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Governor Northam and VMFA Announce Recipients of Artist Relief Grants

Governor Ralph Northam, First Lady Pamela Northam, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director and CEO Alex Nyerges have announced that 40 Virginia artists will receive $5,000 grants through a special program to help visual artists impacted by COVID-19. The Virginia Artist Relief Fellowship Program, which launched in June, will distribute a total of $200,000 in funding.

“Art has a profound way of inspiring, healing, and providing meaning during challenging times—and we need that now more than ever,” said Governor Northam. “These artists hail from more than twenty Virginia cities and towns, and their different backgrounds and talents reflect the tremendous diversity of our Commonwealth. Pam and I are proud to join forces with VMFA amid this pandemic and support their important work.”

“Artists’ livelihoods and their ability to continue making art have been directly impacted by cancelled exhibitions and gallery and museum closures as a result of the pandemic,” said Alex Nyerges. “We sought to use resources we have available to help sustain artists in Virginia through this critical time.”

The Virginia Artist Relief Fellowship Program grant recipients include:

Emine Sermin Ciddi (Alexandria)
Veronica Jackson (Bedford)
Mojdeh Rezaeipour (Burke)
Tina Curtis (Charlottesville)
Eliza Lamb (Chester)
Nikki Painter (Chesterfield)
Jordan Shanks (Chesterfield)
Alfonso Perez Acosta (Chesterfield)
Michael Childers (Fairfax)
Soomin Ham (Fairfax)
Jun Lee (Falls Church)
Wendy Werstlein (Floyd)
Lorie McCown (Fredericksburg)
Sandy Williams IV (Glen Allen)
Kemi Layeni (Hampton)
Ethan Brown (King William)
Noah Velez (Leesburg)
Scot Turner (Newport News)
Kimberly McKinnis (Norfolk)
Khalil Riddick (Norfolk)
S. Ross Browne (Richmond)
Hamilton Glass (Richmond)
Alicia Little (Richmond)
Jaydan Moore (Richmond)
Barry O’Keefe (Richmond)
Eva Rocha (Richmond)
Ricardo Vicente Jose Ruiz (Richmond)
Leigh Suggs (Richmond)
Luis Vasquez (Richmond)
Kendra Wadsworth (Richmond)
Susan Jamison (Roanoke)
Suzanne Stevens (Virginia Beach)
Nastassja Swift (Virginia Beach)
Steve Prince (Williamsburg)

Six other artists, who asked not to be named, from Charlottesville, Centerville, Lynchburg, Monroe, Richmond, and Roanoke rounded out the list of grant recipients.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) received more than 350 applications for this program. Recipients were selected by a jury made up of three VMFA staff members: Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; Natasha Campbell, head of the museum’s fellowship program; and Jeffrey Allison, head of statewide programs.

“I truly believe that any available financial support would be invaluable and meaningful to me—not only to make my ongoing pursuits possible, but also to uphold my positive spirit to get through this difficult time,” said Soomin Ham, Fairfax artist and grant recipient.

“This fellowship becomes even more critical for me, and conversely this nation, to be able to continue creating work that addresses the damaging social issues and operatively working to create a more just and equal society,” said Steve Prince, Williamsburg artist and grant recipient.

The Virginia Artist Relief Fellowship Program is funded utilizing the accrued excess balance of the museum’s existing Artist Fellowship Endowment established in 1941 through a generous gift made by the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Pratt stipulated that the funds be used to support professional artists as well as art and art history students in the Commonwealth and not for other purposes. Through this endowment, VMFA has awarded nearly $5.8 million to Virginia artists in the Commonwealth over the past 80 years.

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