VCU School of the Arts professor named USA Fellow

United States Artists, a national nonprofit organization, has named Virginia Commonwealth University professor Sonya Clark one of its 2011 USA Fellows.

Clark, chair of the Department of Craft and Material Studies in the VCU School of the Arts, received a $50,000 unrestricted grant as part of the prestigious honor. United States Artists, which is dedicated to investing in America’s finest artists and illuminating the value of artists to society, selects 50 outstanding artists from around the country to receive the grant each year.

“At the award ceremony I was on stage with outstanding artists in every field.  We were laughing and hugging and tearing up because it felt so powerful to be there honored together,” said Clark, who was selected in the field of crafts and traditional arts. “No artwork is created in a vacuum. I couldn’t be doing what I do today if it weren’t for generations of humble makers who precede me, the support of my colleagues, friends and family, and the endless inspiration the next generation of artists at VCU provides. ”

Clark creates textile works, sculptures, installations and photographs. She is known for her work with hair as a material to address race and identity issues. She has extended the idea of cloth to include hairdressing, particularly traditional African techniques such as cornrows and Bantu knots, in sculptures such as the “Wig Series” and “Hair Series.” In her “Beaded Prayers Project,” she collaborated with 5,000 people from 35 countries who each contributed a beaded amulet to the piece.

Clark’s work has been exhibited in more than 250 museum and galleries in more than 20 countries. She previously has received a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, an Art Matters Grant, the Lillian Elliott Award, a Virginia Museum of Fine Art Fellowship, a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency and a Pollock-Krasner Award.

“Sonya is richly deserving of this honor,” said Joseph Seipel, dean of the VCU School of the Arts. “She is an exceptionally talented artist who produces important and provocative works, while showing a steadfast dedication to her students and colleagues.”

Clark and the other fellows were honored at a ceremony hosted by actor Tim Robbins in Los Angeles on Sunday.

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see

Sonya Clark
Sonya Clark