Americans for the Arts announces today the inaugural Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. The new annual fellowship celebrates the legacy and work of the late Robert Leroy “Yankee” Johnson, who served as the first executive director of the King County Arts Commission and is widely credited with having laid the groundwork for the Pacific Northwest’s thriving public arts scene through the establishment of King County’s percent for art program. An accomplished musician and writer in his private life, Yankee and his late wife, Laurel Lee Johnson, both believed that artists, when given the opportunity, can create real paths for change. The fellowship, which offers $75,000 in support for one year to an annually selected recipient, is supported by the generosity of the Laurel and Yankee Johnson Trust.
Americans for the Arts also announces that Los Angeles-based artist and designer Tanya Aguiñiga has been selected as the inaugural fellow. The $75,000 award will support her ongoing creative work in communities over 2018. Aguiñiga uses craft as a performative medium to generate dialogues about identity, culture, and gender while creating community.
Raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Aguiñiga crossed the border every day to receive an education in the United States. Her formative years as an artist were spent as part of the Border Arts Workshop, a community of artists that addressed border issues. Through a community partnership she developed, Aguiñiga co-built and ran a community center. There she taught art classes, managed grant funding, and built a sculpture school and cemetery.
After leaving the Border Arts workshop, Aguiñiga worked with indigenous communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca, native peoples in Alaska, and underserved urban communities in Los Angeles. Yet, the experience of growing up as a binational citizen kept coming back to her work. To give a voice to the community that continues to cross daily despite stigma and discrimination, Aguiñiga founded Art Made Between Opposite Sides (AMBOS). AMBOS’s goal is to unite the community of people who cross the U.S./Mexico border every day through art, creating a greater sense of interconnectedness while simultaneously documenting the border. By connecting with local artists, activists, and makers in the border region, AMBOS is working to capture an accurate representation of the sister cities and communities on both sides.
Aguiñiga was a Creative Capital award recipient in 2016; a recipient of a grant from the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures Fund for the Arts in 2015; and designated as a United States Artists Target Fellow in the field of crafts and traditional arts. She holds an MFA in furniture design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA from San Diego State University.
“Yankee and Laurel Johnson through their generosity have helped Americans for the Arts create a living legacy tribute to their love of art and artists through this annual award. With boundless energy, creativity and dedication, Tanya Aguiñiga, our first Johnson Fellowship recipient, has made a positive and meaningful difference to inspire, inform, engage, challenge, animate, and celebrate communities through arts and culture. I congratulate her for this well-deserved recognition and look forward to seeing her work throughout this year,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.
A six-person selection committee reviewed 18 artists who were nominated for the Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities by 10 fellow artists and arts professionals. More information on the artists and committees is available on the Johnson Fellowship page
Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of more than 55 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.