Poets Rejoice! You Have Another Ally in the Foundation for Contemporary Arts

The founding fathers of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts read's like a who's who of the 20th century's most influential artists.

Back in the day, Jasper Johns, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and others came together to help Merce Cunningham and his dance company finance a proposed season on Broadway by arranging for a sale of their artworks. They had so much cash left over they decided to start a foundation, initially known as Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts.

Now Dorothea Tanning's name has been added to this most distinguished company.

The FCA established the Dorothea Tanning Award, which recognizes "outstanding artistic achievement, and potential" with a $1 million endowment gift from the Destina Foundation. The endowment will sustain a $40,000 annual award in honor of Tanning, a self-taught artist and poet who died in 2012 at the age of one hundred and one.

Tanning is primarily known for her surrealist paintings, although she also worked in sculpture and printmaking. And so it came as a pleasant surprise to learn the winner of the inaugural prize in her honor was a poet, Liz Waldner.

A $40,000 payout isn't too shabby for a poet like Waldner. It's more than the $25,800 that the Poetry Foundation awarded its 2015 fellows. Then again, it's less than the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award—although this prize is an outlier in the big scheme of things. There traditionally isn't much money earmarked for poets in the arts philanthropy space, and FCA's announcement is certainly a welcome development.

The New York City-based Destina Foundation, meanwhile, was established in 2015 to, coincidentally enough, distribute the art and assets of Dorothea Tanning’s estate for philanthropic purposes. The foundation also works in partnership with the Dorothea Tanning Foundation to manage the artist’s archive and educate the public about her enduring cultural contributions.

The foundation, quite naturally, is very young, and pledges, through both direct program activities and grants, encourage public knowledge and appreciation of the visual, performing and literary arts. For example, it organized a Tanning exhibition in mid-2015 collaboration with Tanning's estate.

In related news, the FCA also announced the fourteen recipients of its Artist Grants, paying out a total of $680,000.