Meredith Monk, John Luther Adams, Basil Twist, Ali Akbar Khan Among First Recipients of $50,000 USA Fellowships | Playbill

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Classic Arts News Meredith Monk, John Luther Adams, Basil Twist, Ali Akbar Khan Among First Recipients of $50,000 USA Fellowships United States Artists (USA), a new organization "dedicated to providing direct support for America's finest living artists," has announced the recipients of the first USA Fellowships, $50,000 grants for artistic excellence.
The 2006 USA Fellows include artists in the fields of music, dance, architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, literature, media, theater and visual arts. Expert panels selected the 50 awardees (including four pairs of collaborators, for a total of 54 recipients) from among 300 applicants representing every artistic discipline and 43 states.

Among the inaugural group of USA Fellows are:

  • John Luther Adams, an Alaska-based composer who has written music for acoustic, electronic and mixed ensembles of all sizes.

  • Ali Akbar Khan, a virtuoso on the sarod (Indian lute), founder of the Ali Akbar College of Music in California and one of the most respected Indian classical musicians alive.

  • Meredith Monk, a path-breaking composer and theater visionary whom describes as "the original performance artist."

  • Eiko and Koma, New York-based Japanese choreographers who have brought to the Japanese modern dance genre called butoh their own particular gentleness and grace.

  • Alonzo King, artistic director of the San Francisco-based Lines Ballet.

  • Bill Frisell, a jazz guitarist and composer, for his collaborations with artist and animator Jim Woodring.

  • Ralph Lemon, a choreographer who formerly led an admired modern dance company in New York and is now doing artistic research in the Mississippi Delta.

  • Ronald K. Brown, an active choreographer whose works combines American modern dance, traditional West African movement and hip-hop club dancing.

  • Basil Twist, a widely-praised puppetmaster who works primarily with classical music and opera. His first production directing human actors on stage alongside puppets, of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel, just opened at Houston Grand Opera.

    USA's formation was prompted by the Urban Institute's 2003 study, "Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structures for U.S. Artists." This research found that while 96% of Americans appreciate the arts, only 27% believe that artists contribute to the good of society. In addition, the study found 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.

    The Urban Institute report and other studies show that "despite these findings, artists contribute not only to the vibrancy of America's culture, but to the education of young people, the development of a competitive creative economy, and the revitalization of the nation's neighborhoods and urban centers."

    In response to these 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 the seed funding of the four founding foundations, 100% of future donor contributions will directly support artists.

    Arts patrons Agnes Gund of New York, Eli and Edythe Broad of Los Angeles, Target of Minneapolis, the Todd Simon Foundation of Nebraska, and Ella Cisneros of Miami and have already funded and named USA Fellowships for this year and years to come.

    The USA Fellowships are envisioned as a program that would ultimately be enabled by donors to operate in perpetuity through income generated by a permanent endowment that USA will establish.

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