Two Oklahomans are among 54 national artists awarded a $50,000 fellowship from United States Artists, a national grant-making and advocacy organization that recognizes innovative and influential artists in a variety of artistic endeavors.
Edgar Heap of Birds was one of eight people honored in the visual arts.
LeAnne Howe was one of six recipients in the literature category.
Fellowships also were awarded in architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, media, music and theater arts.
The awards ceremony was Sunday at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Enrolled in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Heap of Birds holds degrees in art from the University of Kansas and Temple University. He has also studied at the Royal College of Art in London, England.
A faculty member at the University of Oklahoma since 1988, Heap of Birds teaches Native American studies and fine arts where his seminars explore issues of the contemporary artist on a local, national and international basis.
“I am so very proud to be honored along with these greatly talented and gifted artists,” Heap of Birds said. “The selection represents many years of hard work from artists across America who believe in the will to express (themselves) in order to better our collective world. I look forward to utilizing these helpful funds to create new Native American public art of social justice in Vancouver and Berlin while making personal artworks via prints and paintings. The support will also allow more creative activity at my private studio in Oklahoma City.”
Howe, a member of the Choctaw Nation, teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An author, playwright and scholar, Howe has written fiction, creative nonfiction, plays, poetry and screenplays that deal primarily with American Indian experiences. She holds degrees from Oklahoma State University and Vermont College.
“I am enormously flattered and thrilled beyond words,” Howe said by phone Monday. “I'm working to create a novel, titled ‘Memoir of a Choctaw in the Arab Revolts: 1917, 2011,” about a Choctaw missionary who got involved with the 1917-era Arab revolt. I'm calling it a trans-indigenous novel for the 21st century. I'm planning a trip to Jordan to shoot some film that will be part of this e-book. It should be completed in 2013.”
Other honorees include novelist Annie Proulx, contemporary dance legend Trisha Brown and playwright/opera librettist David Henry Hwang.
The 2012 USA Fellows range in age from 31 to 81 and represent 19 states.
Since 2006, United States Artists has distributed more than $20 million, divided among 371 fellows and 500 additional artists honored through USA Projects, a Web-based microphilanthropy initiative launched in 2010.
Through a rigorous evaluation process, panels of experts in each artistic discipline selected the 54 winning artists from among 438 nominated applicants from 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Fellowships are awarded to artists at all career stages who demonstrate artistic excellence, unique artistic vision and significant contributions to their fields.
“The USA Fellows for 2012 are not only incredible artists, they also give back to their communities and engage with the most pressing social issues of our time,” said USA executive director Katharine DeShaw.