February 12, 2020

Jamal D. Cyrus is the 2020 recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize awarded by the High Museum of Art. Photo by Liz Ligon.

Artist Jamal D. Cyrus receives the 2020 Driskell Prize

SCAD - Derrick Adams

ATLANTA—Houston-based artist Jamal D. has received the 2020 David C. Driskell Prize, awarded annually to an artist or scholar by Atlanta’s High Museum of Art in recognition of a significant contribution to the field of African American art. Cyrus works across media in a conceptual practice that questions narratives of American history within the framework of Black political and cultural movements. As part of the collective Otabenga Jones and Associates, Cyrus was previously included in After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy at the High in 2008. Cyrus will receive the $25,000 cash award and be honored at the sixteenth annual Driskell Prize Dinner at the High.

The Driskell Prize, named for the renowned African American artist and art scholar David C. Driskell, was established by the High in 2005 as the first national award to celebrate an early- or midcareer scholar or artist whose work makes an original and important contribution to the field of African American art or art history. Since the prize’s inception, the funds have supported the acquisition of fifty works by African American artists for the High’s collection.


Following backlash, Belmont University backpedals on proposed prohibition of non-Christian faculty and nude live drawing at Watkins College of Art

NASHVILLE—Earlier this year, the financially struggling Watkins College of Art announced it would be merging with Belmont University, a nearby private Christian university, causing Watkins students to fear new restrictions on their creative freedom and the potential censorship of artworks in the name of upholding Belmont’s strict Christian principles. Belmont has previously suggested that film students are only allowed to create PG-rated movies and that visual art students would no longer be allowed to draw nudes from life. The announcement also caused concern about the fate of Watkins faculty members, given that Belmont only employs people of Christian faith, and the wellbeing of LGBTQ students and staff members.

SCAD - Derrick Adams

After backlash from former and current Watkins students and faculty—including the circulation of an open letter calling for art students’ freedom from censorship that has now received over 4,800 signatures and the formation of a group called Save Watkins—Belmont released a statement that revised the university’s previous position.

“Because we recognize current Watkins employees could not control nor anticipate merging with a faith-based institution, it has been determined that special consideration will be given to current Watkins employees regardless of their position of faith,” the school said in a statement sent to Watkins faculty and staff earlier this month. “This exception to Belmont’s hiring policy is only being made due to the nature of merging institutions and out of Belmont’s commitment to care for the Watkins community.”

According to Quinn Dukes, the Watkins alumna who authored an open letter criticizing the merger, “Belmont’s communications team is doing damage control.” She told ARTnet news, “The growing support of the petition proves that Watkins College of Art is an integral part of Nashville’s culture, that its identity and history as an institution has significant value to people all over the country.”

Students from the Save Watkins coalition protesting the takeover of the school by Belmont University. Image courtesy Save Watkins.

Agnes Gund to receive inaugural Ruth Bader Ginsburg Leadership Award

NEW YORK—The Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award recognizes women who have “exercised a positive and notable influence on society” and served as “exceptional role model[s] in both principles and practice.” Gund is a philanthropist, civic leader, and art collector, serving as the president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art and the chair of MoMA PS1. She began the Art for Justice fund in 2017 to provide grants to organizations working for criminal justice reform including the Bard Prison Initiative, Dream Corps, Forward Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the Youth First Initiative. In comment to receiving the award, Gund said: “To be compared to Justice Ginsburg is so extraordinary and an overwhelming honor. I have worked most of my life to ensure that access to art should be a right, not a privilege because it can open minds and inspire dreams.”


Pérez Art Museum has received a $100,000 gift from American Airlines

MIAMI—American Airlines’ $100,000 donation was made on behalf of Alberto Ibargüen, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation chairman and CEO of eleven years who has recently stepped down from his role at the company. During his service, Alberto helped secure the $11 billion merger of American and US Airways in 2013 after American Airlines filed for bankruptcy. He selected PAMM in honor of his wife, Susana, who has been a trustee of the museum for over twenty years and was the board president from 2001 to 2003. “Culture is central to building community and Pérez Art Museum Miami is a shining example of that. It is at the center of our community’s evolution in all arts and has become one of the most visited places in South Florida,” Ibargüen said in a statement. Previously he has helped expand PAMM’s educational department and launch its Fund for African American Art through a $1 million grant awarded by the Knight Foundation.


Ra Malika Imhotep is the recipient of the third annual Toni Beauchamp Prize in critical art writing. Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small, UC Berkeley.

Ra Malika Imhotep receives the Toni Beauchamp Prize in critical art writing

HOUSTON—Ra Malika Imhotep has received the 2019 Toni Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art Writing for her essay “On Retrieval,” which addresses the work of interdisciplinary artist, writer, and performer Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle. Imhotep is a Black feminist writer and performance artist from Atlanta, Georgia, currently pursuing a doctoral degree in African Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, with a designated emphasis in new media. Her writing centers on Black feminism, Southern vernacular aesthetics, and the performance of labor.

The Toni Beauchamp Prize seeks to support young and mid-career art writers who combine scholarship and journalism, a unique voice, and literary excellence. Burnaway has also published writing by the past two recipients of the award, Coco Klockner and Maura Callahan.

Imhotep recently wrote an essay reflecting upon her experiences as a participant in the Slave Rebellion Reenactment staged by artist Dread Scott last fall in New Orleans that will be featured in Burnaway’s forthcoming series responding to the performance, which will be published next week.


White House proposes cuts to NEA for the fourth year in a row, issues an executive order “Making Federal Buildings Great Again” by mandating neoclassical architecture

WASHINGTON D.C.—The proposed budget for the next fiscal year (supposing the administration’s potential second term in office) totals $4.8 trillion and includes cuts to welfare, foreign aid, housing, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH). The proposed budget does not consider the activities funded by the NEA and NEH to be of core responsibility to the Federal government. This is the fourth year in a row of proposed cuts to both organizations, but without Congressional approval these cuts can go nowhere. Instead lawmakers last year increased NEA and NEH funding by $2.2 million. “We see our funding actively making a difference with thousands of communities and in every Congressional District in the nation,” the NEA told ARTnews.

“Making Federal Buildings Beautiful Again” is a new executive order being drafted to make classical architecture the only style permitted for future government buildings. The current Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture were written in 1962 as an outline of how public buildings should further the interests and aspirations of the American people by providing both “efficient and economical facilities for the use of government agencies” and “visual testimony to the dignity, enterprise, vigor, and stability of the American government.” The guidelines also state that development of an official style and uniformity of buildings must be avoided. The Trump Administration is condemning buildings such as the US Federal Building in San Francisco, the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. US Courthouse in Miami and the US Courthouse in Austin, Texas as having little aesthetic appeal.


The Art Preserve, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Photo by Durston Saylor.

The Art Preserve, a new museum dedicated to artist-built environments, opens in Wisconsin

SHEBOYGAN, WI—As a branch of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in downtown Sheboygan, the Art Preserve is a new $40 million museum dedicated to artist-built environments. Slated to open in August, the new museum will house more than 25,000 works from the center’s collection including works by artists such as Levi Fisher Ames, Emery Blagdon, Loy Bowlin, Nek Chand, Annie Hooper, Jesse Howard, Mary Nohl, Charles Smith, Fred Smith, Lenore Tawney, Stella Waitzkin, Ray Yoshida, and Albert Zahn. “The Schuchardt Farm Property is a perfect setting for the Art Preserve,” said Sandra Sachse, the center’s board president. “It offers easy access from major thoroughfares and connectivity with the arts center’s downtown Sheboygan location and existing cultural assets. The semirural quality is similar to the original locations of most of the art environments in our collection.”