We believe in artists and their essential role in our society.
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. Originally established in Los Angeles by Founding CEO Katharine DeShaw in 2006, we moved our headquarters to Chicago in 2014 under the leadership of Carolina García Jayaram. In 2017, Deana Haggag was named President & CEO and today, we continue to operate from Chicago with some remote staff working from Baltimore and New York.
Since our founding, we have awarded more than 550 artists and cultural practitioners with over $25 million of direct support in all disciplines including Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing. With this unrestricted award, recipients 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 awardees. 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 and cultural practitioners.
Kate is a lover of the arts and is thrilled to support USA Communications team in telling stories about amazing work artists are creating across the country. Originally from Rochester, NY, she holds a BA in English from the College of Wooster and an MA in Cinema and Media Studies from the University of Chicago. Most recently, she served as the Marketing and Development Associate at the National Flute Association. In her spare time she writes film criticism and dabbles in fiction and poetry. She enjoys crafting vegetarian potluck dishes, attending film screenings and music shows around the city, and going on weekend hiking excursions with her wife and dog. Most evenings, you can find her reading in a cozy chair with a sleeping cat.
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 Illinois Humanities Council, 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.
Rebecca is a second-year graduate student in the Arts Administration & Policy and Art History dual degree program at SAIC who envisions her career working to directly support artists and their livelihood. Originally from Philadelphia, she received her BA in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University and worked in research and strategic engagement at Pace Gallery in New York. Most recently, she spent the summer at Philadelphia Contemporary where she worked between programming and development. Rebecca’s current research is focused on the relationship between artists and institutions, with a keen interest in both the social conditions of art-making and the economic position of artists. Outside of her studies, Rebecca loves to read fiction, talk about reality television, and—above all else—cheer on her Philadelphia 76ers.
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.
Hyun Jung Jun is a working artist living in Chicago. Through her work, she explores the relationships between everyday life, the body, boundary, and cultural landscapes through a multidisciplinary practice involving cooking, collecting, categorizing, recording, and list making. Originally from Bundang, South Korea, she moved to the United States at age 18 where she later received her BFA at School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014 and an MFA in Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University in 2019. She has participated in a number of artist residencies such as the Vermont Studio Center and Alchemy in rural Canada and has worked directly with a number of artists and galleries in Chicago over the years. Outside of her role as an artist, Hyun Jung is very into cooking and often hosts dinners, cooking workshops, and recipe swaps. She believes by investigating food and culture, we can understand each other better.
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.
Lynnette is driven by the belief that artists help us see and think more critically. Originally from Miami, she fell in love with the Midwest when studying at SAIC, where she received a BFA in Fiber and Material Studies. She spent several years in New York City, where she earned an MA in Visual Arts Administration at NYU and worked at various artist-centered organizations. She was the 2016-2017 Curator in Residence at Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, as well as lectured in the fiber department at the Kansas City Art Institute. In her role at Creative Time, she coordinated the 2015 conference The Creative Time Summit: The Curriculum at the Venice Biennale, and previously managed educational initiatives at ART21. She loves to gather people for dinner parties and board games, and is a self-proclaimed karaoke superstar.
Onyx Montes was raised in Mexico and has lived in Amsterdam and Seattle before moving to Chicago in 2015. She studied art history and women, gender & sexuality studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is currently pursuing her MA in Museum and Exhibition Studies at UIC and is part of the inaugural Arts & Culture Leaders of Color Fellowship by Americans for the Arts. Onyx is involved as an educator at the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago and works as the Manager of Marketing and Communications at Hyde Park Art Center. She is an avid reader and a travel addict with 17 countries and counting. Her interests include swimming, grunge music, eating tacos and thrift shopping. She is super excited to be part of United States Artists this year while exploring ways to tell artists stories.
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 print community and is a member of the Chicago Printers Guild and the Honolulu Printmakers. 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 has a Master’s in Strategic Communications from Michigan State University and Master’s in New Arts Journalism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
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 Ginburg’s “Howl”) and “Erebus,” a piece for electric guitar, cello, and electronics at the Center for New Music in San Francisco. Zoë is currently part of the Chicago-based group Nightingale Ensemble which actively commissions new works for unusual instrumental pairings. 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 interested in too many art forms. Originally from Vermont, Ruby studied painting at Smith College (where she started an art gallery in her apartment) and the Slade School of Fine Art in London. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to perform comedy—still chasing the spotlight after playing “Plate #2” in her high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast—and hosted Quite Right Tonight at the Annoyance Theater, a weekly variety show highlighting queer performers. After working as Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s assistant from 2013-2017, 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. From there, Ruby founded her graphic design business and works as a 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.