The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will contribute $1 million to a new $20 million operations endowment campaign in support of United States Artists (USA), a non-profit organization that awards annual $50,000 fellowships to artists around the country specializing in nine fields.
Alberto Ibargüen, President & CEO of the Miami-based Knight Foundation, announced the campaign Monday night at the New World Center in Miami Beach during the closing night festivities of the 2016 USA Artists Assembly, the group’s second yearly celebration and alumni gathering. The first Assembly was held in Chicago in 2015.
“At the Knight Foundation, we’re trying to build community through the funding of quality art – art that moves and challenges and inspires,” Ibargüen told The Herald. “What the USA does is emphasize the individual – recognize extraordinary artists at an important part of their careers and give them financial support. So this program is a great fit with our larger mosaic.”
Founded in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations with $22 million in seed funding, United States Artists addresses the lack of unrestricted funding available to artists and has awarded more than $21 million to almost 450 artists in the fields of architecture & design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater & performance, traditional arts and visual arts.
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The operations endowment was kickstarted with a five-year $10 million challenge grant from the Ford Foundation. With $1 million contributions from the Knight Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, along with contributions by private donors, the campaign has raised $16.6 million thus far. Ibargüen says he is “confident” that the $20 million mark will be reached.
“The award is an unrestricted grant given to the most accomplished artists,” said Carolina Garcia Jayaram, the CEO of USA. “The process of identifying and adjudicating nearly 50 artists every year is a rigorous process that involves a board of trustees and administration. An operations endowment is incredibly freeing because it allows us to be more creative with the programming, stabilizes the organization and enables us to find more deserving artists from all disciplines across all 50 states.”
The Knight Foundation has worked with USA since 2009, when Knight began sponsoring the group’s fellowships granted to artists who lived in the 26 cities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers.
Edouard Duval-Carrié, the Haitian-American painter and sculptor who lives in Miami and received a $50,000 USA grant in 2014, says part of what makes the group different from other organizations is that the money comes without any restrictions or limitations.
“It’s a generous contribution and a recognition of trajectory,” he said. “They give it to a cross-section of artists, nominated and selected by other artists. And the money comes with absolutely no strings attached. If I owed money to someone who wanted to kill me, I can pay them off! Of all the arts organizations on the planet, this has to be the most generous. So whoever has given them money in the past, please give them more.”