Berea writer C.E. Morgan is among the 54 winners of the United States Artists fellowships, $50,000 grants that were announced Monday in Los Angeles. The prizes go to visual artists, architects, writers and musicians ages 31 to 81.
She joins Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Annie Proulx, master banjo player Tony Trischka, playwright David Henry Hwang and virtuoso jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette.
Named by the National Book Foundation as one of the five best writers in America younger than 35, Morgan won the Weatherford Award for her debut novel, All the Living (2009), and it was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway First Fiction Book Award. She was included on The New Yorker magazine's 2010 "20 under 40" list of best emerging fiction writers.
Another Kentuckian was among the USA Fellowship recipients: Edward White, a Louisville musician who founded the River City Drum Corps, a program that brings together traditional African drumming, drum making, and drum-line performance and leadership for at-risk youth.
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The Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential and Rasmuson foundations helped establish the USA Artists program in 2005 with $22 million in seed money. An endowment fund was set up in 2010 by the four non-profits and the Omaha-based Todd and Betiana Simon Foundation. The grants program has so far raised $10 million toward the $50 million fund.
Candidates are nominated each January by an anonymous panel of people in the arts and then apply for grants. Past recipients include 2010 winners Gerard Stropnicky, a Pennsylvania theater artist who helped create the Higher Ground plays in Harlan; and Jennifer Heller Zurick, a basket maker from Berea.
"It's a fascinating mix of people," Katharine DeShaw, executive director of the Los Angeles-based United States Artists, said by phone. "We have well-known leaders in their fields, and then there are people like Tony Trischka, who's the greatest banjo player in the world but a lot of people don't know him."
About 91 percent of those selected use the money to further their work.
A complete list of the grant winners can be found at Unitedstatesartists.org.