Museum, are good examples of how the arts build stronger and more vibrant communities, improve well-being, prepare our children to succeed, and increase the quality of our lives,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “At the National Endowment for the Arts, we believe that all people should have access to the joy, opportunities and connections the arts bring.”

Open World, which will be on view from October 2019 through January 2020, will present the work of artists for whom the widespread popularity and cultural influence of video games plays a pivotal role in their practice. The exhibition will draw attention to the phenomenon of video games in contemporary culture through the presentation of a range of artworks, including paintings, sculpture, textiles, prints, drawings, animation, video games, video game modifications and game-based performances and interventions by makers who self-identify as artists.

The exhibition will not include commercially produced games. However, the artworks in Open World will reference a broad cross-section of games, ranging from early text adventure and arcade games, to modern massive multi-player online roleplaying games and first-person shooters. Participating artists are influenced by some of the most beloved video game franchises, including Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, The Sims and Final Fantasy.

Open World refers to open-world video games, which allow players to roam through virtual worlds, freely selecting their objectives. The title also refers to the rich opportunities video games offer for creative expression.

“Through games, artists build immersive, alternate words. They use digital games to create meaning through imagery, music, sound effects, animation and narrative. The rules governing the experience of playing a video game can express a viewpoint and encourage critical thinking or empathy by directing the player’s attention to systems at work within the real world,” Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister said.

Artists confirmed for participation in Open World to date include Butt Johnson (New York), Angelo Ray Martínez (South Bend, IN), Tim Portlock (St. Louis), Suzanne Treister (London) and Angela Washko (Pittsburgh). Many others are under consideration.

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

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