Anna Hepler of Eastport and Lauren Fensterstock of Portland each received $50,000 fellowships from United States Artists, a grant-making arts organization created in 2006.

The money can be used for anything and is designed to allow artists to take risks and push their careers forward. Also receiving a fellowship was New Hampshire artist Vivien Beer, who grew up in Maine, graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2000 and attended the Craft Institute for high school students at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts at Deer Isle.

They are among 46 artists across nine creative disciplines who received funding, according to a statement from United States Artists. The awards honor their creative accomplishments and support their ongoing artistic and professional development, the organization said.

Fensterstock, a sculptor, said she was humbled to be among those recognized.

“The support of the United States Artists will allow me to take risks, to focus without distraction, and to continue making experimental large-scale ephemeral works without worrying about saleability,” she said. “I have been struggling to make vast installations in an impossibly tiny space, so I am hoping to use some of the funding to get into a bigger studio where I can actually assemble things on site, have the space to see my work in new ways, and have a door wider than 32 inches.”

Reached briefly while teaching a class Tuesday night, Hepler said in an email she was “incredibly honored by this amazing and generous award.”


An installation artist and sculptor, Hepler has shown widely across Maine and the United States, and in the Canadian Maritimes. She had a solo show at the Portland Museum of Art in 2010 and at the Tides Institute in Eastport this year. She was part of the PMA Biennial in 2015. Her labor-intensive work explores dimension, space and connections between form and structure.

Fensterstock takes common material such as paper and sea shells and transforms them into robust environments. She’s received a lot of national attention in recent years, and in 2014 was named one of the top young artists in America by Artsy, an online journal that covers contemporary art.

Beer’s pieces “Rustle Diptych II” and “Cloud Bench” are part of the Portland Public Art Collection.

Since its founding in 2006, United States Artists has given out almost $25 million. USA Fellowships are awarded to artists at all stages of their careers and from all areas of the country.

The 2016 fellows were selected from more than 500 artists nominated by their peers, and chosen experts in each discipline. Among past recipients are film director Barry Jenkins, composer David Lang, novelist and Portland native Annie Proulx, playwright David Henry Hwang, choreographer Bill T. Jones, and visual artist Kara Walker.

Portland ceramic artist Ayumi Horie received a USA fellowship last year.

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