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United States Artists literary fellowships awarded

December 15, 2009 |  9:45 am


A consortium of arts funders, led by the Ford Foundation, presented the 2009 United States Artists fellowships at a ceremony last night in Santa Monica. The grants are substantial -- $50,000 -- and are unrestricted. Want a new laptop, more paint, new glasses or a trip to Rio? Sure, no problem. The no-restriction element is not always the case with grants, as Suzanne Muchnic reported on Friday.

Many programs offering large cash awards fund specific projects or honor one artist every year or two. With a mission of "supporting America's finest artists working across diverse disciplines" and a practice of doling out 50 unrestricted grants annually, United States Artists has created an unusually broad niche for itself. ...

Despite the commercial success of many artists, the study determined that "significant numbers" of their peers needed employment, health insurance, places to live and work, materials and equipment and access to professional development and support systems.

Awards are made in architecture, dance, music, media, theater, visual arts, crafts and traditional arts -- and literature. The eight literature grant recipients included Gilbert Hernandez, above, the graphic novelist who brought the genre to a new level with the Love and Rockets series, co-written with his brother Jaime. The Hernandez brothers were brought up in Oxnard; Gilbert continues to do solo work with Fantagraphics.

Poets Brian Turner, Ai and Kevin Young also received literature fellowships; one went to a playwright, Nilo Cruz ("Anna in the Tropics"). Two awards went to authors of short fiction -- veteran Antonya Nelson and newcomer Justin Torres. Poet and novelist Sapphire, whose book "Push" has been made into the Oprah-endorsed film "Precious," rounded out the literary awards. It's probably not the last time we'll see her name come up as awards season gets underway in Los Angeles.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: From the cover of "Love and Rockets X." Credit: Gilbert Hernandez

Photo: Gilbert Hernandez in 2007. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times