Susan Unterberg honored by MacDowell for her arts advocacy

NEW YORK (AP) — The founder of a leading grant program for women’s artists will be honored by the MacDowell artists’ retreat this fall. Visual artist Susan Unterberg has been named this year’s winner of the Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award, cited for her leadership of Anonymous Was a Woman.

“As an artist, I am very aware of the challenges faced by mid-career artists, especially women, and I celebrate the support provided by places like MacDowell, which give artists time, space, and recognition,” Unterberg said of MacDowell in a statement Sunday.

“Direct support is what most effectively impacts artists and our work; I am thankful to be recognized in contributing to this support, which is best exemplified by the 265 artists who have received AWAW Awards to date,” she said.

Unterberg started AWAW in 1996, and kept her identity hidden for more than 20 years, as a way of highlighting the anonymity of so many women in the arts. The expression is based on an observation by Virginia Woolf, who once noted that many anonymous poems turned out to be written by women. AWAW has given out nearly $7 million in grants, awarding $25,000 each to visual artist Carrie Mae Weems and Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras among many others.

Unterberg will be formally honored Oct. 17 at a MacDowell benefit in Manhattan, where Rosanne Cash is scheduled to perform.

The venerable artist retreat in Peterborough, New Hampshire, was founded in in 1907 by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife, the musician and philanthropist Marian MacDowell.

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