Thelma Golden and Juliana Huxtable Are Among the Judges of a New Grant Celebrating the Contributions of Black Trans Women Artists

Queer|Art's $10,000 Illuminations Grant will be given this November.

Mariette Pathy Allen, Guest at Drag Ball in Harlem. Courtesy of the artist.

Queer|Art, a New York nonprofit dedicated to promoting the work of LGBTQ+ artists, has launched a new $10,000 grant specifically aimed at shining a light on the achievements of Black trans women as visual artists. 

Developed in collaboration with photographer Mariette Pathy Allen, writer and consultant Aaryn Lang, and multidisciplinary artist Serena Jara, the Illuminations Grant, as it’s called, will be handed out yearly to an artist who identifies as a Black trans woman or trans femme working in the United States. The goal is to highlight an existing body of work.

Applications for the award will be accepted through August 30 before being judged by a panel comprised of Studio Museum director Thelma Golden and artists Juliana Huxtable, Texas Isaiah, and Kiyan William. The inaugural Illuminations Grant will be awarded in November. 

“This grant is the first to be offered specifically for Black transgender women and femmes in support of their path within visual arts,” explains Allen, an influential 80-year-old photographer who has documented the transgender community for more three decades, in a statement. Allen single-handedly endowed the award.

“I believe that it will have an important impact on the artists themselves and their influence on the art world,” she adds.

Previous Queer|Art grants have been named after pioneering artists who worked in a given field—the Barbara Hammer Grant for Lesbian Experimental Filmmakers, for instance, or the Robert Giard Grant for Emerging LGBTQ+ Photographers. In the research phase for the Illuminations Grant, the organizers found that, while there are many Black trans women artists of note, it was the overall lack of documentation of the community’s contributions to art history that stood out.  

It was because of this focus that Allen, Jara, Lang, and the organizers at Queer|Art went with the name “Illuminations,” expressing “the intention that this grant will shine much-needed light on the work of Black trans women visual artists at large,” the announcement states.  

“The Illuminations Grant not only highlights the lacking representation of Black trans women in the visual arts,” adds Lang,  “but also seeks to confront the systemic barriers that deny them artistic opportunities and a sustainable craft. By supporting this grant, Mariette Pathy Allen challenges herself and the art industry to see Black trans women as more than mere subjects, while forging a new pathway for visual artists within this community to thrive.”

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