It has been just about a year since I was appointed President & CEO of United States Artists, and I am so proud of what USA has accomplished during that time, including the work that was set in motion place before my tenure officially began — from the awards distributed through our Programs and Initiatives teams to the events and publishing projects that provide additional platforms for artists’ voices.
I’m also busy reflecting on those first twelve months, listening to my colleagues within USA and across the field about how we can continue to build support for artists and their communities. On top of the unrestricted funding that comes with our Fellowships, we have been offering artists access to individualized financial planning, and this year we have started adding access to legal and wellness services. We already have some hunches about what directions we might build out next.
Thank you for all of your trust as we continue our growth and evolution, driven as always by artists’ needs, even as these needs change in response to the world around them.
President and CEO
She // Her // Hers
We celebrated sixty-three creative disruptors, social sculptors, and material vanguards who ignite our imagination beyond limits. In addition to their award, each Fellow has the opportunity to work with a Certified Financial Planner for a year, giving them access to tools to improve their lives and further their agency over how they choose to spend the funding.
→ Learn more about the 2022 USA Fellows.
Photo by Hadley Fruits.
[ID: Tom Carruthers on an iPhone video call with Jennifer Newsom with the green hill of the site in the background. Tom holds the phone in a gloved hand while Jennifer grins on screen. Tom is visible on a window in the corner of the phone.]
“The sort of raw material that we’re working with is direct experience. I’m interested in the kind of chance-encounter, the perspective that anybody might bring to our work… You don’t have to know what our motivations were to find something in it.” — Jennifer Newsom
From an interview with Ithaca Voice
Photo courtesy of the artist.
[ID: A man with a baseball cap painting in a studio space with many containers of different-colored paints next to him.]
“I get excited about the idea of hybridity… I’m someone in between a lot of cultures, whether that’s being a Muslim and skateboarding or different music subcultures and countercultures, and a lot of my work visualizes that hybridity.”
From an interview with LA Times.
Photo by MC Newman.
[ID: A Black woman with an afro sits on a green floor cushion among houseplants and a wall of open brown paper bags. She is wearing a red sweatshirt and dark denim pants. Her legs are crossed and she looks casually at the camera.]
“I wanted to interrupt that vintage aesthetic [of Burlesque]…It was important for me to show femininity in a way that was demanding, in your face, irreverent and uplifting my own Black femininity, my own Black womanhood and queerness.”
From an interview with Windy City Times.
Photo by Nanobah Becker + Blackhorse Lowe.
[ID: A woman with long dark hair, wing-tipped eyeliner holds a violin in front of a mountainous landscape.]
“Learning how to record music on a four-track cassette tape recorder let me know that I didn’t have to act like an orchestra. I was in collaboration with the small but mighty ways I wanted to sing: violin-forward with singing second… Making voices and intimate textures helped me find my voice.”
From an interview with I Care If You listen.
Photo by Kehala Two Bulls.
[ID: A brown man sits on a stool playing an acoustic guitar. He is wearing a yellow pullover hoodie and a black stocking cap with pink letters that read “tatanka nunpa.”]
“One thing about my ancestors is they adapted to new media…It’s always been this continuation of art and culture. I really feel a part of that in my work. I work with clay and I work with computers and drones and all kinds of things. Those are just tools. … It’s the evolution of art in my community.”
From an interview with Rapid City Journal.
The 2022 USA Fellowships were generously made possible by: Sarah Arison, Barr Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Builders Initiative, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, David Horvitz and Francie Bishop Good, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Steven H. and Nancy K. Oliver, Opportunity Fund and Heinz Endowments, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, Reis Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, MacKenzie Scott, The Fred and Eve Simon Charitable Foundation, The Todd and Betiana Simon Foundation, Paul and Annette Smith, Walder Foundation, Katie Weitz PhD, Windgate Foundation, USA Ambassadors, USA Board of Trustees, USA Endowment Fund, and USA’s Show Up For Artists Campaign.
