This marks the second year of the USA Fellows program, which annually awards 50 $50,000 unrestricted grants to artists of all disciplines from across the country, "in recognition of the caliber and impact of their work."
The panel review process resulted in the selection of two USA Fellows for 2007 from the same family. Choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening) is being honored (in the dance category), as is his sister, theatre artist and writer Rhodessa Jones (in the theatre arts category).
Director and playwright Tina Landau and playwright Luis Valdez (the latter named in the literature category) were also among grant recipients, as were actress Patricia Bowie, director Elizabeth LeCompte, director and set designer Michael Sommers and director Robert Woodruff.
Expert panels selected the 53 winning artists (including three collaboratives) from among 344 nominated applicants ranging from 23 to 97 years of age and hailing from 42 states. The USA Fellows for 2007 were honored Nov. 17, in a celebration at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.
The USA Fellows program honors artists working in eight artistic disciplines and at all stages of their careers, "from emerging artists to mid-career to those who have achieved master status in their fields." The USA Fellowships for 2007 include three in Architecture and Design; five in Crafts and Traditional Arts; six in Dance; nine in Literature (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting); five in Media (film, radio, video); six in Music; six in Theater Arts; and ten in Visual Arts. Theater Arts fellows included:
Robert Woodruff, USA Biller Fellow, New York Dance fellows included:
Shen Wei, USA Prudential Fellow, New York Music fellows included:
Evan Ziporyn, USA Walker Fellow, Boston Literature fellows included:
Helena María Viramontes, USA Ford Fellow, Ithaca, NY *
Acording to USA notes, the founding of the Los Angeles-based USA in 2006 was prompted by the Urban Institute’s breakthrough study, "Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structures for U.S. Artists." That research found that while 96 percent of Americans appreciate the arts, only 27 percent believe that artists contribute to the good of society. In addition, the study discovered that the median reported income for artists from their artistic work was only $5,000, and that more than half of America's two million artists pay for their own health insurance. "Despite those economic challenges, artists contribute directly to advancements in the education of young people, the development of a competitive creative economy, and the revitalization of the nation’s neighborhoods and urban centers," according to USA.
In response to those findings, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Prudential Foundation, and the Rasmuson Foundation contributed a total of $20 million to establish USA as a structure through which private philanthropists, corporate donors, and other foundations can support individual artists. Due to seed funding from its founders, 100 percent of current donor contributions directly support artists. USA supporters who have underwritten named USA Fellowships include Eli and Edythe Broad, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, Agnes Gund, the Todd Simon Foundation, and Target, among others.