Bennett collection
Everybody Knows by Diana Gall. Oil on linen_2017,part of the Bennetts' private collection

The largest ever art award offered only to women painters, The Bennett Prize, was announced today by art collectors Steven Alan Bennett and Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt, who are endowing the $50,000 biennial prize at The Pittsburgh Foundation.

“We want to showcase the work of talented women figurative painters and enable them to take their rightful place among the most celebrated painters working today,” Schmidt said. “We’ll know we have succeeded when there are as many paintings by women as men in museums, commanding the same prices and critical esteem.”

The Prize will spotlight women artists who paint in the figurative realist style, and who have not yet reached full professional recognition. That includes both new artists and those who have painted for many years.

“The Bennett Prize couldn’t come at a more culturally relevant time: it’s the art prize for the #MeToo era,” says Kitty Julian of The Pittsburgh Foundation. 

The call for entries runs starts April 13 and goes to Sept. 28, 2018. Full details are available here.

The winner of The Bennett Prize will be able to create her own solo exhibition of figurative realist paintings, which will be exhibited first at the Muskegon Museum of Art in Michigan before traveling the country. The Prize is designed for women artists who are, or seek to become, full-time professional painters.

Another goal of the prize is to increase opportunities for the public to learn more about the vision of talented women painters in the increasingly popular style of figurative realism.

“We are excited to announce The Bennett Prize at a time when women are creating important figurative realist paintings that should be seen by a wider audience,” Bennett says. “Figurative realist painting features the human form in all of its diversity. It has an important role to play in a society struggling to understand human differences and commonalities, including race, gender and social status.”

Bennett and Schmidt, of San Antonio, Texas, have endowed a $3 million fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation so The Prize will be awarded every two years in perpetuity, said Julian. The Bennetts were referred to The Pittsburgh Foundation specifically for The Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy where donors, staff and community experts develop innovative new projects.

Lee Price, Teacup, 2014. Oil on linen, from the Bennett’s private collection.
Lee Price, Teacup, 2014. Oil on linen, from the Bennett’s private collection.

“The Bennett Prize is a perfect example of how community foundations can help philanthropists take an idea from incubation to reality,” said Foundation President & CEO Maxwell King. “Steven and Elaine were familiar with our history of funding individual artists, particularly those whose work and unique points of view might otherwise be overlooked. By endowing The Prize at The Pittsburgh Foundation, the Bennetts have created a permanent mechanism for supporting and elevating the work of women painters.”

A four-member jury, including renowned realist artists Maria Tomasula and Andrea Kowch, will select 10 painters from among the entrants. The 10 finalists will each receive $1,000 to participate in an exhibition opening May 2, 2019 at the Muskegon Museum of Art where the winner will be announced.

The winner will receive $25,000 annually for two years, so she can devote the time necessary to mount a solo exhibition, which will open in Muskegon in 2021 and then travel the country.

Bennett and Schmidt are among the country’s top collectors of figurative realist art and are committed to helping women artists succeed.

Learn more about The Bennett Prize here.

NEXT staff

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.