CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Parkersburg basket maker Aaron Yakim received a $50,000 unrestricted grant from the artist advocacy group United States Artists in an awards ceremony Monday in Los Angeles.
The money will provide a cushion for the artist and his partner, Cindy Taylor, allowing them to create new designs and to work on current projects without worrying about paying bills.
"It's not always been real easy making and selling baskets for a living," Yakim said from his Cypress Street studio recently. The partners will use some of the award money to make improvements to their workshop.
United States Artists is a grant-making artist-advocacy organization dedicated to supporting America's artists working across diverse disciplines. The organization launched in September 2005 with $22 million in seed funding provided by a coalition of leading foundations -- Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential and Rasmuson. This initial investment enabled the organization to pilot the USA Fellows program, awarding unrestricted $50,000 grants to 50 artists each year.
Yakim said he was nominated anonymously.
"I'm not sure who nominated me, but I've had my work in major galleries. I've been doing this for 30 years, so my name is out there," he said.
That was in March, and he sent images of his current works to United States Artists.
"I then had to write essays about what I've been doing, how I got to where I am, what the prize would mean to me," Yakim explained. That was in July, and in October, he got the news that he had won.
"It's been hard not to tell anyone the news," Taylor said with a laugh.
The two have been partners for 18 years, making baskets together for about 17 of those years.