We awarded the Berresford Prize to writer, bookseller, artist, and Native arts advocate Louise Erdrich. The Berresford Prize is given annually to a cultural practitioner who has contributed significantly to the advancement, well-being, and care of artists in society. As the owner and founder of Birchbark Books and Native Arts, Erdrich has created an intentional space that serves as a critical part of the ecosystem supporting and celebrating Native American language, culture, and values.
→ Learn more about Louise Erdrich.
Photo by Alessio Jacona from Rome, Italy – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78830332.
[ID: A black-and-white photo of Louise, a woman with a fair complexion and shoulder-length black hair smiling and holding a microphone.]
“I have marveled at the artistry that has passed through my hands [at Birchbark Books and Native Arts]. My vision was that we would serve to bring awareness to Indigenous writing, further Indigenous language revitalization, and that we would support artists by selling the beautiful and creative art that Native people make, often on isolated reservations. This prize will help us to more fully realize our vision.”
Disability Futures, a fellowship created in partnership with Ford and Mellon Foundations aimed at increasing the visibility of disabled creative practitioners across disciplines and geography and amplifying their voices, awarded twenty artists. The Knight Arts + Tech Fellowship, a partnership with The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which provides funding for artists whose practices span across Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, immersive installation, performance, Artificial Intelligence, and more, awarded five artists. The Rainin Fellowship, a partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation celebrating Bay Area artists working in dance, film, theater, and public space who are anchors in their communities, awarded four artists.
Finally, we developed The Maxwell/Hanrahan Awards in Craft in partnership with the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation. Launched with a cohort of five awardees, this new award recognizes artists and craftspeople committed to material mastery and exploration. Their practices encompass the stewardship of living cultural traditions, unique insight in material study, and/or the advancement of craft at the intersection of other fields including technology and science.
Photo by Tohono O’odham Community Action staff; courtesy of the artist.
[ID: A Native American man with short hair and a thin-striped gray shirt smiles at the camera in front of a red and black maze-like patterned cloth.]
“My practice is rooted in the traditional techniques and cultural memory passed on by my mentors and community… All materials are from the land and I know the importance of giving back to the environment… I consider my art and activism one in the same, and as a call from necessity.”
From an interview with Arizona Daily Star.
Photo by Jade Beall.
[ID: A light-skinned Mestizx wearing a blue bandanna, silver hoop earrings, dark lipstick, a silver bracelet, and a black shirt sits in their scooter, surrounded by pencil cholla, holding the book Sustaining Spirit: Self-Care for Social Justice and looking out at the crowd.]
“As a disabled person, I often think about ecojustice as justice that is reflectant of equity versus equality, where resources are divvied up based on need. Ecojustice to me is how we can live and balance the best we can and honor the fact that we have different needs.”
From an interview with The Takeaway.
Photo by Staci DeGagne.
[ID: A Mexican-American woman with short hair sits and smiles at the camera in front of large crane and older warehouse buildings.]
“Growing up poor and undocumented in Richmond, California, I never imagined a career in the arts. The Rainin [Fellowship] allows me to pursue not just that, but something bigger, more complete in scope. It frees me to think more about the world I’m creating and expands the possibilities for my characters and their journeys. I can finally truly tell my stories.”
From an interview with San Francisco Business Times.
Turning Towards a Radical Listening, 2019. Spatialized sound and lecture performance, 70 min. Presented at The Kitchen. Photo by Paula Court.
[ID: A person with long braids, glasses, and a black jacket holds a sheet of paper and stands in front of a large projection which fills the frame. The projection shows dozens of layered black words of varying sizes against a white background, forming obscured blocks of text.]
“This past year has been a time for a deep appreciation of, and a listening to, the black interior. Always and fervently let us remember that we, the people, are beautiful aquifers for the many histories that pass through and around us.”
