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Susan Unterberg, Founder of Anonymous Was A Woman, Honored with Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award

- August 15, 2022

Type: Press Releases, Events

Susan Unterberg. Photo courtesy of Anonymous Was A Woman.

Susan Unterberg. Photo courtesy of Anonymous Was A Woman. (Anonymous Was a Woman photo)

Award highlights MacDowell Fellow and visual artist’s generous support of women-identifying artists and will be presented by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and 2021 Edward MacDowell Medalist, Rosanne Cash, during October 17 celebration. Evening to feature works by artists supported by MacDowell and Anonymous Was A Woman, and an online auction.

Visual artist, MacDowell Fellow, and founder and funder of Anonymous Was A Woman, Susan Unterberg, will receive the 2022 Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award during MacDowell’s National Benefit on October 17 at New York’s Ziegfeld Ballroom. The celebration will feature presentations from MacDowell Fellows in theater, poetry, film, and music, and presenting the award to Unterberg will be special guest and 2021 Edward MacDowell Medalist in Composition, Rosanne Cash, who will also perform a closing song for the evening.

In 1996, when the National Endowment for the Arts ended grants for individuals, Unterberg started the Anonymous Was A Woman program, providing unrestricted grants to women-identifying artists over the age of 40—and, for more than 20 years, kept her identity as its primary funder secret. To date, almost $7 million has been awarded in $25,000 grants to 265 artists. In 2018, Unterberg revealed her identity so she could openly advocate for women artists and, according to The New York Times, “demonstrate the importance of women supporting women and try to inspire other philanthropists.” Anonymous Was A Woman has since expanded its support of women-identifying artists. In 2020, partnering with the New York Foundation for the Arts, the organization gave an additional $250,000 in COVID-19 relief grants, and in early 2022, announced new grants totaling $250,000 for environmental art projects by women-identifying artists.

“It is an honor to be recognized by MacDowell, especially in relation to the amazing legacy of Marian MacDowell," said Unterberg. "As an artist, I am very aware of the challenges faced by mid-career artists, especially women, and I celebrate the support provided by places like MacDowell, which give artists time, space, and recognition. I have been lucky to have attended MacDowell twice, so I know firsthand how wonderful it is, and am still appreciative of the inspiring community I encountered there. Marian MacDowell’s commitment to direct support for artists is an inspiration, one which I think many more philanthropists should take to heart. Direct support is what most effectively impacts artists and our work; I am thankful to be recognized in contributing to this support, which is best exemplified by the 265 artists who have received AWAW Awards to date.”

“Susan Unterberg shares the vision that Marian MacDowell brought to fruition in Peterborough, NH, when the Mears sisters and Achsah Brewster became the first artists—women all—supported by MacDowell residencies more than a century ago,” said MacDowell Executive Director Philip Himberg. “It is especially gratifying for us that we can welcome last year’s Edward MacDowell Medalist, Rosanne Cash, as a special guest as we highlight the great talents that have been supported by both Anonymous Was A Woman and MacDowell.”

The list of individuals supported by both organizations is long, and includes Torkwase Dyson, Nina Katchadourian, Autumn Knight, Zoe Leonard, Howardena Pindell, Laura Poitras, Cecilia Vicuña, Carrie Mae Weems, and many more groundbreaking artists. A selection of works created by artists who have received the support of both MacDowell and Anonymous Was A Woman will be on display during MacDowell’s benefit evening.

The Marian MacDowell Arts Advocacy Award was created to honor those who profoundly and uniquely support artists, aligning with our founder Marian MacDowell’s legacy and her championship of artists as they create bold new works that spark our imagination, illuminate our world, and celebrate our humanity. This year’s award is being supported by Musa and Tom Mayer, who have been involved since its inaugural year, which was also supported by Agnes Gund. In 2020, the inaugural Marian MacDowell award was bestowed on Ava DuVernay’s media collective ARRAY, and in 2021 it was awarded to youth literary arts organization Urban Word.

Unterberg will receive the award during an evening that will feature a program of works illustrating the breadth of creativity supported on the 450-acre wooded grounds of MacDowell in New Hampshire. A public online auction will take place throughout to raise critical operating funds for the 115-year-old organization. Items will represent the creativity that MacDowell engenders and range in prices to allow broad participation. This is MacDowell’s first in-person National Benefit since 2019.

For tickets and table sponsorship opportunities, visit our benefit webpage. Join the conversation with #MarianMacDowellAward.

Other MacDowell Fellows who have benefitted from support from Anonymous Was A Woman include Polly Apfelbaum, Tomie Arai, Dotty Attie, Miriam Beerman, Cindy Bernard, Nancy Bowen, Marsha Cottrell, Nancy Davidson, Ellen Driscoll, Heide Fasnacht, Rochelle Feinstein, Judy Fox, Suzan Frecon, Kathy Grove, Harmony Hammond, Maren Hassinger, Sharon Hayes, Elana Herzog, Margaret Honda, Sharon Horvath, Nene Humphrey, Pamela Lins, Medrie MacPhee, Sarah McEneaney, Jennifer Montgomery, Carrie Moyer, and Lorraine O’Grady.

Susan Unterberg works primarily in the photographic medium, most recently manifesting as digital photocollages and artist books that take into account contemporary politics. Her work has encompassed video installation, book form, and large- and small-format color prints. She has been represented by the Lawrence Miller Gallery, and later Yancey Richardson Gallery, both in New York. Her work has been exhibited broadly in the U.S. and abroad, with dedicated shows at the Stephen Wirtz gallery in San Francisco, Nichido Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and at such institutions as the New Museum and a retrospective at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. Unterberg is represented in the major public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Jewish Museum, all in New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Djerassi Artists Program, the American Academy in Rome, and Bogliasco. In 2019 she was awarded NYU’s Distinguished Alumni Award and was honored at the Skowhegan Awards Dinner; and in 2020 Art Table awarded her for Distinguished Service to the Visual Arts and she was awarded Moore College of Art and Design’s Visionary Award. In 2022, New York University’s Steinhardt Gallery presented a solo exhibition of Unterberg’s work.

Anonymous Was A Woman is an unrestricted grant of $25,000 awarded each year to ten woman-identifying artists over the age of 40 and at a critical junction in their career. The name of the grant program refers to a line in Virginia Woolf’s "A Room of One’s Own." The award was begun in 1996 in response to the decision of the National Endowment of the Arts to cease support of individual artists. To date, Anonymous Was A Woman has awarded almost $7 million to 265 artists.