Newport News writer wins $30K Andy Warhol Foundation grant for essays on Black women in the South

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News writer will receive $30,000 to pen essays examining the work of Black female artists in the South.

Jessica Lynne was one of 22 chosen for the Andy Warhol Foundation’s grants, which will help the writers examine various topics, the foundation says, from the general to more focused pieces.

The program has been around since 2006 and is giving out $675,000 in 2020 for projects.

Lynne, the founding editor of Arts.Black, was awarded the grant to write about intergenerational histories of Black women in the South, including lesser-known figures such as Samella Lewis and Allison Janae Hamilton, the foundation said in a press release.

“Art writing that is incisive and attuned to the cultural moment positions artists as key contributors to urgent conversations in and beyond the art world. Through their rigorous and generous engagement with artists and artworks, their close reading of historical and cultural contexts, and their creative juxtaposition of disparate practices, arts writers illuminate the unique way art engages with and explicates our idea of a national consciousness,” said Joel Wachs, president of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Lynne spoke with 10 On Your Side and says she’s thrilled to win the grant.

“I think it’s always affirming when a group of peers see your work and recognize the value and merit it in,” she said.

The writer and critic grew up on the Virginia Peninsula and credits her creative writing class at Hampton High School for starting her journey.

She’s focusing on telling the story of Black women artists to highlight their contributions.

“I think criticism is this funny, funky, nebulous area. We’re all surrounded by so much culture every day, whether we recognize it or not. I think given that for me it’s really important to emphasize and celebrate to lift up Black women who contribute to that process of culture-making and have been doing so forever,” she said. “I think in someway this project is a statement for the establishment that these women have been here. They may not have been glorified. Their practices may not have been properly documented but there’s a place to do so and place them in different lineages. And, at the same time say to those women, I would hope, that your work is important and it’s teaching us, myself included, an entire generation of Black women who coming out behind them. I want to stand firm in that censor that it’s okay to censor the lives and complexities and creative output of Black women.”

The grant will provide Lynne with the resources, research, and time she needs to work on the project. She’s working to complete a manuscript completed by the end of next year and hopes to publish a book from the project.

Lynne also has another word of encouragement to other young writers who are following their dreams.

“I think the most important thing young writers can do for themself is to read,” she said. “I am a writer because I’m a reader first and I think regardless of how frustrated I become of my projects and how upsetting it can feel to encounter certain setbacks, reading continues to be a wellspring of inspiration. It continues to remind me writing is a discipline and so many stories are waiting to be told.”

Here’s the full list of those chosen for grants:

Angie Baecker, “The Art Group and the Avant Garde: Collective Practices and the Socialist Legacy in Contemporary China”
Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, “Patssi Valdez: ‘I dare you question me,’ A Radical Photographic Portraiture”
Erica Moiah James, “Juan Francisco Elso: La luz de las cosas / The Light of Things”
Arnold Joseph Kemp, “Who is this black, queer curator? If you don’t remember it and do him, his last name is McShine”
Oluremi C. Onabanjo, “The Conditions of the Archive: Marilyn Nance and FESTAC 77”

Sergio Delgado Moya, A Nervous Archive: Sensationalism and the Potency of Horror
Ariel Goldberg, Just Captions: Ethics of Trans and Queer Image Cultures
Naeem Mohaiemen + Anjali Singh, Harmit Singh’s War
Jerry Philogene, The Socially Dead and Improbably Citizen: Visualizing Haitian Liberation
Jeannine Tang, Living Legends: The Art and Care of Queer and Transgender History
Joseph L. Underwood, Forging a New Contemporary: Art from Senegal in Transnational Networks, 1974–1984

Short-Form Writing
Ratik Asokan
Jessica Baran
Barbara Calderón
Dan Fox
Bean Gilsdorf
Colony Little
Jessica Lynne
Lauren O’Neill-Butler
Amy Taubin
Monica Uszerowicz

You can read Lynne’s writing here.

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