Deana Haggag Named President and CEO of United States Artists

Haggag comes to USA from the Contemporary in Baltimore.

Deana Haggag. Courtesy of United States Artists.

United States Artists (USA) has named Deana Haggag as its new president and CEO, effective April 3. Founded in 2006, USA offers unrestricted grants to artists working in the following fields: architecture and design, crafts, dance, literature, media, music, theater and performance, traditional arts, and visual arts.

Haggag has been the executive director of the Contemporary, Baltimore’s nomadic, non-collecting art museum, since the summer of 2013. Among the site-specific projects commissioned during her tenure was “Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See the Stars,” which saw Abigail DeVille take over the former Peale Museum, the first museum built in the Western Hemisphere, with an immersive art installation.

After three-and-a-half years working at a local institution, Haggag is looking forward to interacting with artists at a national level, she told artnet News in a phone conversation. “I’m really excited to become more involved in architecture and literature and performance and dance, whereas my job now leans pretty heavily toward the visual arts.”

“This promises to be an uncertain time for the support of the arts,” said USA board chairman Steven Oliver in a statement, amid news that President Donald Trump is reportedly considering plans to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Oliver added,”I can’t think of anyone more committed, eager, or prepared than Deana to lead USA in this endeavor.”

“If the NEA were to be dead tomorrow under our current administration, I am excited to be joining an organization that has already been doing work to complement the NEA,” Haggag told artnet News.

“Art is important to all of us and for whatever reason it is one of the first things to go [when funding is cut],” she added. Haggag sees her mission as helping the country recognize the importance of art and culture. “Organizations like USA are particularly well positioned to bring the public closer to the value of art in everyday life.”

Previously, Haggag made headlines for an unusual reason, when the summer’s Pokémon Go craze brought numerous gamers to her home, which had been designated an official PokéGym. One enthusiastic Pokémon trainer, distracted by the game, actually crashed into Haggag’s car.

In November, USA recognized a class of 46 fellows across nine creative disciplines with unrestricted $50,000 cash awards. Over its first decade, the organization has given out nearly $25 million in artist funding to nearly 500 grant recipients, including film director Barry Jenkins, composer David Lang, novelist Annie Proulx, playwright David Henry Hwang, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and visual artist Kara Walker.

Currently, USA is approaching the completion of a $20 million operations endowment campaign. The Ford Foundation kicked things off with a 5-year, $10 million challenge grant, and matching million-dollar grants have been made by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and private donors.

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