It has been a time of deep transformation for us at United States Artists. In one of the most complicated years in recent history—an ongoing pandemic, an uncertain economy, and a moral confrontation of our society’s responsibility to equity and justice for all—our organization dedicated this year to listening and learning together. Over the course of the year, things were made possible by collaborating with one another and building coalitions with artists, advisors, donors, and colleagues across the field. In 2020, with the partnership of countless people, United States Artists has helped distribute nearly $25 million to artists and thinkers across the country between our awards and various other funding initiatives.
None of this would be possible without the help of our incredible team, who work hard, but more importantly, work together, to fortify the organization with their diversity of viewpoints, life experiences, and cultural backgrounds. It is in this spirit that we have invited members of our team to share insights into their work in their own voices. I hope you enjoy this year-in-review as much as I enjoy working with these wonderful colleagues.
On behalf of our team, we are grateful to be able to continue supporting artists and look forward to learning together in 2021. Cheers.
President & CEO
She // Her // Hers
Learn more about the 2020 USA Fellows here.
We reached fifty awards for the first time since the organization moved from Los Angeles to Chicago!
“The application questions were refreshingly open-ended and ‘holistic,’ focusing on the applicant’s sphere of experience and personal perspectives—rather than being project-specific or budget-focused.”
— 2020 Film Applicant
Our unrestricted award is open to artists across every career stage—emerging, mid-career, established, and everything in between.
Each year we welcome a class of individuals who bring their unique perspectives, representing the breath of lived experiences from across the country.
The 2020 USA Fellowships were generously made possible by: Anonymous, Sarah Arison, Barr Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, Ann M. Hatch, David Horvitz and Francie Bishop Good, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Steven H. and Nancy K. Oliver, Pillars Fund, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Fred and Eve Simon Charitable Foundation, The Todd and Betiana Simon Foundation, Paul and Annette Smith, Walder Foundation, Katie Weitz, PhD, Windgate Charitable Foundation, Helen Zell, and the USA Board of Trustees.
“I make art because it helps me breathe. Art helps me understand our world and our people, and by doing so I understand so much more about myself. My art helps me remain present and engaged. I make art because it continually reminds me that I’m alive.”
[ID: A picture of Nathalie Joachim. A Black woman wearing gold dangling earrings, pink lipstick, and a peach-colored blazer against a soft yellow background. She looks directly into the camera with a calm and focused expression.]
“This [award] will not only allow me to be a better writer, but, more importantly, it allows me to be a better community member. A better partner, a better son, a better sibling, a better friend, and a better dog owner. All of these things fuel my curiosities and make me a better creative.”
[ID: A picture of Hanif Abdurraqib. A Black man wearing a marble grey baseball cap and colorful green and orange floral shirt. He gazes into the camera as one arm crosses his chest and the other arm touches his beard.]
“As an artist, I hold on tightly to the magic of dreaming, but that can become difficult when working hard to pay bills causes exhaustion and defeat. With this award, I am able to dream bigger, more fully, and I can continue creating art that comes from my soul.”
[ID: A picture of Sophia Nahli Allison. A Black woman looking out into the distance and smiling slightly. She stands in a wooded area with many trees and is wearing a velvet lavender-colored top, burgundy lipstick, and glasses with a slight pink tint to their frame.]
“I knew I wanted to be an artist when I realized that it was the only thing that worked on alleviating the unrest in my soul.”
[ID: A picture of Clint Ramos. An Asian American man with black hair and one eyebrow slightly raised as he looks directly into the camera. He’s wearing a black sweater, and in the background is his studio with illustrations on the wall and table behind him.]
“Artists create the visual record of our history but often we feel tiny as individuals in a large field and even longer history. Collectively we are very mighty and have the power to create change.”
[ID: A picture of Jennifer Ling Datchuk. A biracial Asian American woman with mid-length black hair gazes directly into the camera. She’s standing in front of a large green agave plant and wearing a colorfully embroidered western-style shirt.]
For over five decades, Bryant has been committed to creating space and opportunities for those around her. In 1979, she opened Just Above Midtown (JAM), a New York City artists’ space that launched the careers of many of today’s most well-known Black artists. Since 2008, she has been working on Project EATS, an urban farming initiative she founded.
[ID: A picture of Linda Goode Bryant. A Black woman with red glasses and shoulder-length brown locs wearing a black shirt and jacket. Bryant stands in front of a lush urban farm with a red brick building in the far background.]
“The making of art is uniquely human, and it enhances who we are and how we relate to one another. It makes us more empathetic and understanding of the world around us. It helps us relate to people who we don’t see as similar to ourselves. All of us who make this thing that’s called art, no matter what form it is, understand this.”
[ID: A black-and-white image. Bryant looks through the viewfinder of a movie camera and adjusts the lens.]
