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Pittsburgh Foundation invites women painters to apply for $50,000 Bennett Prize |
Art & Museums

Pittsburgh Foundation invites women painters to apply for $50,000 Bennett Prize

Detail of 'Everybody Knows,' (2017) oil on linen by Dianne Gall

The largest prize ever offered solely to women painters will be endowed at the Pittsburgh Foundation.

The $50,000 Bennett Prize was announced Feb. 19 by art collectors Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt of San Antonio, Texas.

The biennial prize will spotlight women artists painting in the figurative realist style who have not yet reached full professional recognition, including both new artists and those who have painted for many years, according to a news release.

It will allow the winner to create a solo exhibition of figurative realist paintings, to debut at the Muskegon (Mich.) Museum of Art in 2021 and then travel the country. The winner will receive $25,000 annually for two years.

The prize is designed for women artists who are, or seek to become, full-time professional painters. It also aims to expand opportunities for the public to learn more about the creative vision of talented women painters in the increasingly popular style of figurative realism.

“We are excited to announce the Bennett Prize at a time when women are creating important figurative realist paintings that should be seen by a wider audience,” Bennett said in the release. “Figurative realist painting features the human form in all of its diversity. It has an important role to play in a society struggling to understand human differences and commonalities, including race, gender and social status.”

Bennett and Schmidt have endowed a $3 million fund at the Pittsburgh Foundation in order to award the prize every two years in perpetuity.

“Steven and Elaine were familiar with our history of funding individual artists, particularly those whose work and unique points of view might otherwise be overlooked,” said foundation President/CEO Maxwell King in the release. “By endowing the prize at the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Bennetts have created a permanent mechanism for supporting and elevating the work of women painters.”

“We want to showcase the work of talented women figurative painters and enable them to take their rightful place among the most celebrated painters working today,” Schmidt said. “We’ll know we have succeeded when there are as many paintings by women as men in museums, commanding the same prices and critical esteem.”

A four-member jury, including renowned realist artists Maria Tomasula and Andrea Kowch, will select 10 painters from among the entrants. Ten finalists will each receive $1,000 to participate in an exhibition opening May 2, 2019, at the Muskegon Museum of Art, where the winner will be announced.

The Muskegon museum was chosen as the inaugural venue for the prize due it its commitment to both women and realism, the release said.

The call for entries runs from April 13 through Sept. 28.

The Bennett Prize is not open to hobbyists, students or artists who have been paid, or received an award of, $25,000 or more for any single work of art.


Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter @shirley_trib.

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