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Arts Funder United States Artists Selects Philanthropic Heavyweight as Board Chair

Edward P. Henry.

COURTESY UNITED STATES ARTISTS.

United States Artists, one of the most substantial providers of direct funding to artists in the country, has tapped a new board chair as it works to expand its programs.

That incoming chair is Edward P. Henry, the CEO and president of the deep-pocketed Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, whose roughly $1.81 billion endowment is dedicated to an array of arts, environmental, and medical causes. Henry has served on USA’s board since 2014, and is taking the place of Steve Oliver in the top board slot. Oliver will remain a trustee.

The election of Henry occurs following USA’s completion of a $20 million endowment campaign under the leadership of CEO Deana Haggag, who joined the organization in 2017.

USA awards dozens of unrestricted $50,000 grants to artists in a variety of fields each year, and one of Haggag’s aims had been to widen its activities by adding new prizes and pursuing new initiatives.

“Our goal is to solidify and grow financial resources so we can continue to provide unrestricted support,” Henry told ARTnews. “Since Deana’s been there, we’ve raised a lot of money and that’s solidified the organization. All of our effort is going to be put into raising money that can go directly to artists.”

Haggag said in a release, “Ed’s accomplishments, along with his longstanding commitment and enthusiasm for supporting artists, makes him an ideal leader and advocate for USA.”

USA has awarded more than $25 million in grants to over 550 artists since its founding in 2006, including Cecilia Vicuña, Simone Leigh, Wu Tsang, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Shirin Neshat. The group was created by the leaders of the Ford, Prudential, Rasmuson, and Rockefeller, with the aim of raising the stature of artists in society. Its direct-funding model helped fill a void left when the National Endowment for the Arts ended individual grants to artists in 1994, after years of political battles over some of the projects it supported.

“It’s so easy to ignore the needs of the individual artist when you’re talking about supporting the arts,” Henry said. “My focus in this role is to make the individual artist stronger.”

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