Columbia High School Alum and Former Teacher Bisa Butler Named United States Artists Fellow

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Columbia High School Hall of Famer Bisa Butler has been named one of 60 United States Artists Fellows for 2021. Fellowships are $50,000 unrestricted awards that recognize artists for “their contributions to the field and allow them to decide how to best support their lives.” Fellows this year span “every career stage and hailing from 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.”

The 2021 USA Fellows are “the storytellers, shapemakers, movement builders, and culture bearers practicing today” and represent disciplines from art to architecture, design, craft, film, dance, media, music, theater and more. Since USA’s founding, the organization has awarded more than $33 million to more than 700 artists through fellowship programs.

Butler has seen her rising star burning brighter than ever in recent years, with a Time magazine special series cover, multiple exhibits, major museum purchases of her work, and her first major solo exhibit at the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Her success as an artist allowed Butler to retire from teaching at CHS in recent years; Butler earned a Masters of Art in Teaching from Montclair State University in 2005, after graduating Cum Laude from Howard University with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art.

Butler announced the fellowship on her Facebook page where she thanked numerous people: “Thank you to the staff, board, and incredibly generous donors at United States Artists. You all have made a light in times that can seem dark. Thanks to my husband John Butler, my daughters Temi and Santi, my fatherZack Yamba, my sisters Soukaina Yamba Barnes and Lae Morris, and my brother in law Levi Barnes. A super big thank you goes to my gallerist Claire Oliver for all of the hard work she does. Thanks to all of you for supporting me and believing in what I am doing. It is a blessing to be able to make things that people like and I am forever grateful.”

More about United States Artists:

In 2003, the Urban Institute conducted a study which revealed that 96% of Americans valued art in their lives, while only 27% valued artists.* Motivated by the study and in response to the NEA’s severe budget cuts, four inspiring leaders of the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson, and Prudential Foundations spearheaded the launch of an organization to illuminate the value of artists to American society and address their economic challenges. Originally established in Los Angeles by Founding CEO Katharine DeShaw in 2006, we moved our headquarters to Chicago in 2014 under the leadership of Carolina García Jayaram. In 2017, Deana Haggag was named President & CEO and today, we continue to operate from Chicago with some remote staff working from Baltimore and New York.

Since our founding, we have awarded more than 600 artists and cultural practitioners with over $30 million of direct support in all disciplines including Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing. With this unrestricted award, recipients decide for themselves how to best use the money – whether it is creating new work, paying rent, reducing debt, getting healthcare, or supporting their families. To make our work possible, we actively fundraise each year and are supported by a broad range of philanthropic foundations, companies, and individuals committed to cultivating contemporary culture in the United States. Additionally, we work annually with select nominators, panelists, and our Board of Trustees to determine each year’s class of awardees. It is through the intersection of these relationships and in the spirit of collaboration that we are honored to support the country’s most compelling artists and cultural practitioners.

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