United States Artists President & CEO Deana Haggag steps down to join The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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United States Artists President & CEO Deana Haggag steps down to join The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Portrait of Deana Haggag. Before joining USA in February 2017, she was the Executive Director of The Contemporary, a nomadic and non-collecting art museum in Baltimore, MD, for four years. Image courtesy: Braxton Black.

CHICAGO, IL.- United States Artists announces that Deana Haggag will be stepping down as President & CEO to join The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as a Program Officer in Arts and Culture, focusing on the current and emerging infrastructure and field-wide needs of artists and arts organizations.

“We are enormously grateful to Deana for her leadership of United States Artists during the past four years. She has done a magnificent job working with the board and staff to build a strong organization in support of individual artists,” said Ed Henry, USA Board Chair. “We are in a great position to continue to expand our support and services to artists throughout the country and we are fortunate to engage Jamie Bennett to continue our work.”

During Haggag’s tenure, USA saw unprecedented growth in its ability to serve and support our nation’s artists. USA awarded 60 of its signature fellowships this year, the most ever and a 30 percent increase from the start of Haggag’s tenure. During this time, USA also founded the Berresford Prize, an unrestricted $25,000 award given annually to a cultural practitioner who has contributed significantly to the advancement, well-being, and care of artists in society.

Perhaps the biggest advance in USA’s mission was the establishment of an initiatives department that advises foundations, philanthropists, and other field partners seeking to create or expand programs that support individual creative practitioners. Initiatives include Disability Futures (with the Ford Foundation and the Mellon foundation), Knight Arts+Tech Fellowship (with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation), and the Rainin Fellowship (with Kenneth Rainin Foundation).

One of the most visible outcomes of this department was Artist Relief, a nearly $25 million initiative running through June 2021, which USA coordinated along with fellow organizers the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, and National YoungArts Foundation to offer $5,000 emergency grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19.

Haggag and the board also completed a $20 million operating endowment campaign, which helps underwrite USA’s core operations.

“There is truly nothing more fulfilling than working in service of artists,” said Haggag. “Leading USA has been an immeasurable honor. I am grateful to our visionary board for their mentorship, our remarkable staff for their fierce advocacy and care, our partners for their generous collaborations, and for every artist who made this a dream job. This position has been a profound learning experience that has given me the opportunity to travel our nation and understand the unique needs of artists across disciplines and regions. As we recover from this challenging moment, I am humbled to take these lessons with me and to learn from colleagues at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as we continue advocating for our nation's beloved artist community.”

“Over the course of Deana's tenure, United States Artists has deepened its commitment to artists and demonstrated that care and generosity are essential to our collective imaginings of the future,” said Natalie Diaz, poet and USA Trustee. “We are stronger and more capacious because of her leadership. We will miss her greatly, and we are also eager to watch her continue to expand and support our communities’ efforts in service of artists at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation working with the visionary Elizabeth Alexander.”

Haggag will step down on April 30 and will remain an advisor through June 30, 2021. Ed Henry has renewed his term as board chair in order to work closely with interim CEO Jamie Bennett and USA’s extraordinary staff during this interim period, while the board conducts a national search for a permanent replacement.

Bennett was the Executive Director of ArtPlace America from 2014 to 2020. Previously, he served as Chief of Staff at the National Endowment for the Arts as part of President Obama’s administration, and Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s administration. He has also provided strategic counsel at the Agnes Gund Foundation; served as chief of staff to the President of Columbia University; and worked in fundraising at The Museum of Modern Art, the New York Philharmonic, and Columbia College. Jamie Bennett serves on the board of the David Rockefeller Fund, as well as on advisory committees for the HERE Arts Center; The Heritage Center at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota; Make Music Day; and the NeuroArts Initiative at The Aspen Institute.

“Deana has been an extraordinary colleague, friend, and teacher over the past five years, and I am honored that the board has asked me to support the staff in continuing USA’s extraordinary momentum,” said Jamie Bennett. “And I look forward to working with Ed Henry and the board to support them in conducting a national search for a permanent successor. As we prepare to come out of COVID, we need artists more than ever to help us recover from the trauma and isolation so many of us have experienced and to dream the future we need to collectively build. USA looks forward to investing all it can in our nation’s artists.”

Since its founding, USA has awarded more than 700 artists and cultural practitioners with over $33 million of direct support in all disciplines including Architecture & Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing. With this unrestricted award, recipients decide for themselves how to best use the money—whether it is creating new work, paying rent, reducing debt, getting healthcare, or supporting their families. To make its work possible, USA actively fundraises each year and is supported by a broad range of philanthropic foundations, companies, and individuals committed to cultivating contemporary culture in the United States.

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