The Chicago-based nonprofit United States Artists has unveiled its list of 2021 USA Fellows, awarding 60 creatives from across the country $50,000 in no-restriction grants to help them live and pursue their work without financial fear. This year, the organization’s largest list of fellows ever included architect Jennifer Bonner, landscape architect Walter Hood, and architect, designer, and speculative artist Olalekan Jeyifous as the recipients of its Architecture & Design fellowships.
“Artists are at the core of their communities, and as the difficulties of the past year have demonstrated, it is more important than ever that we continue to support individual artists,” said Ed Henry, the USA board chair in a press release. “And as we continue to meet the challenges 2021 will bring, it is also clear that USA must remain nimble and responsive to the needs of the field, which is why we are honored to be able to support the largest cohort in our history with sixty artists this year.”
The continual increase in support for independent artists and designers continues from 2020, when United States Artists’ then 50 fellows was touted as the largest cohort since the group relocated to Chicago. Last year, New York-based MOS Architects and landscape designer Sara Zewde took home Architecture & Design fellowships.
This year, United States Artists leaned more towards fellows who are building movements, blazing their own paths, and helping to create community connections. On their announcement page, the organization wrote:
At a moment of constant change, artists continue to inspire curiosity, empathy, and action toward building a more honest and just world. The 2021 USA Fellows were chosen for their bold artistic vision and significant impact. Each artist demonstrates generosity and care toward field-building that continues to inspire and propel their discipline.
These artists break disciplinary boundaries to challenge the status quo.
In 2021, architect Jennifer Bonner, founder of MALL and noted timber enthusiast, was selected thanks to a mixture of risk-taking, pop culture references, and formal irreverence. Bonner currently teaches as an associate professor of architecture at Harvard GSD, her alma mater, and her spring 2020 studio, Mass Timber and the Scandinavian Effect, taught with Hanif Kara, tasked students with reimagining how wood might one day regain its lost prestige in the American architectural landscape.
Landscape architect Walter Hood, founder of the Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, David K. Woo Chair and professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning at the University of California, Berkeley, and staunch advocate for using the medium to enrich disenfranchised communities, was recognized as well. For his work in creating ecologically sustainable spaces that also better public usage while respecting the culture and history of the enmeshed communities, Hood was also awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 2019.
Finally, artist and designer Olalekan Jeyifous, who creates mobile structures, renderings of Afrofuturist-inspired buildings and cityscapes, photo montages, large-scale facade art installations, sculpture exhibitions, and 360-degree VR projects (just to name a few!) was recognized as well. Jeyifous’s work is set to appear in the forthcoming MoMA exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America later this month, and he was named a 2020 Emerging Voices winner by the Architectural League of New York.
This year, the Architecture & Design jury consisted of:
- Thomas Kelley, architect and 2018 USA Fellow, and one half of Norman Kelley
- Amanda Williams, architect and public artist, and 2018 USA Fellow
- Mimi Zeiger, critic, curator, and former AN contributor
A complete list of the 60 fellows, awarded across 10 categories including Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing, is available on the United States Artists website.