A new biennial prize—the $15,000 Prilla Smith Brackett Award—aims to honor outstanding woman visual artists based in the Greater Boston area.

“I’ve felt strongly for a long time of how hard it is for artists—and women artists in particular,” says Brackett, who funded the prize, which is being administered by the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. It’s free to apply. The deadline is April 8, 2019.

“I hope that whoever gets it can use it for anything they think will be beneficial for their career,” Brackett says. Some ideas include studio rent, research, travel, publishing a catalog of their art. “Whatever it is that can move them along.”

“There are definitely more opportunities than there were for people 20 years ago. But it’s still hard,” Brackett says. “The big fancy institutions still don’t have a very high percentage of women artists, particularly in New York. …. Any little notch in the belt helps.”

The Brackett Award would be the second substantial prize for Boston area women artists, complimenting the $10,000 Maud Morgan Prize awarded every other year by Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Brackett is an artist herself, who lives in Boston and has a studio in Cambridge. Her art has ranged from organic, bulbous ceramics to paintings of fabric patterns, architecture, blue-green waves swirling around shore rocks, or family furniture superimposed on woodland scenes that seem to summon memories.

Brackett began conversations in 2014 to launch the prize. She and her husband, George Brackett—a former Harvard University teacher and one of the founders of Codman Academy in Dorchester—were redoing their wills. “We realized we were in a fortunate position that we could do something that mattered to people,” Brackett says.

After speaking with a few institutions, Brackett landed on the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, where Brackett studied for a bit before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College. Part of the appeal, Brackett notes, is that “Wellesley is a college that advocates for women because it’s a women’s school.”

Brackett has asked the school to organize a diverse selection committee—racially, ethnically, how people identify their gender. “Each winner will be one of the people on the next jury,” Brackett says, as part of helping build the artists’ resumes. Brackett is working herself to help with outreach, particularly to female-identifying artists of color.

And to make the opportunity accessible to more artists, she says, “I wanted it to be self-nominating because most significant awards, you have to be nominated by somebody.”

Pictured at top: Tabitha Soren’s exhibition, “Surface Tension” on view at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum through June 9, 2019. (Courtesy of the museum)

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Categories: Art