2018 Johnson Fellow

TANYA AGUIÑIGA (Los Angeles, CA) Recipient of the 2018 Fellowship is Los Angeles-based artist, Tanya Aguiñiga. Tanya’s work helps others understand the lived experience of the contested US-Mexico border, drawing from her own experience as U.S. born but growing up in Tijuana and crossing the border daily to go to school in the U.S.  Her participation in AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides) demonstrates her interests in the power of community and identity.  AMBOS is a series of artists’ projects implemented in August 2017 created to “recontextualize borders and generate a localized hub for international collaboration.” Tanya recorded the experiences of those traveling across the border to the north every day through the use of a quipu, the Andean Pre-Columbian organizational system.  Commuters on the Mexican side were given two strands of thread and asked to anonymously tie them into a knot.  ‘The strands represent the US and Mexico’s relationship to one another.  Each knot was tied to other knots.  The cumulative daily bundled knots were then organized into a large-scale quipu artwork and displayed on a billboard above the AMBOS storefront hub.  http://www.tanyaaguiniga.com

Read the press release announcing the 2018 Johnson Fellowship recipient.

About the Fellowship

At Americans for the Arts, we believe that artists have a profound capacity to transform America’s communities. Across the nation, through their work in neighborhoods, schools, community settings, and with other sectors, they are fostering cultural expressions that broaden perspectives on issues and help envision new possibilities. Artists are partnering with Local Arts Agencies and others to solve problems, bridge divides, and build leadership, capacity, and public will to participate in civic life. The $75,000 all-inclusive annual award honors an individual artist who demonstrates a sustained commitment to civic participation through his/her work, and who has made a positive and meaningful difference to inspire, inform, engage, challenge, animate, and celebrate communities through arts and culture.

The award provides the Fellow with time to pursue his/her creative work in communities. Additionally, it provides national opportunity for each Fellow to reflect upon and discuss the role of the artist in transforming America’s communities with Americans for the Arts’ constituents and publics through a combination of speaking, writing, and other engagement opportunities.

The Johnson Fellowship was arranged by former Americans for the Arts board member Jerry Allen, for whom Mr. Johnson was a mentor. A nomination and selection process chooses the inaugural Artist Fellow.

A diverse group of 10 nominators including artists, public art professionals, local arts agencies, and others who work with artists, such as artist service or support organizations generate a pool of prospects. Nominators are asked to look regionally and nationally, as well as in their own community.

A separate Selection Committee including both Americans for the Arts and outside people reviews the pool of nominated artists and select two finalists.  Following finalists’ visits to Americans for the Arts and input from staff, the Selection Committee makes the final choice.

Robert Leroy "Yankee" Johnson, the first executive director of the King County Arts Commission, is credited with laying the groundwork for the Northwest's thriving public arts scene. He served as commission director from 1972 to 1980 and was best known for establishing King County's one percent for the arts policy. Enacted in 1973, it was one of the first programs in the country to set aside a portion of the county's capital-improvement budget specifically for public art.  Born and raised in Schenectady, NY, and a graduate of Kansas State University, he lived a life grounded in the arts. He was an accomplished trumpet player and a published writer. He and his wife, Laurel, founded Skid Road Theater in Seattle. Empowered by the thought that the public and the government could actively work together to support culture, he took the King County job and control over a fledgling department with a $40,000 budget. By 1979, he had established the International Earthworks Symposium. Artists from around the world were invited to Seattle and asked to incorporate art into rehabilitating huge tracts of local land that had been "ravaged by technology." The symposium resulted in the Robert Morris Earthwork in SeaTac, a terraced viewpoint that was formerly an abandoned gravel quarry, and Herbert Bayer Park in Kent.