Black Visual Arts Grant

Funded by
Maggie Kyle
Learn more about the Donor
1 winner
Application Deadline
Dec 15, 2020
Winners Announced
Jan 31, 2021
Education Level
Graduate, Undergraduate
Eligibility Requirements

Art reflects the culture of the times across every dimension. The famous works of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Picasso’s Guernica, and Shepard Fairey’s Hope are visual narratives of science, religion, war, and politics respectively.

To learn about new cultures, we visit their artwork and architecture and learn through the eyes of artists. However, as with the examples listed above, we are disproportionately learning through the eyes of white artists. Williams College recently conducted a study on the diversity of artist collections in US museums and revealed 85% of the artists are white, while only 1.2% are Black.

Black artists aren’t only underrepresented throughout history. Today, 8% of visual artists are Black, while only 4% of art graduates are Black. Art, as we know it, does not provide comprehensive cultural narrative until it includes more Black artists.

This grant is for a Black student pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in studio and/or visual arts.

Diversity and Inclusion
Selection Criteria:
Visual Art Portfolio
Essay Topic

Through a short essay and portfolio submission, please share how your work as a visual artist intersects with culture.

500–1000 words

Winning Application

Nneka Jones
The University of TampaTampa, FL
The Caribbean is often praised for and advertised as the stereotypical “tropical paradise” and a “worry-free” destination. However, as a Trinidadian woman and activist artist, my artwork actively addresses the social and political issues affecting the Caribbean society, specifically women and girls. This is not only influenced by the cultural experiences I have had while in Trinidad but also in the United States. My work is done with the purpose of raising awareness about the rise in sexual abuse through human trafficking and highlighting that the majority of victims are people of color. Throughout history, people of color, particularly young black girls are brought up with the culture of being muted and forced to stay quiet, particularly in uncomfortable situation. As an activist artist, I create contemporary works of art that shatter the walls created by this tainted, “silence culture” and instead, I bring awareness to and act as a voice for those who are unable and unwilling to speak up and speak out. My recent series, “Targets” combines symbolism and realism to address the sexual exploitation of minors, particularly young girls of color. The symbolism is explored through the use of condoms and the creation of a target pattern where a young, innocent girl is surrounded by hundreds of condoms and creates a juxtaposition that evokes emotions or some response from the viewer, initiating conversations about sexual abuse and sex trafficking. It has become a cultural norm to sexualize young girls, specifically young black girls, stripping away their innocence and ability to enjoy their childhood. Others that are unaffected have turned a blind eye or feel uncomfortable speaking out about issues like this with fear of losing their social status, jobs, friends and even family members. My work desires to capture the attention of the viewer immediately and go beyond simply being a piece of art that exists in a space for aesthetic pleasure. It requires the individual to reflect within themselves and amongst others. It acts as a prompt for these taboo conversations and helps to implement change. Not only do I work in condoms, but also discovered my love for embroidery in 2018 and have since been exploring ways in which I can turn “grandma’s long-time hobby” into a contemporary call for action. My hand embroidered series, “Targets Variegated”, expands on “Targets” by capturing a wider age range for women and girls. While the subject matter of sex trafficking is often associated with young girls, the series reassures that it is not only limited to children. The range of hand sewn portraits and use of the target symbol reinforces the reality that anyone can become a victim at any age. As my work evolves, I am reminded of my purpose for creating and how it has molded me as an artist and activist. For the sake of the Caribbean society and reshaping Trinidadian culture as well as other cultures around the world, it is important for me as a Trinidadian woman of color to raise awareness about topics such as sexual abuse and sex trafficking in an attempt to bring about social change. Through each series and their captivating imagery and symbolism, I hope that this is a call to action for everyone to become aware of sex trafficking and stand up against it. Art is a universal language that allows us to feel without using any words. My hope is that my portraits are able to capture the innocence and pain of these young victims, forcing a change of heart and a stand for what is right. This is not only necessary for issues such as sexual abuse but other social injustices like racism, colorism, police brutality, etc.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Dec 15, 2020. Winners will be announced on Jan 31, 2021.

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