Portland Media Artist Dmae Roberts Is Among First to Receive
$50,000 Fellowship from United States Artists

The 2006 USA Fellowships, Announced Today, Support Living Artists Across the Country


NEW YORK, NY, December 4, 2006 – Dmae Roberts, a radio artist from Portland, OR, is one of the first artists nationwide to win a USA Fellowship from United States Artists (USA), it was announced today. As a USA Rockefeller Fellow, Ms. Roberts will receive an unrestricted grant of $50,000 to support her creative work. In its inaugural year United States Artists will award 50 USA Fellowships to a total of 54 artists, with four fellowships recognizing artists’ collaborations. The winners were selected by expert panels from among 300 applicants representing every artistic discipline and 43 states. USA is a new organization dedicated to providing direct support for living artists as an investment in the nation’s creativity. Ms. Roberts is one of only six media artists to be named a USA Fellow this year and among three from Oregon.

For a complete list, click here.

Photo: Roberts with board member Danny Glover

Dmae Roberts is an award-winning independent radio artist and writer who has written and produced more than 400 audio art pieces and documentaries for NPR and PRI programs. Her work is often autobiographical or about cross-cultural peoples and is informed by her biracial identity and her experiences growing up in the only interracial family in a small town in rural Oregon.  Her Peabody award-winning documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song is a harrowing account of her mother’s childhood in Taiwan during WWII.  Roberts has most recently completed the eight-hour Crossing East, the first radio series on Asian American history which aired on more than 210 public radio sttaions around the country. She is the executive producer of MediaRites, a nonprofit organization dedicated to multicultural arts production in radio, theater, and educational outreach.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
“USA’s goal is to fuel innovation in our culture by investing in creativity at its source: our nation’s finest artists,” said Susan V. Berresford, USA board chair and president of the Ford Foundation. “Our 2006 USA Fellows represent the full spectrum of artistic excellence and broad array of talent that abounds in all US communities. This is exactly what we hoped to achieve when we founded this program. It is what USA, with its multidisciplinary scope and national reach, is designed to recognize.”

The 2006 USA Fellows was honored at a special event, hosted by arts leaders and philanthropists Eli Broad and Agnes Gund at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and Actor/Director and Philanthropist Leonard Nimoy made special appearances. Target, Katherine Farley and Jerry I. Speyer, and American Airlines provided generous underwriting for the celebration.

Through a nomination process, the USA Fellowships are open to the more than 2 million artists living in the United States. The program supports artists in all career stages, including emerging artists and those at mid-career, as well as individuals who have achieved master status. Fellowships are given annually across a broad array of disciplines, including architecture and design; crafts and traditional arts; dance; literature (fiction, non-fiction, poetry); media (audio, film, radio, video); music; theater arts, and the visual arts.

Some background:

USA’s formation was prompted by the Urban Institute’s breakthrough 2003 study, Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structures for U.S. Artists. This research found that, while 96% of Americans appreciate the arts, only 27% believe that artists contribute to the good of society. In addition, the study reported the median reported income for artists from their artistic work was only $5,000 and that more than half of America’s 2 million artists pay for their own health insurance. This data and other studies show that, despite these economic challenges, artists in fact contribute directly to advancements in the education of young people, the development of a competitive creative economy, and the revitalization of the nation’s neighborhoods and urban centers.

In response to these findings, The Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Prudential Foundation, and the Rasmuson Foundation contributed a total of $20 million to establish USA as a structure through which private philanthropists, corporate donors and other foundations can support individual artists. Due to seed funding from the four founding foundations, 100% of future donor contributions will directly support artists. In recent months an additional $2.5 million has been raised to support USA. Arts patrons Agnes Gund of New York, Eli and Edythe Broad of Los Angeles, the Todd Simon Foundation of Nebraska, Ella Cisneros of Miami and Target of Minneapolis have already agreed to underwrite and name USA Fellowships this year and in years to come. The USA Fellowship program is envisioned as a program that would ultimately be endowed by donors to operate in perpetuity through income generated by a permanent endowment USA will establish.

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