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First Micro-Philanthropy Website for Artists Launched by United States Artists

United States
USA Projects at www.unitedstatesartists.org connects people with artists and raises tax-deductible contributions for original work in the performing, visual, media, and literary arts.

Los Angeles, CA, December 7, 2010 — United States Artists, the national grant-making and advocacy organization, today announced USA Projects, a new online community where people can connect with, learn about, and support America’s greatest artists and their next creative breakthroughs. USA Projects is the first microphilanthropy site dedicated exclusively to artists living and working in the United States, where anyone can discover original projects from some of today’s most innovative artists and make tax-deductible donations to support their work.

Since the limited alpha launch of USA Projects in early May, more than 75 artists have posted diverse, impactful projects, and to date $200,000 has been pledged by more than 1,500 supporters. Participating artists include choreographers Eiko & Koma, Ronald K. Brown, and Joanna Haigood; visual artists Zoe Strauss and Charles Gaines; guitarist Bill Frisell; pipa virtuoso Wu Man; designer Stephen Burks, and theater artists Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Rhodessa Jones. Among the recently-funded and active projects:

Acclaimed photographer Catherine Opie and filmmaker Lisa Udelson are raising money to complete a documentary to raise awareness in the debate over gay marriage entitled Same Difference, based on interviews with children of same sex parents.
New York puppet artist Dan Hurlin and collaborators are seeking support for a new theater performance presenting the stories and struggles of homeless people in Santa Monica, California.

Filmmaker Heather Courtney has raised more than $5,000 to complete a documentary that follows a group of high school friends from rural Michigan who joined the National Guard to seek money for college only to be deployed for combat in Afghanistan.
Comic book author and artist Jim Woodring has raised more than $4,500 to fulfill his dream of building a giant steel tip pen for dramatic public performances.

Los Angeles furniture designer Tanya Aguiñiga raised more than $8,000 to launch Artists Helping Artisans, a collaborative to help artisans in Mexico whose craft traditions are at risk.
“United States Artists is a young, passionate organization dedicated to investing in artists and building appreciation for their innumerable contributions to society,” said USA Executive Director Katharine DeShaw. “Since 2005, we have invested $12.5 million in outstanding artists through the USA Fellows program. Now, with the launch of USA Projects, there is a dynamic online community designed to connect people with great artists and support them on a radically expanded scale.”

“I was thrilled and grateful for the funding and support I received through USA Projects,” said Philadelphia photographer and USA Gund Fellow Zoe Strauss, who exceeded her goal of $5,000 for On the Beach, a project documenting the impact of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. “Even for accomplished artists, it is so often a struggle to find funding for new creative work. USA Projects offers something new and sorely needed—it connects artists with their peers and with all the people out there who are interested in giving life to new ideas and supporting innovative artistic work.”

USA Projects encourages individual contributions to creative projects and fosters direct and ongoing interaction among artists and supporters. The site features projects in eight categories: architecture and design; crafts and traditional arts; dance; literature; media; music; theater arts; and visual arts. Each artist sets his or her own fundraising goal and deadline, and the public can browse, learn about the artists and their backgrounds, and follow or donate to any active project that inspires them. Supporters can give as little as $1 or as much as they would like and receive a tax deduction as well as exclusive project “perks” offered by participating artists. If a project does not reach its fundraising goal by the deadline set by the artist, no donations are processed and the artist does not receive any funding.

USA Projects also offers a matching fund system that gives any individual, group, organization or foundation the ability to create a matching fund, specify their criteria, and automatically identify and apply funds to appropriate projects. One of the site’s first matching funds was pioneered by visual artist Mark Bradford, a USA Broad Fellow and Board member, who donated the proceeds from the sale of one of his own paintings to launch the Artist2Artist Fund. The fund continues to grow through support from other participating artists. In total, more than $260,000 in matching funds was committed from individuals and foundations during the site’s six-month alpha phase.

“USA Projects is both a fundraising engine and a robust social network that gives artists the ability to raise money for dream projects and gives the rest of us a way to connect with them and participate in the creative process,” said Samuel Hoi, President of Otis College of Art and Design and a USA Board member. “The site leverages the democratic, accessible nature of the web but also ensures a level of quality and excellence that takes the guesswork out of crowd funding. We hope this will be a game changing tool for artists and cultural philanthropy in this country.”

All of the projects on USA Projects are reviewed and approved by experts in each artistic discipline prior to being posted for public contributions. The artists seeking funding have all been nationally recognized for the caliber and impact of their work. Eligibility is currently open to honorees and grantees from 46 esteemed international and national organizations, including the USA Fellows program, and additional qualifying organizations will be added on an ongoing basis. Partner organizations include Creative Capital, National Performance Network (NPN), National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC), Penland School of Crafts, Austin Film Society, the Pollack-Krasner Foundation, and the California Community Foundation. Seed funding for USA Projects was provided by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

USA Fellows Announcement and Event Broadcast

The debut of the USA Projects beta site, integrated into the new United States Artists website, coincides with the announcement tonight of the 2010 USA Fellows and the organization’s fifth anniversary. A media briefing about USA Projects will take place starting at 6 pm EST, followed by the USA Fellows celebration and performance at 8 pm EST. The public and the press can follow the live stream broadcast at: http://unitedstatesartists.org/2010event

About United States Artists

The Los Angeles-based United States Artists was founded in 2005 with a mission to invest in America’s finest artists and illuminate their value to society. Prompted by a pivotal Urban Institute study showing that while 96% of Americans appreciate the arts, only 27% believe that artists contribute to the good of society, four leading foundations—Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Prudential Foundation, and the Rasmuson Foundation—contributed $22 million to establish USA as a sustainable nationwide funding source for living artists.

Through the USA Fellows program, which annually awards 50 unrestricted grants of $50,000 to outstanding performing, visual, media, and literary artists across the country, USA has put $12.5 million in the hands of artists in just five years. Past recipients of USA Fellowships include visual artists Kara Walker and Catherine Opie, cartoonist Chris Ware, designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy (of Rodarte), performing artist Meredith Monk, jazz composer Jason Moran, ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and the writer Sapphire.
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