CMU School of Drama

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Little-Known Artist Prize That Made Moonlight Possible Is Changing Artists’ Lives On a recent Monday evening, in a pseudo-Gothic room in downtown Chicago, dozens of artists and philanthropists gathered to talk about the state of the arts. Or, as one speaker put it, to think about “what art can do, and who it’s for.”

It was the annual three-day-long convention of the United States Artists (USA), a little-known art-funding organization that has quietly been handing out $50,000 cash prizes to artists of all media and disciplines for the past 10 years. Among its success stories, the organization was an early and important funder of Barry Jenkins when he was making Moonlight, which won three Oscars this year.


Katherine Sharpless said...

This was a hopeful article to read amidst the dozens of articles on the end of the NEA and federal arts funding- if only the USA or other private foundations could make up for all of the federal support. I too had never heard of the USA before, and was surprised I haven't heard it mentioned at the Oscars or on Playbill or something. I find it really interesting that the grant doesn't just serve established artists with city studios and Ray Bans but craftsmen and artists who are supporting specific traditions and cultures- like the activist Hula dancer or the metal smithing cowboy. It did make me think of larger communities, like a school in Hawaii or an arts center in Oklahoma who don't receive funding or attention although the individual artist may. As the article mentioned, however, individual artists more often give back to their community, either by redirecting the funds or inspiring community involvement.

Simone Schneeberg said...

I think it's great that there do exist these large organizations that support the arts, especially this one that gives such freedom in how the money is used and for what kind of art it is designated to support. It gives such flexibility and promotes such diversity in creativity and message and culture. I think there's so much push back against funding for the arts because people don't see it's worth; the artists do, but that doesn't really matter. One artist in the article said they wished their non artist friends could have been there to see the humanity of it all and what each individual works to promote and protect. I honestly think this couldn't be more important. We need to include more people, more non artists and show them the importance of our work, not by telling them it's important but by letting them see what it does for themselves. One person said seeing all the different works reminded them that they don't live in a bubble, but I think that's wrong. It's just a big bubble.

Emma Reichard said...

With possible cuts to the NEA and other public funding for the arts, organizations like this are going to become more and more important. Organizations like this are going to have to fill the gap left once NEA funding dries up. And that’s a big hole to fill. So getting names out there, like USA, so that people (potential donors) can learn about these programs and support them is super important. It’s also about more than just getting the name out to the artistic community. The rest of the public should make these organizations household names. It not only gives the recipients recognition, like the article says, but also encourages societal and financial support from people outside the arts. You know how in high school the theatre club would have a fundraising performance and the only people who would go were other theatre kids and their parents, so the club had money but it was just taking money from its own members and really that’s not the point? Well, that’s something we should be trying to prevent in terms of arts funding nationally.