Every year, USA Fellows distributes 50 fellowships worth $50,000 to artists in visual and performing arts, media and literature, who are in any stage of their career. Some of this year’s fellows include Steve James, who directed the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams” about the struggle of two black teenagers to become professional basketball players and modern-dance pioneer Donald Byrd, who choreographed “The Color Purple” on Broadway.
According to Bloomberg news, the L.A.-based nonprofit, United States Artists, provides the fellowships to “the most innovative and influential artists” in their field who struggle to maintain a steady income.
“Our staff makes the phone calls to the winners, and sometimes they’re crying or they’ll say, ‘You’ve pulled me back from the edge,’” said Katharine DeShaw, USA’s executive director. “You get a sense that the award is a real life saver.”
Candidates must be nominated by one of eight anonymous discipline-specific peer panels before he or she can submit an application. The Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential and Rasmuson foundations helped set up the artists fellowships in 2005 with $22 million in seed money.