Style Spotlight: Rewarding Creativity

February 2011 | BY | Issue 75, Spring 2011

Matthias Pliessnig won his grant for work like the steam-bent white oak “Amada.”
Credit: Gene Young/Smithsonian American Art Museum

The national grant-making and advocacy firm United States Artists (USA) has outdone itself again: in December, it selected 52 artists to receive 50 USA Fellowship grants of $50,000 each during a ceremony in New York City. The artists range from award-winning documentary filmmakers to socially conscious designers, and include six notable craft artists.

Passamaquoddy basketmaker Jeremy Frey of Princeton, Maine, W.A. Ehren Tool, a ceramist from Berkeley, Calif., and Jennifer Heller Zurick, a basketweaver based in Berea, Ky., were all recognized, in addition to three artists who have been featured in the pages of AmericanStyle:

Furniture designer Matthias Pliessnig of Philadelphia, Pa., was a prominent part of an article on studio furniture (and featured on the issue’s cover) in April 2008. In the article, he described his recent work as “becoming more and more about holding the body and making connections with historical context.”

“Over the years, I realized it was not being a potter that I was so interested in—it was communicating,” explained Michael Sherrill of Hendersonville, N.C., in a winter 2000-2001 “One on One” feature. “Hopefully, these pieces stay transcendent enough to ‘talk’ about ideas.”

Baltimore, Md.-based bead artist, performance artist and painter Joyce Scott explained in a “One on One” article in the spring 2000 issue, “I’m fearless about beadwork. About everything else I have trepidation.”

Panels of experts judged each artistic discipline, selecting 52 winning artists (including one collaboration) from more than 300 nominated applicants from 46 states. In five years, USA has awarded $12.5 million in unrestricted grants. To read biographies about each artist, visit

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