Susan Unterberg Gave Millions to Artists Anonymously

An artist who previously remained anonymous has since revealed her identity. The artist, Susan Unterberg, decided 22 years ago she would give donations anonymously to female artists over the age of 40.

One artist, Carrie Mae Weems, reflected on her own encounter of receiving a donation from the formerly anonymous, Susan Unterberg. Carrie says she remembers sitting at her desk in Syracuse when she received a phone call in 2014. While sitting at her desk she says she was “feeling very misunderstood” and “trying to figure out how to make some new work.”

“I was offered this extraordinary gift,” she said. “It was important because I needed the money, but more than anything, I needed the encouragement and the support to keep making, to keep pushing — to continue to work in spite of all of the pressures.”

The gifts like the one Ms. Carrie Mae Weems received are all part of a grant program. Over the last 22 years, this grant program paid out $5.5 million to help support underrecognized female artists. The grant program’s title-‘Anonymous Was a Woman’ is based off on a line in Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.” In order to pay tribute to all female artists in history who signed their paintings “Anonymous” in order to have their work taken seriously, the grant became titled “Anonymous Was a Woman.”

Susan Unterberg, who had once wanted to remain anonymous has now stepped out into public announcing she is the one who has been sending out the very generous donations to underrecognized female artists. She too, was once a female artist over forty who had little recognition for her work.

Susan stated in an interview that she decided to come forward and display her identity to argue openly on behalf of women who are artists. Her goal is to demonstrate the importance of female artists and to help inspire and support women.

“It’s a great time for women to speak up,” Ms. Unterberg said. “I feel I can be a better advocate having my own voice.”

Unterberg personally experienced the difficulties of being a female artist over the age of 40 and began trying to help support her fellow artists. She too has been in that position and has had her photographic designs in major museum collections some including Museum of Modern Art, the Jewish Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When Susan began talking about how women artists are different from male artists she said, “They don’t get museum shows as often as men, they don’t command the same prices in the art world,” she said. “And it doesn’t seem to be changing.”

A statistic shown by the National Museum of Women in the Arts emerged that shows for every dollar earned by male artists; female artists receive only eighty-one cents. The work of male artists is also shown more in museums than the art produced by female artists. Statistically speaking a female artist’s work would only make up 3% while art from a male artist is 5%.

“Women continue to be seriously undervalued and underappreciated,” Ms. Weems said. “The work is not taken as seriously and men are still running the game. Men in power support men in power, and they want to see men in power.”

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