Kresge Arts in Detroit announced Tuesday that the Gilda Awards, launched in 2015 to honor the late artist and College for Creative Studies professor Gilda Snowden, will become permanent fixtures in the Kresge art-prize landscape.

That news accompanied the opening of the application season for the 2017 Gildas, as well as the more-numerous Kresge Artist Fellowships — all of which are sponsored by the Troy-based Kresge Foundation.

The Gildas, launched in 2015 and initially intended to run just two years, come with $5,000, no strings attached, and go to two artists a year in the visual, literary or performing arts.

The 18 Artist Fellowships, by contrast, carry a stipend of $25,000 and are aimed at individuals in the same fields with more-established careers.

“The Gilda Awards are for individuals early in their career who are gaining momentum but just haven’t gotten that financial support yet,” said Christina deRoos, Kresge Arts in Detroit director.

She added that their value goes well beyond the money and can help lead to future grants and awards.

“For me, it was kind of a vote of confidence,” said Ellen Coons, an animator, filmmaker and 2016 Gilda winner. “It’s like someone saying, ‘Keep up the good work!’ And when you’re an artist just starting out,” she added, “that’s invaluable.”

Gilda Snowden, who died suddenly in 2014, was a much-beloved painting professor at CCS who influenced generations of students.

She was also tireless in documenting Detroit’s expanding art scene with her frequent and much-anticipated online videos. A gregarious woman with long dreadlocks, Snowden seemed to be at every gallery opening, camera in hand.

“Our family is immensely pleased that the Kresge Foundation has decided to make the Gilda Awards a permanent fixture,” said her daughter, Katherine Snowden Boswell.

“My mother influenced so many lives, and we believe that by making the awards permanent, she will continue to do so.”

The Kresge Foundation, in collaboration with CCS, named the first class of Kresge Artist Fellows in 2009 and has since honored 144 artists in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, as well as four Gilda Award winners. The foundation also recognizes one Eminent Artist a year for lifetime achievement. Eminent Artists must be nominated by others and receive $50,000 with no strings attached. Past winners include mixed-media artist Charles McGee and jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave.

All told, Kresge Arts in Detroit has given out more than $4 million.

Application guides for the 2017 Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards are now available at kresgeartsindetroit.org, and the online applications will be available starting Dec. 1. All materials must be submitted by Jan. 19.


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