2019-2020 interns Rebecca Haley, Hyun Jung Jun, and Onyx Montes spent the academic year crafting their creative vision while working closely with our staff.
Coalition Partners: Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Artists.
From April through December, we managed over 150,000 applications from artists experiencing financial emergencies around the United States, including American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.
The need-based application reflected the extreme circumstances artists, especially artists of color and artists with disabilities, are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transgender and other LGBTQIA artists were also more likely to experience dire need as a result of the pandemic.
“I use Radical Visibility as a call to action to dress in order not to be ignored; to reject ‘passing’ and assimilation.”
[ID: A Filipinx nonbinary person throws back their head and smiles joyously. They have tan skin and wear a magenta, purple, and turquoise headpiece made of metallic scales. They’re wearing a magenta and green chain link top with protruding sculptural shoulders, colorful gloves with metallic scales, and purple lipstick.]
“[ My work ] comes from an understanding of disability as culture, disability as community, disability as aesthetic—disability in an intersectional way.”
[ID: Alice balances on her hands, arms straight, and on a pair of silver crutches, lifting her lower body and wheelchair high. Alice’s head is tucked and her short curly hair peeks out from behind her strong arms. She is wearing a shimmery gold bodysuit.]
“Often hearing people are the ones who are looking and creating history … But as my art becomes bigger and I have a larger platform, I think it’s a nice way for me to look at myself almost as an archivist. I’ve made work. I’ve put it in history, and as that continues to grow, hopefully so does the awareness.”
[ID: A Korean-American woman sits at her studio desk in a mustard chair and looks coolly at the camera. She has warm light skin, long straight black hair, blunt bangs, and wears dark lipstick, round glasses, a casual black button-down, and long striped shorts.]
“Accessibility is often thought of in relation to the idea of clarity or transparency or coherence, but I think disabled people also deserve access to the incoherency of the experience of art.”
[ID: A smooth, white television monitor attached to a robotic arm extends into an empty art gallery and plays a daytime talk show. Caption reads: “After 8 hours, ah” and “Oh look at that.”]
Potter Ehren Tool demonstrated wheel throwing while discussing his practice, artistic process, and what receiving the USA Fellowship grant meant to him during our fall Virtual Salon. Moderated by President and CEO Deana Haggag.
[ID: Film frame of Ehren Tool. A white man with a beard seen wearing blue work overalls. He is sitting at his pottery wheel, holding an unglazed cup with his right hand. Tool looks at the cup with a slight grin. In the foreground are several unglazed cups.]
“I get really excited about art that is so unstable that it offers more questions than answers. Even in its assurity and resolve, it leads me to a feeling of possibility or potential unknowns.”
[ID: A photo of Cauleen Smith. A Black woman with short black hair wears a geometric black and white face covering and tortoiseshell sunglasses. She stands in a cemetery near an aged tree.]
“The idea of ownership was introduced by Westerners who came to our islands. The Hawaiian world view places man last in the order of evolution and is given the kuleana (responsibility) to mālama (protect) all that has come before him.”
[ID: A photo of Vicky Holt Takamine. A Native Hawaiian with long brown hair wears a black dress and yellow patterned scarf. She smiles as she dances on stage with two other performers. The other performers are wearing black button-up shirts and jeans.]
“Projects I’ve worked on began as imperatives propelled by anger, sympathy, or a desire to help. It’s obvious looking at the world today that working on justice is a long game that requires a strategic response and lots of self-care.”
[ID: A photo of Ayumi Horie. An Asian American Woman with brown hair pulled back. She’s wearing red glasses, a polka-dot button-up, and blue jeans. She sits with a smile in the corner of her home filled with natural light, a yellow curtain, and a yellow and white wall.]
[ID: A collage of the USA staff headshots on a scrapbook that reads “XOXO.”]
“2020 was a year of unforeseen challenges. Taking stock of all we accomplished this year, I believe our team was able to respond so capably because the work of supporting artists is at the core of what we do. Through our awards and work on Artist Relief, we were able to provide artists with financial security in a time when it was most critical, and we will continue to do so.”
[ID: A photo of Ed Henry. A white man wearing an all-weather black jacket smiles at the camera. He’s standing outside near a dock of boats with fall season trees in the background.]
“The future is uncertain, but it is the responsibility of artists to embrace change and offer new visions to lead us through volatile times. I am grateful for the work United States Artists has done this year to support artists and to ensure they have the financial security and space to continue making—to recognize possibilities, to open imagination, and to be part of exploring solutions for a future together.”
[ID: A photo of Ann Hamilton. A white woman wearing a black top smiles joyfully. Hamilton stands in front of a matte gray background while a soft white light frames one side of her face.]