Today we announced the recipients of our 2017 Artist as Activist fellowship, a two-year grant designed to support the growing body of accomplished independent artists and artist collectives who are applying their creative practices to address critical social challenges. This year’s cohort features artists who are leveraging multimedia, performance, and cultural organizing to draw specific attention to the ways in which the prison-industrial complex disproportionately affects generations of immigrants and people of color in the United States. Using various artistic strategies, the 2017 Fellows go beyond awareness-building to also spur action and envision the new policies and cultural practices required to create a world without mass incarceration.
“Artists have a history of harnessing their work to bring fresh insights to social issues and to galvanize communities into action. This year’s fellows draw much needed attention to the ways in which our current criminal justice system impacts families, communities, and our country at large,” said Risë Wilson, director of philanthropy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. “By supporting and building this community of artists, we are strengthening the field of practice where art and activism intersect, while also ensuring timely, relevant work has the visibility and platform it requires.”
The Rauschenberg Foundation received more than 275 applications for the 2017 Artist as Activist Fellowship, which grants up to $100,000 per fellow over a two-year period. This year’s artists were selected based on their project’s bold vision, as well as the artists’ fluency in this issue and their demonstrated capacity to impact communities most affected by mass incarceration. The fellows selected for the 2017 cohort reflect a geographic and cultural diversity as a group, but also a range of artistic mediums and approaches to this issue—from the impact of mass incarceration on reproductive justice to its intersections with deportations and immigrant detention.
Since 2015, The Rauschenberg Foundation has invested over $2.1 million in grant funding to artist-led projects, nineteen of which focused on mass incarceration. The fellowship has provided a significant launching pad for these projects, spurring additional investments from prominent philanthropies, and culminating in a well-received symposium last year that included leaders in criminal justice, philanthropy, and art.
“This year’s fellows really represent the best of the best that our nation has to offer. They are carrying on Bob’s legacy, which realizes and channels the power of art to bring about social change,” said Sharon Ullman, acting executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. “We are proud to continue shining a spotlight on artists who have dedicated their professional and personal lives to advancing fearless, forward-thinking projects.”2017 Artists as Activists Fellows