Visual Arts

Miami artists just got a $500,000 annual bonus, thanks to new Ellie awards

ArtCenter / South Florida's space on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
ArtCenter / South Florida's space on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Courtesy of ArtCenter / SouthFlorida

Art museums, fairs, galleries and studios have helped build Miami into a cultural mecca. But for many local artists, succeeding here is still a struggle.

The outlook brightened Wednesday with the announcement of the Ellies, a new visual arts awards program that will grant up to $500,000 annually to Miami-based artists. The awards are funded by ArtCenter/South Florida.

“Over the past decade, Miami’s artists have steadily built an international reputation for themselves, and have changed the way people perceive our city," said Dennis Scholl, ArtCenter’s president and CEO. "Visual arts have become a central part of the Miami experience."

The question ArtCenter asked itself: What was needed to keep Miami's visual arts spirit vibrant? The answer, its leaders decided, was to use endowment funds from the 2014 sale of its primary Lincoln Road space "to provide our artists with the resources they need to advance their work and elevate their artistic practice.''

The competitive awards are named for ArtCenter founder Ellie Schneiderman, who acquired several dilapidated Lincoln Road storefronts in 1984 and transformed them into affordable artists' studios. Thirty years later, two of those same storefronts sold for $88 million. (The ArtCenter continues to operate from a smaller space at 924 Lincoln Road.)

ArtCenter's President and CEO Dennis Scholl.jpg
Dennis Scholl, president and CEO, ArtCenter / South Florida Courtesy of ArtCenter / South Florida

The Ellies will include three levels of grants. The largest, the Michael Richards Award, will award $75,000 to an artist has who sustained excellence over a long period of time. The unrestricted stipend, distributed over two years, will include the opportunity of a commissioned work to be exhibited at The Bass museum on Miami Beach.

The award is named for ArtCenter alumnus Michael Richards, who died in his World Trade Center studio in the 2001 attacks. Awardees will be nominated and selected by a jury of local and national art experts.

In addition, the Ellies will include three $5,000 grants to Miami-Dade K-12 art teachers for travel to enhance their class programs. Ellies Creator Awards of $2,500 to $25,000 will be given to working artists based in Miami-Dade to support a single significant visual arts project. Preference will be given to artists who partner with local nonprofit arts organizations to present their projects.

How to apply: Applications for the Ellies Creator Awards and Ellies Teacher Travel Grants will be accepted from April 18 - May 24, 2018, at 6 p.m. Information at