We believe in artists and their essential role in our society. Each year, we award up to fifty $50,000 unrestricted fellowships to the most compelling artists working and living in the United States, in all disciplines, at every stage of their career.
In 2003, the Urban Institute conducted a study which revealed that 96% of Americans valued art in their lives, while only 27% valued artists.*
Motivated by the study and in response to the NEA’s severe budget cuts, four inspiring leaders of the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations spearheaded the launch of an organization to illuminate the value of artists to American society and address their economic challenges. Since our founding in 2006, we have awarded more than 500 artists with over $22 million of direct support in all disciplines including Architecture & Design, Crafts, Dance, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, Writing. With this unrestricted award, Fellows decide for themselves how to best use the money – whether it is creating new work, paying rent, reducing debt, getting healthcare, or supporting their families.
To make our work possible, we actively fundraise each year and are supported by a broad range of philanthropic foundations, companies, and individuals committed to cultivating contemporary culture in the United States. Additionally, we work annually with select nominators, panelists, and our Board of Trustees to determine each year’s class of Fellows. It is through the intersection of these relationships and in the spirit of collaboration that we are honored to support the country’s most compelling artists.
Lisa enjoys working with a small team to make a difference in the lives of artists who might otherwise be overlooked. With more than 25 years of business development and relationship management experience, Lisa has held senior corporate and institutional giving positions at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Goodman Theatre, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. With an affinity for dance and theater, some of her favorite pieces hail from contemporary choreographers Ohad Naharin and Jiří Kylián, and playwrights Lynn Nottage and David Henry Hwang among others. When she’s not at her desk, Lisa enjoys biking along Chicago’s paths, traveling to see her kids in Boston and Seattle, or walking her dogs Darla and Rochelle.
Jessica is guilty of offering too many options when friends ask for a good book or restaurant recommendation. Most seem to understand that she has a hard time choosing a “favorite” unless it’s ice cream (the clear choice is pistachio). However, Jessica is partial to Zadie Smith, Ali Smith, and Tracy K. Smith as far as writers go, and the work of artists Julie Mehretu, Ellen Gallagher, and Tauba Auerbach. Before USA, Jessica found her interest in education and interned at 826CHI to develop curriculum and teach creative writing to Chicago youth, and was previously an education associate at Gund Gallery. She received her BA from Kenyon College in English and Studio Art, and most recently had her work included in Woman Made Gallery’s 20th International Open in 2017.
Deana Haggag is the President & CEO of United States Artists, a national arts funding organization based in Chicago, IL. Before joining USA in February 2017, she was the Executive Director of The Contemporary, a nomadic and non-collecting art museum in Baltimore, MD, for four years. In addition to her leadership roles, Deana lectures extensively, consults on various art initiatives, contributes to cultural publications, and has taught at institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and Towson University. She is on the Board of Trustees of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Maryland Institute College of Art and Common Field, as well as on the Advisory Council of Recess. She received her MFA in Curatorial Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA from Rutgers University in Art History and Philosophy.
Tess is the United States Artists Communications Intern. She is in her second year of pursuing Dual Master of Arts degrees in Arts Administration & Policy and Art History, Theory, & Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a Graduate Curatorial Assistant and a Curatorial Fellow at the Sullivan Galleries in the Department of Exhibitions and Exhibition Studies at SAIC. Having previously worked at museums and at a gallery, she now focuses her studies and work in non-profit hybrid (third space) research, exhibition coordination and management, and in philanthropic organizations. In her free time, she enjoys being in the company of her beloved house plants, watching every and any cooking show, and making dinner from cookbook recipes.
With over 25 years of experience in financial statement preparation, audit, treasury, and finance systems management, Anna is someone who enjoys accounting and bringing the pieces together. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Anna has worked in the accounting departments of Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, Goldblatt’s Department stores, the Academy of General Dentistry, and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Her interests include traveling, specifically to historical cities around the world, and experiencing local food and culture. She enjoys mystery, adventure, and romance novels, is a student of Christianity, and is known to tell a good joke every now and again.
Kiki loves an organized desk, a box of fresh office supplies, and planning a killer event. Thrilled to get back to her arts management roots, she was previously an executive assistant at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and received her BA in Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago. A lover and volunteer for our furry friends, she enjoys asking strangers if she can pet their dog, and can always recommend the best coffee shop nearby (she’s known to knock back more than one espresso in a single sitting). She loves poetry, painting, and DIY projects and cannot stop gushing about the amazing team at USA.
