In a time when arts coverage is drastically shrinking across all media forms, the Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation has made a startling — and welcome — announcement.
The Maine-based, artist-endowed foundation has begun a new annual prize worth a total of $400,000 that will recognize and reward the work of visual art journalists, writers who the foundation says "play an essential role in any vibrant arts community but are too seldom acknowledged and often poorly paid."
Unlike most grants, which target writers with an academic bent, this one is for journalists who write for a general audience (this encompasses everything from reviews to blogs, and even includes part-time writers).
It's also unrestricted, meaning that each individual $50,000 award does not have to be tied to a particular project. That sum matches the highest award given by the Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation (which doles out grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000) and is five times what's awarded to Pulitzer Prize winners.
Among this first group of lucky writers is one from Dallas. Christina Rees, editor-in-chief of the online magazine Glasstire, joins seven other writers from outlets spanning the New York Times to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Founded in 2001, Glasstire is a nonprofit publication that covers visual art in Texas. Rees joined as a full-time employee in 2014, having previously served as an editor at both The Met and D Magazine, as a full-time art and music critic at the Dallas Observer, and as an art and music writer for the Village Voice and other publications. She was previously the owner and director of Road Agent gallery and the curator of Fort Worth Contemporary Arts.
Candidates for the prize were chosen by a panel of 16 nominators. Each finalist submitted writing samples, which were then judged by Lisa Gabrielle Mark, a publisher at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Paul Ha, the director of the List Visual Arts Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Walter Robinson, artist, art critic, and founding editor of artnet Magazine in New York.
“These are the brave ones, the writers who live by their work and say what they think,” says Mark in an announcement of the prize.
The inaugural eight winners are:
- Phong Bui, publisher of the Brooklyn Rail
- Charles Desmarais, art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle
- Jason Farago, writer for the New York Times and the Guardian and founding editor of the magazine Even
- Jeff Huebner, contributor to the Chicago Reader
- Bob Keyes, features writer for the Portland Press Herald, Maine
- Carolina Miranda, culture writer for the Los Angeles Times
- Christina Rees, editor-in-chief of Glasstire
- Chris Vitiello, freelance writer and independent curator and organizer in Durham, North Carolina
“Leo wanted to create a program that would encourage writers to stay in the profession and be supported and appreciated,” says Susan C. Larsen, executive director of the Rabkin Foundation, in a release.
Leo Rabkin was an artist who worked and exhibited in New York City for 60 years. His wife, Dorothea, joined with Leo to create a landmark collection of American folk and outsider art. When Leo Rabkin died in 2015 at the age of 95, he counted many of the city’s art journalists among his friends and was an avid reader of the art press.