Founded in 2006 by the Ford, Rockefeller, Rasmuson and Prudential Foundations with $22 million in seed funding, United States Artists was created to address the lack of unrestricted funding available to artists. Katharine DeShaw, USA's first Executive Director, developed the organization's name, established its first program and staff, and, with the founding donors, recruited the original Board of directors. DeShaw worked with Director of Programs, Amada Cruz to develop the USA Fellows Program. USA is currently funded by a broad range of philanthropic foundations and individuals committed to cultivating the vibrant character of contemporary culture in America. Through its signature USA Fellows program, United States Artists has distributed over $25 million in support of almost 500 artists.
Today, USA is funded by a broad range of philanthropic foundations and individuals committed to cultivating the vibrant character of contemporary culture in America. Past recipients of USA Fellowships include visual artists Glenn Ligon, Kara Walker, Theaster Gates and Catherine Opie; cartoonist Chris Ware; designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy (of Rodarte); performing artist Meredith Monk; jazz composer Jason Moran; ballet dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied; choreographer Bill T. Jones; and writers Annie Proulx and Sapphire.