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Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Not a Bad Time to Be an Artist

Posted by on September 6 at 13:00 PM

In a couple months, a new organization called United States Artists (their website is here) will announce the first 50 winners of $50,000 grants. They’ll be giving these grants to artists every year “to ignite the creativity that makes this country great.”

Philip Bither, a curator at the Walker Art Center, tells the New York Times: “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.”

It’s almost as if he’s channeling Emily Hall, who in first describing the Stranger Genius Awardsófive annual awards of $5,000 each, chosen by The Stranger’s arts writers and editorsówrote that, outside of Artist Trust…

…most arts money in Seattle is given to institutions rather than artists. We’ve got nothing against institutionsówe’re giving one of our awards to an institutionóbut we want to give a good chunk of money to a few individuals who we feel are underknown, undershown, underfunded, underpraised. We want to give money to artists for whom it would make a difference; although even the most “emerged” artists could very well use $5,000, we want this money to be a career boost rather than a career affirmation. We want to give an artist money to pay the bills, to put up a play, to take a mind-expanding trip to Brazil, to stop taking temp jobs for a few months and finish that book.

Now in its fourth year, the Genius Awards have come to be about more than just the underknown, undershown, underfunded, and underpraisedóalthough there are several underknown/shown/funded/praised names on every year’s list. We still give the bulk of the prize money to individuals. The money still comes with no strings attached and, unlike U.S.A.’s system, there is no application process. And this year’s Genius Awards will be the biggest yet: The party (at the Henry Art Gallery on Oct. 21) will be followed by an eight-week exhibition of Genius Award winners of year’s past. Hot damn!

I wonder who the first artist with a Genius Award to go on to win a U.S.A grant will be…

CommentsRSS icon

Anyone remember the FUSE foundation? Seattle, 1999-ish?

"...unlike U.S.A.’s system, there is no application process."

Maybe you should consider one seeing some of the artists that have received cash (and praise?!) from the Stranger in the past.

Thanks for the update. I quit searching grants like that a few years ago. Maybe I'll start again.

What a b.s. application process they have...

You have to be "nominated" by mysterious, unnamed "experts" in various fields.

Whose ass do I have to kiss in order to be nominated as an emerging artist? I don't know, because the identities of the expert nominators are secret.

Sounds like a big club to me -- an elaborate way for industry insiders to give money to each other and their friends. Meanwhile, their rich donator buddies get a nifty-sounding write off.

Great, let's give the haves even more money and let the have-nots continue to scrap.

Do we really need another reason to give people like Dave Eggers money they don't deserve?

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