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Susan Unterberg. Photo courtesy of Anonymous Was a Woman

Heard on The Street
After decades "Anonymous Was a Woman" award is no longer anonymous


New York, NY

A once ignored female artist herself, New York based photographer Susan Unterberg has come forward as the founder and patron behind the yearly "Anonymous Was a Woman" awards that offer unrestricted grants of US$25,000.00 each to ten female artists over the age of 40 who are at an important stage of their careers. Despite this announcement, the members of the yearly jury will remain secret.

The name of the grant program references a line from Virginia Wolf's A Room of One's Own, to pay tribute to those female artists throughout history who signed their paintings "Anonymous" so that their works would be taken seriously.

The award was offered for the first time in 1996, in response to a decision by the National Endowment of the Arts to eliminate its grants for individual artists. To this date, Anonymous Was a Woman has granted more than 5.5 million dollars to 220 artists. Recipients of the award include artists Laura Aguilar, Tania Bruguera, Valeska Soares, Cecilia Vicuña, Carrie Mae Weems, Nicole Eisenman, Betye Saar and Carolee Schneemann, and Amy Sherald, among others. 

Unterberg opted to remain anonymous so her art could be evaluated on its own merits. Even her grandchildren did not know that she was behind the donation. "I worked really hard to become known as a contemporary artist," Unterberg. "And this I felt would have influenced the way people looked at my work or saw me."



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