USA Media Panel for 2009

Claire Aguilar (Chair)

Vice President of Programming, Independent Television Service, San Francisco, CA

Chale Nafus

Director of Programming, Austin Film Society, Austin, TX

Bill Horrigan

Media Arts Director, Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Dmae Roberts

Writer, Radio Producer, and USA Rockefeller Fellow, Portland, OR

Lourdes Portillo

Director, Writer, Producer, and USA Rockefeller Fellow, San Francisco, CA

Statement by Lourdes Portillo

It has been a great pleasure to be a participant on the selection committee where fellow artists receive this very significant United States Artists grant.

Even though we never spoke of this during our panel meetings, I feel we supported people with a singular vision of a better world—a more compassionate world. Through their skilled artistry and profound understanding of others, their work touched us and allowed us to walk in other people’s shoes and to experience their lives.

In a time when all of us are searching for signs of hope and clarity, the artists we have chosen for the awards have the certainty of their expression: they know what they want to tell us. They are the souls brave enough to undertake the enormous efforts required to make films and radio programs that reflect our current reality—visions of massive migration, profound tragedy, and intimate simple lives.

This year’s USA Fellows represent the modern-day griots (storytellers) of our culture. They are the ones who, in their style and entertaining manner, will tell the truth. They bring to us what is seldom told.

With this grant we know they will persist in telling the stories through their medium, Film, Radio, and Video, and the message will multiply in this new digital era where millions can see and hear them.

We are witnessing uncertain times, in an uncertain field, with resources for production diminishing, fellow artists falling by the wayside for lack of support, with more changes everyday. What we hear and see on radio and television are mostly commercial concerns, not the concerns of artists or, for that matter, of griots. Now is when we most need artists culling and retelling the human experience.

To support those chosen will undoubtedly have a great impact on them and on the field. It will enable them to dream once again and imagine new stories. This award gives the artist time to contemplate, plan, and take a breath. But above all it offers them time to not worry, if one wants that! It is not just a grant to produce another project, but to construct another reality as an artist. A grant with no strings attached.

This year’s USA Fellows represent both new media artists and also those who have inspired them—as they look ahead they must carry the inspiration of the ones who originally showed them the way. And they will be secure in the knowledge that, yes, there are those who supports their art, telling them they must create more of what has moved us so.

Of course we could not celebrate now unless those with generosity in their hearts felt that what artists do is important enough to support, foster, and care about. And those who have given, the ones who made the grants possible, have made a great contribution to the well being of this human community that strives, like them, to build a better world.