Susan Beech’s Mid-Career Artist Grant aims to recognize a mid-career artist who has made a substantial contribution to the field of art jewelry. Here, we talk with the jewelry collector about why she established it, why it’s especially important this year, and what she hopes to see in the applications. (Daniel Kruger and Emily Stoehrer will serve as jurors along with Beech.) Applications for the $20,000 grant will begin being accepted next week, on November 1, 2020. Learn more about applying here, and keep the deadline firmly in mind if you’re 35–55 years old: it’s January 10, 2021.
Susan Cummins: What inspired you to give a $20,000 grant for a jewelry project?
Susan Beech: When I first offered this grant, the reason was simple. I wanted to give back. I know artists struggle financially, and this grant serves to give jewelry artists a little room to think, to be creative, and to not feel so much pressure. It’s my intention that the grant help an artist complete a project that might not have been possible otherwise. The grant this year feels especially needed. No one could have predicted how difficult 2020 would be with the COVID pandemic negatively affecting everyone, and artists in particular, in such a profound way. Couple this with the Black Lives Matter protests shining light on racial injustices, not to mention the major natural disasters caused by climate change, and everything feels very uncertain right now. In America, the pending election has caused so much unrest, confusion, and anxiety—I imagine it’s very difficult for artists to work right now. I think encouraging and supporting artists is always important, but right now it feels critical.
Your very generous grant of $20,000 is a large amount for a community that’s usually restricted to much smaller sums. How did you arrive at this amount?
Susan Beech: It’s my hope that it’s a large enough amount for an artist to take a little time from their other commitments to focus their creative juices and have the ability to research and complete a project. Again, this year has been especially financially difficult for artists, with exhibitions and other opportunities for artists to show and sell their work cancelled. I think this amount can really be helpful.
Why did you restrict the age limit to mid-career?
Susan Beech: There’s always lot of attention on emerging artists; there’s always support for the “young and fresh” artists, including the AJF Young Artist Award. And I see very well established artists, I might even use the word icons, who are so well known and thought of as masters. Their work is highly sought after, they have consistent gallery representation, and some have large retrospectives.
But there’s an in-between period for which I am not aware of any specific awards or grants. I saw a need here. I wonder how mid-career artists are supporting themselves, especially when it’s unclear if there’s a young collector base coming up. I believe the best work for mid-career artists is still in front of them, but they’re having a hard time making that work.
What was your thinking about how this might affect the artists in the jewelry community?
Susan Beech: I hope the possibility of the grant inspires quite a number of mid-career artists to apply, especially if they’ve been creatively stuck because of all the challenges of 2020. I hope the grant lets artists know they’re appreciated and thought about and that they’re valued in the contemporary jewelry field. It’s not just the finished jewelry pieces that are important to me as a collector. The artists are important to me. I want to be of help and encourage them to continue making, even when it’s really difficult.
What do you hope to see as a result of your offer?
Susan Beech: I want to see some great ideas and work from the artists. While my grant only helps one artist every two years, maybe this grant might encourage other collectors, galleries, and businesses to find ways to support artists at all stages of their career. This is very important. We need artists. We should all find ways to help support artists.