United States Artists: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: United States Artists provides unrestricted $50,000 grants to artists across eight different creative disciplines: Architecture & Design, Crafts & Traditional Arts, Dance, Literature, Media, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts.

IP TAKE: United States Artists gives out as many as 50 unrestricted $50,000 grants directly to creative artists each year. Support for journalism is a significant part of this giving. However, this is a competitive grant. It is an elusive one too; grantseekers must be nominated for it, and the nominators are anonymous. The best strategy is to look through its list of previous selection panelists to get an idea of who might be connected to the process.

PROFILE: United States Artists (USA) was established in 2005 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations to “invest in America’s finest artists and illuminate the value of artists to society.” Today, the organization is funded by a range of foundations and individuals, and has its own permanent endowment that allows its USA Fellows program to provide unrestricted grants of $50,000 each annually across different disciplines including architecture & design, crafts, dance, media, music, theater & performance, traditional arts, visual art, and writing. Support of journalism comprises a significant part of this giving.

USA primarily supports audio and visual media-based journalists under its Media category program and print-based journalists through its Writing categorization. USA defines some journalism “art.” Journalism most likely to "qualify" fits within the organization’s “values:” quality, creativity, innovation, risk-taking, and diversity. Creativity and innovation are two terms not always thrown around in the assessment of journalism, so they are particularly distinguishing characteristics when it comes to USA's support of journalism. This is an organization that looks for journalists to be inspirational creators.

Application for a USA Fellowship is by nomination only; nominators change year-to-year and are always anonymous. All that USA will share about their nominators is that they are always a “group of arts leaders, critics, scholars, and artists who live in every state throughout the country, from small communities to major metropolises. They work in diverse practices across virtually every artistic discipline.” (There is a separate group of panelists who will assess the applications of those who are nominated and apply, and USA does share the lists of its previous panelists, which is also very diverse in geography, artistic discipline, and profession. Therefore those lists provide potential insight in terms of the nature of the anonymous nominators too.)

In order to get nominated by an anonymous group of journalism and media professionals working across the United States, grantseekers should be inclusive in their storytelling, reporting, and sharing. The more collaborative they are, and the more broadly grantseekers showcase their work around the country, the more likely they are to hit on one of these anonymous nominators.

Journalists who received a USA grant under the media category include: Barrett Golding (Bozeman, MT-based), the founder and Executive Producer of Hearing Voices from NPR and whose work has also been heard on CBS Radio, American Public Media, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, PRI, Voice of America, and the BBC; Kara Oehler & Ann Heppermann (Cambridge, MA-based), radio and multi-media producers who created Mapping Main Street and whose work has aired on This American Life, Morning Edition, and Marketplace; Yowei Shaw (Philadelphia-based), a radio producer whose work has been showcased on This American Life, Studio 360, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and created Philly Youth Radio; Nicholas van der Kolk (Berkeley-based), who created his own podcast (Love + Radio) and Megapolis Audio Festival, and also contributes to NPR's Snap Judgment; Ryan White & Ben Cotner (Los Angeles-based), whose work includes documentary specials for PBS and CNN. Media grantees also include documentary filmmakers who often bridge into journalism.

Journalists who were awarded USA grants under its Writing funding area include: Achy Obejas (Oakland-based), a monthly columnist for These Times and a contributor to the Chicago Tribune; Greg Tate (New York City-based), described as a "cultural critic," journalist and musician, who has been lauded as "one of the 'Godfathers of Hip-Hop Journalism.'"

A full list of past grantees is on USA’s website.


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