Dyani White Hawk (photo by David Ellis)

Two Minnesota artists have been named USA Fellows, a prestigious fellowship with a $50,000 award from the United States Artists. 

Dyani White Hawk, a painter and mixed-media artist, is a 2019 USA Fellow in visual art and author Lesley Nneka Arimah is a fellow in writing. This year, 45 artists and groups from across the country won the fellowships, the Chicago-based organization announced this month.

"It's tremendous, because it’s unrestricted, which means they trust the artists to know what’s best for themselves," White Hawk said Monday, after giving an artist talk at the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul.

White Hawk's paintings and and mixed-media pieces layer modern abstract painting with traditional Lakota art forms, including quillwork, combining and commenting on those artistic histories. Recently, she's used paint to mimic beadwork and quillwork in large, intricate pieces.

From 2011 to 2014, White Hawk acted as gallery director and curator for the All My Relations Gallery in Minneapolis.

"I'm coming up on my fourth year of being a full-time, self-employed artist," she said Monday, explaining the fellowship's significance. "This allows me to move toward long-term sustainability of my practice."

It allows allows her to turn long-term dreams into short-term dreams, she continued. "I don't want to say what those are yet ... but we're planning and plotting."

White Hawk is one of six artists to win the visual art prize.

Arimah (pictured) is currently on a Shearing fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute in Las Vegas. It is uncertain whether she will return to Minnesota, where she moved in 2007 to study at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She won the Kirkus Prize in 2017 for her debut collection of short stories, "What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky."

The 45 fellows are "in their 20s through their 70s," United States Artists said in a press release, hailing from 20 states "across urban, suburban, and rural communities, each making significant contributions to their respective fields as architects, ceramicists, choreographers, filmmakers, podcasters, composers, playwrights, weavers, sculptors, journalists, and more."

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