Isabelle is currently pursuing her MA in Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with research focusing on contemporary art that addresses themes of race, representation, and visibility. New to Chicago, she received her BA in Art History & Visual Studies, with a minor in Cello Performance, from the University of Kentucky. She has previously worked with Kentucky-based nonprofits LexArts and Louisville Visual Art, and is drawn to USA’s interdisciplinary mission of artist support and community engagement. In her spare time, she enjoys reading personal essays and graphic novels and creating small (but usually not funny) comics.
Whitney is ecstatic to be in Chicago and join the USA team. She previously worked at Christie’s in New York City, coordinating sales for its Handbags & Accessories division and assisting the department’s presence in Paris, London, and Hong Kong. With experience in managing auctions, as well as private and online sales, Whitney is currently working towards a dual graduate degree in Arts Administration and Policy & Modern and Contemporary Art History at SAIC. When she’s not in class or interning, Whitney enjoys a good yoga session, attending theater performances, and exploring new restaurants in the city.
Nadine fancies herself to be a proud print nerd. Born in CA to immigrant parents, she spent her youth in Switzerland, where her Swiss/American/Japanese background has shaped her understanding of the modern world. Her passion for design started as an adult, exploring the graphic arts and studying both type and graphic design in Switzerland. In 2006, she established Sonnenzimmer, a collaborative graphic arts practice with her partner, Nick Butcher. Nadine is active in the Chicago print community and is a member of the local-based Spudnik Press Cooperative, Honolulu Printmakers, the oldest printmaking community in the US, and also chairs the Chicago Printer’s Guild Publisher’s Fair. Without a doubt, she believes graphics serve as a cornerstone for understanding the arts and our times.
Michael believes that artists are key to making the real world fiction and the imagined one real and is excited to support artists at USA as they continue to reconstruct what a world can look and feel like. Originally from New York and Philadelphia, Michael relocated for friendship and to engage more critically with Chicago’s rich history in politics, culture, and community-based art practices. Since living in Chicago, Michael co-developed a workshop series that taught self-care strategies for LGBTQIA+ and housing insecure individuals. Michael previously worked in reproductive justice, supporting the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health on various arts informed youth-centered initiatives. Beyond art, Michael has a not-so-secret passion for kombucha, it has shown itself in random hour-long conversations with fellow kombucha lovers at grocery stores, convincing friends and acquaintances to try the fermented wonder, and geeking out over extended periods of time when new seasonal varieties become available (elderberry, jasmine, and violet will always have their heart).
Whitney is a Chicago-area native who runs on to-do lists and salads. There is almost always some kind of indiscernible stain on her clothing because she has two young kids. She has been an artist or arts-advocate throughout her life, but became fascinated by communications as a student at the University of Michigan, where she spent most of her time critically dissecting stand up comedy and reality television through a feminist lens. Before joining USA, Whitney was the Director of PR + Marketing for the MSU Broad in East Lansing, MI and before that, the Director of Communications + Artist Liaison at Kavi Gupta Gallery. She is completing her Master’s in Strategic Communications at Michigan State University, has a Master’s in New Arts Journalism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and drinks decaf coffee.
Initially starting as an intern, Zoë was thrilled to support artists alongside an incredible team. As a classical composer and guitarist, she strives to broaden the repertoire for guitar as both a solo instrument and within an ensemble setting. She premiered her two concert series pieces, “For Carl Solomon”, a guitar concerto (based on Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl”), and “Erebus”, a piece for electric guitar, cello, and electronics at the Center for New Music in San Francisco. Zoë graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a bachelor of music and is currently working towards her masters of music. When she is not at the office or performing, she can be found at the beach or at the local dog park chasing her adorable dog Quinn.
Ruby is a polished generalist, forever oscillating between creative forms and the making and supporting of art. Originally from Vermont, Ruby studied painting at Smith College and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She moved to Chicago to perform comedy, still chasing the spotlight after playing “Plate #2” in her high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Having a taste for curating since she started an art gallery in her college apartment, she curated two archival shows in Chicago during the summer of 2017: AKR: A Beauty Salon and Lost & Found: An Exhibit Exploring Chicago’s Dyke Spaces of the ’70s and ’80s. When not performing, painting, or curating, she works as a freelance graphic designer and writer, focusing in LGBTQ health. She loves her garden and its many basils, her community, and puns. She is delighted to be a part of USA, spreading the word about supporting artists through the language of the internet.