Since 2006, the Wynn Newhouse Awards have provided financial support for fine artists with disabilities with the intention of helping them to move forward in their careers. More than 35 artists were nominated this year with eight being selected for the award which comes in the form of a monetary grant.
The artists represent a variety of disciplines but share the common ground of giving their disabilities a place in their body of work. This year’s winners are Painter Chuck Bowdish, Photographer and Mixed media Artist Laura Swanson, Sculptor Robin Antar, Painter Martin Cohen, Illustrator Laura Ferguson, Collage artist Alexis Mackenzie, Mixed media artist Katherine Sherwood, and Filmmaker Jennifer Lauren Smith.
Each artist’s particular disability effects his or her work in very specific ways. For example, as a result of Antar’s retrolental fibroplasia, the artist explained, “I am blind in one eye, my left eye is in jeopardy of sight loss as well. If I lift heavy objects, such as the stones I use to sculpt, I risk losing sight in my left eye due to the strain and pressure, which could cause a detached retina as well.
Antar is among those who found peace and promise in art and ultimately turned that salvation into a career.
“Art gave me strength to survive the torment I underwent growing up with peers who not only laughed at me but physically hit me to the point of breaking my eyeglasses when I was six years old,” Antar said. “I turned to art for solace. I transfer my thoughts and ideas into forms made from solid stone.”
Judges for this year’s awards were J. David Farmer, director of Dahesh Museum; Mark Parsons, an artist with Pratt Institute; Kathryn Price, curator for the Williams College Museum of Art; and Ealan Wingate, director of Gagosian Gallery.
More About the Awards
An avid art collector and music lover, Wynn Newhouse conceived the Wynn Newhouse Awards in 2005 with the agenda of bestowing grants on fine artists with disabilities, helping them to move forward in their careers, to draw attention to their work and to the impressive work being done by those with disabilities. The awards were then established by the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation in 2006.
According to the Foundation, in order to be eligible, candidates must be fine artists of professional standing with a disability recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act, they must have a dedicated website showing examples of their work and they must be nominated.
The foundation allocates $60,000 per year for the awards and distributes the funds among the winners at the discretion of five invited judges from the arts and disabilities communities.
More About Wynn Newhouse
Wynn Newhouse was an extraordinary individual who dedicated his life to the betterment of others’. Newhouse lost the functional use of one hand in an accident when he was a young man and was then diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis later in life. As he came to learn more about others’ negative perceptions of those with disabilities he set out on a quest to correct public opinion via several programs designed to nurture the talent of those with disabilities.
His dedicated work included a partnership with para-Olympic athletes to build high-tech sports equipment for disabled athletes; and a program that enabled disabled youths in Boston to participate in more than 50 arts, recreational, learning and sports programs from which they were previously excluded.
Wynn Newhouse passed away in 2010 but the program will continue through 2016 in his memory.