We published three more issues of New Suns, our digital commissioning platform for conversations, artwork, writing, and more. We featured twenty one artists and USA Fellows on themes including touch, pedagogy, and nature, allowing contributors to share new work and participate in conversations about their unique practices.
Photo by Christopher Briscoe.
[ID: A portrait of a woman with dark brown skin wearing a vibrant red dress against a white background. She smiles warmly.]
“How do we strategically direct support right to the artists as opposed to the commodification of the output of their work? What if we were to just take the resources and give it directly to people who had to put roofs on houses and take care of elderly parents and sustain their lives?”
From the May 2022 Virtual Salon.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
[ID: A man poses seated in front of two colorful quilts mounted on the wall behind him. He wears wire-framed glasses and smiles into the camera.]
“Piecework itself can be traditional; it can be rigid. It can be structured. It can also be very loose and intuitive, encoded with symbolism by the maker and sometimes practically illegible to people outside of the community understanding of its system of symbols and meanings.”
From the 2022 Appalachian Artist Crawl.
Photo courtesy of the artist and United States Artists.
[ID: A screenshot from Zoom showing a woman with long gray hair, holding a long strand of basket weaving material against an autumn backdrop.]
“To learn about [Cherokee] culture and history we have to seek out that information. It’s not something that is readily taught in the public school system or in the private school system, and my interest in my art and in my craft has made me want to go seek out more information about my culture and my history.”
From the 2022 Appalachian Artist Crawl.
We launched a new edition of Shift Space, an annual digital publication exploring new media landscapes and spotlighting the Knight Arts + Tech Fellows. Shift Space 2.0 was edited by Natalia Zuluaga with contributions from Simone Browne, Stefanie Hessler, Robin D. G. Kelley, Darla Migan, Ade Omotosho, K Allado-McDowell, Ernesto Oroza, Tao Leigh Goffe, Alenda Y. Chang, and Jason Edward Lewis.
Photo courtesy of Danielle.
[ID: An East Asian woman with medium length black hair and a blue sweater holds a string of origami cranes horizontally. The lower part of her face is covered by the string of cranes, which are arranged in a rainbow from blue to red. A sea of origami cranes lays across the bottom third of the frame.]
Within my first month at USA, I had the joy of speaking with colleagues 1:1, and it was a wonderful opportunity to learn people’s stories — how they got to USA, what their own artistic practices are, what their pets’ personalities are, and more. I’m excited to work alongside these incredible people to build better futures for artists!
Photo by Mashall Khan.
[ID: A Black woman in her mid twenties with cornrows poses in a turtleneck dress poses in front of a background of pink and purple lights.]
A highlight of my experience thus far has been the community building. Working on the Appalachian Virtual Artist Crawl provided the perfect springboard into fostering a rapport with our Fellows, relationships within USA, and partnerships with our regional partners. I am forever grateful for all of those that I have met along the way!
Photo courtesy of Luz.
[ID: Luz celebrates a harvest of herbs at a farm by hugging a bundle of Tulsi Vana and standing behind a table covered in leaves and vegetables.]
Working with talented artists one on one has been such an inspiring and rewarding aspect of working in the Programs team.
Photo courtesy of Mandy.
[ID: A white woman in hiking gear crouches in front of a mountain lake while her yellow lab looks up at her.]
I fully enjoyed attending the October board meeting in Chicago. Since it was my first visit, Anna generously took me on a tour of the city which was a real treat to see through the eyes of a true Chicago native. The staff at USA is the most friendly and welcoming team that I’ve had the pleasure of working with and I’m very excited for the upcoming budgeting process and to experience the full ins and outs of a fiscal year.
Photo courtesy of Judilee.
[ID: An Asian-American woman with short black-and-white hair smiles,
standing in an apple orchard and looking down at the apples she is holding in her arm.]
I am thrilled for this work of supporting artists. And I can’t imagine a better team to be working with. I am looking forward to celebrating my one-year mark with a list of accomplishments that lay the foundation for new ways of supporting artists.