Tonight in Santa Monica, California, United States Artists (USA) fetes fifty American artists, including three poets and a fiction writer, awarding them no-strings grants of fifty thousand dollars each. Among the winners are Terrance Hayes, who received the National Book Award in poetry last year for Lighthead (Penguin Books); poet Campbell McGrath, who won a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship in 1999; 2011 MacArthur fellow A. E. Stallings, a poet and translator; and fiction writer Karen Tei Yamashita, whose novel I Hotel (Coffee House Press) was a finalist for the 2010 National Book Award.
The writers are recognized along with, among others, playwright Annie Baker; choreographer Liz Lerman; musician George Lewis; visual artist Lorraine O'Grady; and John Collins, the artistic director and founder of the Elevator Repair Service theater company, which has created literary productions such as Gatz, a marathon performance of The Great Gatsby, and the Hemingway-inspired The Select (The Sun Also Rises). Complete profiles of all fifty fellows are posted on the USA website.
The USA fellowships have been awarded since 2005 in an effort "to close the gap between the love of art and the ambivalence toward those who create it" (the grant program was created in response to the results of a study done by the Urban Institute showing that while 96 percent of Americans say they value art, only about a quarter believe that artists contribute to the good of society). Over the past six years USA has awarded fifteen million dollars directly to artists.
In the video below, 2011 fellow Campbell McGrath, who lives in Miami Beach, reads at the O, Miami poetry festival last spring.