This New $50k Prize Is Just for Emerging Female Figurative Painters

What is the most effective way to support female artists?

It’s a question that San Antonio-based patrons Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt have been contemplating for almost a decade, since they first began collecting art. From the beginning, they gravitated towards work made by women, depicting women. It was what they loved and wanted to live with.

It also happened to be much less expensive than comparable work made by men, enabling them to acquire more work. But the price discrepancy troubled them. “By collecting women painting women, you could get a lot of really exceptional work for significantly less money than you could collecting the men,” Bennett said, calling it “discrimination of the highest order.”

Bennett and Schmidt wanted to support women painters beyond those they collected or who were accessible through their network.

This spring, they founded the Bennett Prize, a biannual grant that will award funding to emerging women painters who live in the United States and work in a figurative realist style. The prize’s first-ever open call for applications goes live this week, on April 13th, with a deadline of September 28th. Finalists will be chosen by a jury, awarded $1,000, and exhibited in a group show in May 2019 at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan. At the opening, a winner will be selected. She will receive $50,000 in unrestricted funds over two years ($25,000 per year), as well as a solo museum exhibition, also at the Muskegon Museum, at the end of the two-year period.

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