About six weeks ago, I received excellent news. The United States Artists Foundation chose me as a member of the 2008 class. I, along with 49 other artists (8 of us are writers), were given an unrestricted grant of $50,000. It’s a gift of freedom award, designed to help us be able to take time off from our usual hustle in order to write.
You may not remember, but a couple of months ago, I was worried that I wasn’t able to really focus on my work. When I got the good news call, I was actually lying in bed feeling rather hopeless. Being chosen for such an honor was just the shot-in-the-arm, kick-in-the-pants, pat-on-the-back (choose your favorite cliche!) that I needed.
I would have told you earlier, but we were sworn to secrecy until the big announcement and celebration in Chicago this weekend. Oh my goodness! Talk about a festive occaision. Chi-town is already in a fine mood celebrating Mr. Obama, so just imagine the fun when 50 artists come to town. (Yes, I took pictures.)
On the first night, all the fellows got to meet each other. I decided to wear a Ghanaian dress I had made just for the occasion. It was such a thrill to meet all of the artists, especially the other literature fellows like Van Jordan (that’s him grinning over there on the right), Forrest Gander, and (gasp) Joy Harjo. The folks in the other disciplines were cool, too. The Hawaiian dancer brought leis which made the whole room smell like happiness.
The second day we were treated to performances by some of the honorees. Tap dancing! Theatre recitations! You name it. And the food– all by Wolfgang Puck. The highlight was deep fried mac and cheese. Edible genius.