News

Major Arts Funding Organization Leaves LA for Chicago

by Philip A Hartigan on April 9, 2014

Carolina Jayaram announcing USA's move to Chicago (photo by Dan Rest)

Carolina Jayaram announcing USA’s move to Chicago (photo by Dan Rest)

CHICAGO — United States Artists (USA), the arts funding organization founded in 2005, announced last week that it would relocate its headquarters from Los Angeles to Chicago. That comes on the heels of an announcement in January of the appointment of a new CEO.

The Chicago connection may (or may not) have something to do with the fact that the person chosen to head USA is Carolina Garcia Jayaram, formerly an executive director of the Chicago Artists Coalition, a local arts group. In interviews, Jayaram has stated that among the reasons for the organization’s relocation are Chicago’s vibrant community of artists, the presence of significant arts organizations, and a supportive ecosystem of arts professionals. The move is certainly a coup for the city, and Michelle Boone, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of Chicago, was on hand to welcome back Jayaram at a ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Every year, USA awards grants of $50,000 each to 50 artists from eight disciplines, from architecture and writing to visual art. Since 2005, 350 artists have been the lucky (OK, meritorious) recipients of this largesse, in part thanks to a nearly threefold increase in the organization’s endowment in nine years, as well as the backing of some serious philanthropists such as the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. The pattern was briefly interrupted last year, when the organization did not award any fellowships because the board was focused on finding a new CEO. “They also took that time to start envisioning the new program, which I will further refine and unveil later this year, to take effect during the 2015 cycle,” Jayaram told Hyperallergic. She has demonstrated her leadership skills already, by turning a previously unfocused organization like the Chicago Artists Coalition into a reputable advocacy group, doing everything from putting together networking evenings to starting a residency program.

Oh, and before you rush off to the website to see how you can apply for one of those grants, I should tell you that you have to be nominated by a panel of your peers. The winners of the 2014 grants will be announced later this year.

Correction, 4/9: This article previously stated that USA announced both its move and its new director last week.

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