RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam, First Lady Pamela Northam, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Director and CEO Alex Nyerges announced August 25 40 Virginia artists who will receive $5,000 grants through a special program to help visual artists impacted by COVID-19.

The Virginia Artist Relief Fellowship Program, which launched in June, will distribute a total of $200,000 in funding.

Six artists from Fairfax County are grant recipients. They are Emine Sermin Ciddi (Alexandria), Mojdeh Rezaeipour (Burke), Michael Childers and Soomin Ham(Fairfax), Jun Lee (Falls Church) and one artist from Centreville who requested to remain anonymous.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) received more than 350 applications for this program. Recipients were selected by a jury made up of three VMFA staff members: Valerie Cassel Oliver, Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; Natasha Campbell, head of the museum’s fellowship program; and Jeffrey Allison, head of statewide programs.

“I truly believe that any available financial support would be invaluable and meaningful to me—not only to make my ongoing pursuits possible, but also to uphold my positive spirit to get through this difficult time,” said Soomin Ham, Fairfax artist and grant recipient.

“This fellowship becomes even more critical for me, and conversely this nation, to be able to continue creating work that addresses the damaging social issues and operatively working to create a more just and equal society,” said Steve Prince, Williamsburg artist and grant recipient.

The Virginia Artist Relief Fellowship Program is funded utilizing the accrued excess balance of the museum’s existing Artist Fellowship Endowment established in 1941 through a generous gift made by the late John Lee Pratt of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Pratt stipulated that the funds be used to support professional artists as well as art and art history students in the Commonwealth and not for other purposes. Through this endowment, VMFA has awarded nearly $5.8 million to Virginia artists in the Commonwealth over the past 80 years.

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