The United States Artists (USA) announced its 2022 Class of Fellows today. Last year, the class was the largest it has ever been, and this year, the cohort is even larger. 63 artists have received USA fellowships to continue their artistic practice.
The fellows will receive $50,000 unrestricted awards to use however they see fit to support their artistic work, whether that is through direct investment in artistic materials or covering other necessities to give them the time and space to work on their art. The categories in which the artist work are Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, and Visual Art, and Writing.
Past recipients include Kara Walker, Alexander Chee, Theaster Gates, Nick Cave, Ocean Vuong, and Claudia Rankine. This year’s cohort come from 23 different states and Puerto Rico.
This year, USA has chosen six writing fellows to award: Chen Chen, Leroy F. Moore Jr., Dawn Lundy Martin, Kiese Laymon, Emmy Pérez, and Grace Talusan.
The 2022 USA Fellows Reading List
In his debut book of poetry, Chen takes on the complicated issues around love and family. He also processes his experiences as a queer Asian American immigrant and how it affects his view on grief, joy, and identity. Chen’s deft writing gained major awards attention: this debut was longlisted for the National Book Award and won the Thom Gunn Award.
Black Disabled Art History 101 by Leroy F. Moore Jr.
Leroy F. Moore Jr. works as a writer, activist, and music archivist and also the chair of the Black Disability Studies Committee for the National Black Disability Coalition. He does a lot of work to support artists with disabilities, and this book is a children’s book that Moore wishes he’d had growing up to help him see that artists can come from anywhere. He chronicles the history of important artists throughout history who had disabilities, from blues singers to graffiti artists.
Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life by Dawn Lundy Martin
The winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry, this poetry collection interrogates how language shapes our experiences and how to build new narratives for ourselves. Martin pulls in language from past racist texts and breaks them down with her own perspective. This is a collection that rewards multiple reads because of its deep, complex approach.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
Kiese Laymon’s essay collection tracks his experiences growing up in Jackson, Mississippi. His essays are deeply personal and take on a variety of traumatic, life-changing topics. In addition to these personal explorations, he takes on the failures of American society in how it pushes progress at the expense of reckoning with the past.
Solstice by Emmy Pérez
Emmy Pérez is the 2020 Texas Poet Laureate, and it’s clear how resonant her work is from this 2003 poetry collection. Her poems bring in strong imagery as well as a touch of mystery and surrealism. She muses on the natural world and its connection to the cycles of the body. Her exploration of the world through poetry is wide, from personal issues and how our environments affect us.
The Body Papers by Grace Talusan
Grace Talusan was born in the Philippines and grew up in a suburb of New England. She suffered abuse in her childhood, and discovered a longer history of abuse in her family. In her adulthood, she is diagnosed with cancer and continues to deal with the reverberating effects of family trauma. However, she does not mean to hammer her family: she returns to the Philippines and finds hope in her family’s history of strength.
The themes of this year’s writers are wide, but many of them do focus on the experience of growing up in America in a marginalized community. All of these writers have a vested interest in tackling American history in a nuanced way.
Overall, USA is working to widening their pool of artists from all backgrounds. This year’s cohort includes the largest percentage of Native and Indigenous artists, as well as artists with disabilities, in the organization’s history. As USA continues to grow and affirm the essential role of art in our society, it’s exciting to see what kind of voices they will be able to lift up.