From the organizers of the Bennett Prize:
The Bennett Prize, the largest ever offered solely to women painters, was announced today by art collectors Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt, who are endowing the $50,000 biennial prize at The Pittsburgh Foundation.
The prize will spotlight women artists who paint in the figurative realist style, and who have not yet reached full professional recognition — both new artists and those who have painted for many years. It will allow the winner to create her own solo exhibition of figurative realist paintings, which will first be shown at the Muskegon (Michigan) Museum of Art, and then travel the country. The prize is designed for women artists who are, or seek to become, full-time professional painters.
The Bennett Prize also aims to expand opportunities for the public to learn more about the creative vision of talented women painters in the increasingly popular style of figurative realism.
“We are excited to announce The Bennett Prize at a time when women are creating important figurative realist paintings that should be seen by a wider audience,” Bennett said. “Figurative realist painting features the human form in all of its diversity. It has an important role to play in a society struggling to understand human differences and commonalities, including race, gender, and social status.”
Steven Bennett and Elaine Schmidt, of San Antonio, Texas, have endowed a $3 million fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation to ensure that the prize will be awarded every two years in perpetuity. The Bennetts were referred to The Pittsburgh Foundation, specifically to the Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy, where donors, staff and community experts develop innovative new projects.
“The Bennett Prize is a perfect example of how community foundations can help philanthropists take an idea from incubation to reality,” said Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King. “Steven and Elaine were familiar with our history of funding individual artists, particularly those whose work and unique points of view might otherwise be overlooked. By endowing the prize at The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Bennetts have created a permanent mechanism for supporting and elevating the work of women painters.”
A four-member jury, including renowned realist artists Maria Tomasula and Andrea Kowch, will select 10 painters from among the entrants. The 10 finalists will each receive $1,000 to participate in an exhibition opening May 2, 2019 at the Muskegon Museum of Art, where the winner will be announced.
“The beauty of this prize is in the extended significance of its effects: not only will it recognize recipients’ past achievement, it will also help foster their future accomplishment,” said artist and juror Maria Tomasula, “I know how important both of these things are to the life of an artist.”
The Bennetts, along with The Pittsburgh Foundation, consider the Muskegon Museum of Art one of the great hidden gems among American museums. It was chosen as the inaugural venue for The Bennett Prize due it its commitment to both women and realism, as evidenced by the art on its walls and the exhibitions it sponsors.
“The Muskegon Museum of Art has built a reputation over the past decade for redefining what a small city art museum can accomplish,” said Kirk Hallman, executive director of the museum. “Serving as inaugural host of The Bennett Prize is a wonderful opportunity for the museum to continue showcasing innovative programs.”
The winner will receive $25,000 annually for two years, so she can devote the time necessary to mount a solo exhibition, which will open in Muskegon in 2021 and then travel the country.
Andrea Kowch, artist and juror shared, “I know firsthand the amount of diligence, passion, and perseverance it takes to become a successful artist when there are no additional opportunities available to further support one’s efforts. A prize such as this will prove to be a game changer for many, and I am honored to be part of the prize’s inaugural debut.”
The call for entries runs from April 13 – Sept. 28, 2018. Full details are available at www.thebennettprize.org. The Bennett Prize is not open to hobbyists, students or artists who have been paid, or received an award of $25,000 or more for any single work of art.
Bennett and Schmidt are among the country’s top collectors of figurative realist art and are committed to seeing that talented women painters receive long overdue recognition for their superb artistry.
“We want to showcase the work of talented women figurative painters and enable them to take their rightful place among the most celebrated painters working today,” Schmidt said. “We’ll know we have succeeded when there are as many paintings by women as men in museums, commanding the same prices and critical esteem.”