Two SoHE Women Artists Win Inaugural Forward Art Prize

Brenda Baker and Bird Ross, co-founders of Wisconsin Artists Forward Fund and local artists themselves, flank Jennifer Angus and Dakota Mace at the awards reception for the inaugural Forward Art Prize, which Angus and Mace have been awarded for 2019.

Image: Brenda Baker and Bird Ross, co-founders of Wisconsin Artists Forward Fund and local artists themselves, flank Jennifer Angus and Dakota Mace at the awards reception for the inaugural Forward Art Prize, which Angus and Mace have been awarded for 2019.

Jennifer Angus, the Audrey Rothermel Bascom Professor in Human Ecology, and Dakota Mace, a 2019 graduate of SoHE’s Master of Fine Arts in Design Studies, have each been awarded the Women Artists Forward Fund’s inaugural Forward Art Prize. The unrestricted $10,000 award recognizes women visual artists living in Dane County, Wisconsin, “who show exceptional creativity in their work and compelling prospects for the future.”

“It’s both exciting and humbling to be recognized for my work,” Mace said at the award presentation and celebration Friday at the Chazen Art Museum. “I would especially like to thank Bird Ross and Brenda Baker for all of their support and dedication. Your thoughtfulness and generosity empowers me and encourages me to continue my passion as a Diné (Navajo) woman artist.”

Ross and Baker, Madison-based artists themselves, founded the Women Artists Forward Fund as an arts endowment fund to support women visual artists of Dane County and address a stark disparity in representation of and funding to women artists. For instance, only seven percent of solo exhibitions in the U.S. are by women, and just three to five percent of artwork in the permanent collections of major museums were made by women. Meanwhile, the state of Wisconsin ranks 48th in the country for arts funding, spending just $0.13 per capita, while neighboring Minnesota, ranked number one, spends $7.00 per capita.

“I applied [for the prize] because I really believe in what they’re doing, which is supporting women artists,” reflects Angus, whose current show at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, has garnered significant press attention. “I thought I was probably too advanced in my career to realistically be selected, but I wanted to be a statistic. I wanted the organizers to be able to say that there were ‘X’ number of applicants for the award because the need for support is demonstrated by the number of people who apply—the greater the number, the greater the need.”

Many individuals and foundations have contributed to the Women Artists Forward Fund, which boasts a half-million-dollar endowment and an engaged, committed advisory board.

“We are thrilled to have Jenny and Dakota as the very first recipients of this Forward Art Prize,” Ross and Baker share. “They are leaders in our arts community with the vision and commitment that make a difference for their fellow artists here.”

“Having been selected for the Forward Art Prize is really an honor,” Angus says. “It’s important to be a leader in one’s community, and this award has reenergized my desire to show in Madison and nurture up-and-coming talent through not only my teaching at the university but also greater involvement with the Madison, Dane County, and Wisconsin arts communities.”

Angus teaches in the Design Studies department at the School of Human Ecology (SoHE). She has exhibited her work internationally and won numerous awards, including from the Canada Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, and Wisconsin Arts Board. Mace, a graduate of SoHE’s MFA in Design Studies, co-curated the current exhibit in SoHE’s Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, “Intersections: Indigenous Textiles of the Americas.”

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