Starting next year, the Bush Foundation will select three artists every year to receive an Enduring Vision Award. Each artist will get $100,000, spread out over a period of three to five years, depending on the situation.
Julie Dalgleish, director of the Bush Artist Fellows Program, says a recent survey pointed out an increasing need to support older artists.
"Baby boomers have arrived, and there are that many more older artists," she says. "There's this transition that occurs just because of this very large group that has aged."
Dalgleish says ideally the Enduring Vision Awards will allow artists to jump-start their creativity, or maybe even take a break to create an archive of their work. She says Minnesota is home to many foundations, but few of them aim their support at older artists.
"There's a certain excitement in the work of a young artist. I think the leaps in their work are very obvious," Dalgleish says. "With an older artist, those leaps are more subtle. Once they've been working for 25 or 30 years, the way the work evolves is more evolutionary rather than revolutionary."
Not only are the new Bush awards unusual in targeting older artists. Bush is also one of the few foundations still willing to support individual artists.
Douglas McLennan, editor of ArtsJournal.com, a Web site that follows issues and trends in the arts, says foundations began moving away from individual support about 20 years ago.
"During the late '80s and early '90s, during the culture wars, there were some controversial grants made to artists," McLennan says. "That opened up all sorts of political things around giving money directly to artists, so I think a lot of funders just prefer not to be in that business."
They don't want to take the risk, he says. For that reason, McLennan considers the new, large Bush Foundation awards to individuals "a pretty great thing."
Unlike most sizable grant programs, the Enduring Vision Awards allow artists to nominate themselves for consideration, rather than rely on someone else's nomination.
As an artist who got his start in the late 1960s, composer, musician and instrument builder Douglas Ewart will be eligible to apply for an Enduring Vision Award. He says he couldn't be where he is today without the guidance of older artists. Ewart says it's important to support artists who've remained committed to their work over an extended period of time.
"Some aspects of your development you simply cannot attain until you've been through the fire," he says. "Some of my most productive and imaginative work is taking place right now."
Ewart says he's glad the grants are spread out over three to five years, because they will create a safety net and a sense of stability that will enable artists to take on bigger projects and bigger risks.
The Bush Foundation will accept applications for the new Enduring Vision Awards beginning this fall. It will give out the first awards in the spring of 2008.