Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Four National Foundations Seek To Identify And Remunerate 50 Publically Unknown American Artists Of Diverse Inspirations And Creativities

... "Fifty artists working in a wide variety of disciplines and at various career stages will receive $50,000 each, no strings attached. The first recipients will be announced on Dec. 4.

“The individual artist has been at the back of the line in terms of support in American funding over the last decade, so any new system designed to get support directly into the hand of working artists is important,” said Philip Bither, performing arts curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Panels of artists, critics, scholars and others in the arts are reviewing the applications of 300 artists who were nominated by 150 anonymous arts leaders around the country.

United States Artists declined to reveal any of the applicants’ names but said they range from an American Indian weaver who earns her living demonstrating her craft on the cruise ships that ply the Alaska coast to a Chinese-American photographer working in Minneapolis to a mariachi bandleader from Los Angeles.

“No one is a household name,” said Katharine DeShaw, the group’s executive director. “We want these awards to demonstrate the diversity of American art and the artists who create it.”

Four foundations — Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential and the Alaska-based Rasmuson— have put up a total of $20 million to create the organization and seed its initial operations, but the goal is for it to become a conduit between artists and individual donors.

“I believe there are individuals who would like to give to artists directly but worry they lack a system to help identify talent,” said Susan V. Berresford, president and chief executive of the Ford Foundation, which put $15 million into the project. “This creates a mechanism through which people can do that.”

This new charity plans to use gifts from individuals to build a permanent endowment to support and expand the grant program, but that, Ms. Berresford and others said, will be its biggest challenge.

United States Artists has attracted support from prominent national arts patrons like Agnes Gund and Eli and Edythe Broad. The hope is that these and other donors will eventually contribute $1 million each to endow a fellowship, much the same way that donors underwrite faculty chairs at universities, Ms. DeShaw said. “This could do for artists what the MacArthur Awards do for those recipients,” Mr. Broad said in a telephone interview, referring to the coveted “genius” grants that the MacArthur Foundation makes annually. Those grants total $500,000, paid out in $100,000 installments over five years.

This new charity was spurred in part by a 2003 Urban Institute study, “Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists,” that documented the plight of artists since the mid-1990’s, when the federal government abolished many of the grants that the National Endowment to the Arts had made to individual artists amid controversies over works involving nudity, sexuality, and other provocative themes.

State and local financing of the arts had also declined, as had foundation support, trends that have started to reverse only in the last year or so.

In any case, most public money goes to arts institutions, not to artists directly. “The chance for an artist to get money through an individual grant is something extremely rare,” said Barbara Kruger, an artist working in New York, Los Angeles and, increasingly, abroad.

There is no precise measure of how many grant programs directly support artists. The New York Foundation for the Arts, which itself makes such grants, maintains a database of about 2,900 such programs. The Urban Institute study found that more than $91 million was available to artists, but that two-thirds of cash grants that could be quantified were of less than $5,000. Only 21 percent of grants were of $10,000 or more.

Ms. Gund said the grants from the new charity come at a critical time, when basic costs of living like health costs and rent are rising and public support continues to ebb." ...

Stephanie Strom "New Charity to Start Plan for $50,000 Artists’ Grants" New York Times September 5, 2006


Thomas Moran

Painter, Etcher, Illustrator, Engraver, Lithographer
1837 - 1926

"I have always held that the grandest, most beautiful,
or wonderful in nature, would, in capable hands,
make the grandest, most beautiful pictures."

-—Thomas Moran

Photo credit: www.lucidcafe.com. With thanks.


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