Deana Haggag has been appointed president and CEO of United States Artists.

 

UNITED STATES ARTISTS (USA) announced a new president and CEO. Deana Haggag, executive director of The Contemporary in Baltimore, has been tapped to lead the organization. USA provides support to American artists working across a range of disciplines through $50,000 fellowships. Haggag is joining the Chicago-based organization on April 3.

“I was shocked and humbled. In many ways, this is my dream job and learning that I was selected felt surreal. I am very fired up about this gig and incredibly eager to work alongside a team and board as committed and sharp as USA’s,” Haggag told Culture Type via email.

“In many ways, this is my dream job and learning that I was selected felt surreal.” — Deana Haggag

USA provides fellowships to artists working in architecture & design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater & performance, traditional arts, and visual arts. The current class of 46 USA fellow was announced in November 2016 and includes artists Senga Nengudi, Jefferson Pinder, Winfred Rembert, Jacolby Satterwhite, Stanley Whitney, and author Claudia Rankine, among others. Writer/director Barry Jenkins who is being celebrated this awards season for his film “Moonlight,” was a 2012 media fellow.

“It’s an exciting time for USA; all the more so with Deana coming on board,” USA Board Chairman Steven Oliver said in the announcement. “The continued growth of both our financial and human resources represents not only the tremendous success USA has had thus far, but also the role it will play going forward. This promises to be an uncertain time for the support of the arts. I can’t think of anyone more committed, eager, or prepared than Deana to lead USA in this endeavor.”

FOUNDED IN 2006 with $22 million in seed funding from the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential foundations, USA provides unrestricted funding to artists. The inaugural cohort of fellows included artists Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Ralph Lemon, William Pope.L (now Pope.L), and Laylah Ali.

Over the past decade USA has distributed nearly $25 million. Recipients are chosen through a rigorous nomination and selection process. Some of the most innovative and critically acclaimed African American artists working today have been recognized with fellowships over the years, including LaToya Ruby Frazier, Charles Gaines, Theaster Gates, Barley L. Hendricks, Rick Lowe, Rodney McMillian, Jason Moran, Wangechi Mutu, Lorraine O’Grady, John Outterbridge, Mickalene Thomas, and Kara Walker.

The appointment of Haggag comes at a dynamic time at USA. The organization has nearly succeeded in raising $20 million in operations funding. The endowment campaign was initiated with a 5-year, $10 million challenge grant from the Ford Foundation. Ford’s initial support has been matched by million-dollar grants from The Barr Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as private pledges.

“USA’s work is just as needed today as it was when it was founded in 2006, if not more,” Haggag said. “It is no secret that artists—across discplines—are not well resourced and I am in awe of organizations like USA who have committed themselves to supporting the field in this way. Now more than ever, I find it incredibly necessary to do this work.”

“It is no secret that artists—across discplines—are not well resourced and I am in awe of organizations like USA who have committed themselves to supporting the field in this way. Now more than ever, I find it incredibly necessary to do this work.” — Deana Haggag

Before Haggag official comes on board, USA is hosting its 2017 Artists Assembly in Chicago from March 27-30. The annual event will gather 2016 fellows with alumni from 2006 to mark the organization’s 10th anniversary. Along with performances and presentations by fellows, compelling discussions, and cultural excursions, the results of a 10-year impact study will be revealed.

HAGGAG ESTABLISHED her career in Baltimore, after earning an MFA in curatorial practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art. She served as curator-in-residence at Gallery CA in Baltimore, before being hired to run The Contemporary, a nomadic, non-collecting art museum. After a brief hiatus, during which the institution’s board of trustees reviewed its mission and reconstituted its vision, Haggag was brought on in 2013 as executive director.

She is among a number of young curators and arts professionals of color making moves at museums and cultural organizations. Just this month, Harvard Art Museums announced the appointment of Makeda Best as curator of photography. The Whitney Museum of American art hired Rujeko Hockley and Marcela Guerrero as assistant curators. Victoria M. Rogers, director of arts at Kickstarter, is among a number of new members who have joined the Brooklyn Museum’s board of trustees. And Connie H. Choi was named associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Haggag is among those taking on important roles. Her leadership position is particularly influential, given adequate funding is an ever present concern and priority throughout the arts, especially for individual artists.

“It’s about time,” Haggag said. “I’m really proud to be part of a cohort of young people of color who are working hard to disrupt the status quo. It’s good for the sector-at-large, and a testament to how hard so many of our mentors worked to get us here. With that said, there is still a lot of work to do to combat the lack of diversity in our field and I am ready and eager to continue that work.” CT

 

TOP IMAGE: Deana Haggag. | Photo by Olivia Obineme, Courtesy United States Artists