April 16 through October 16, 2020

Call for entries opens for $50,000 Bennett Prize for women figurative realist painters

Talented women painters looking to take their figurative realist work to the next level
are invited to apply for the $50,000 Bennett Prize®, the largest offered solely to women painters.
The call for entries runs from April 16 – Oct. 16, 2020. Details are at Entry is
online at

More than 600 artists entered the competition two years ago, exceeding expectations.

“The first call for entries revealed a deep vein of exceptional talent that runs across this country, and
we are eager to see an even more extensive range of original work in this second call,” said Steven
Alan Bennett, of San Antonio, Texas, who co-founded the prize in 2016 with Dr. Elaine Melotti
Schmidt. They are among the country’s top collectors of figurative realist art and have established a
$3 million fund at The Pittsburgh Foundation to ensure that The Prize will be awarded every two years
in perpetuity.

“We are committed to ensuring that talented women painters are duly recognized, and the
overwhelming response to the first competition reveals just how warranted this support for women
painters is,” Bennett said. “Their work deserves to be seen, and the public deserves to see it.”
Tampa-based artist Aneka Ingold won the first Bennett Prize last year . She is currently creating new
work for her Bennett Prize solo exhibition, which will be presented across the country in 2021 along
with the work of the 10 finalists in this second call for entries. The exhibition will first be held at the
Muskegon (Michigan) Museum of Art from May 20 – Sept. 5, 2021.

Ingold’s paintings are noted for their powerful, expressive representations of femininity, exploring
women’s experiences across time, culture and history.

“Women figurative realist painters have so many important stories to share and their voices need to be
heard,” Ingold said. “As the inaugural recipient of The Bennett Prize , my artistic voice has been
amplified and my career empowered in ways I never dreamed.”

The Bennett Prize is designed to propel a woman painter’s career to broader recognition. The winner
receives $25,000 each year for two years, so she has needed time to create her solo show. The Prize
helps level the playing field for women artists. Works by women artists are collected and shown less
frequently by galleries and museums and, when they are purchased, the prices paid are typically far less
than those paid to artists who are men.

“Through our Center for Philanthropy, our Foundation has been involved with The Bennett Prize from
its inception. It has been a great privilege to see how The Prize has elevated the profile of women artists
by funding their work and creating opportunities for the public to experience the talents and creativity
of women figurative realist painters,” said Lisa Schroeder, Pittsburgh Foundation president and CEO.
The Bennett Prize is awarded by a four-member jury, which this year is comprised of Patrick Moore,
director of the internationally renowned Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; painters Alyssa Monks
and Katie O’Hagan, both of New York; and Bennett, co-founder of the prize. The jury will select 10
painters from among the entrants and ultimately one winner.

“In hosting The Prize, we’re able to bring new voices and stunning artworks to our audiences, advance
women painters around the country, and present challenging new potentials for the use of the figure in
contemporary art,” said Art Martin, director of collections and exhibitions/senior curator at the
Muskegon Museum of Art, and a former Bennett Prize juror.

“As the first exhibition of Bennett Prize finalists’ work travels the country, we expect this second call
for entries to attract more entries, more individual styles, more traveling venues and more people eager
to see this work,” said prize co-founder Schmidt. “We hope to see women painters from every area of
the country, every demographic and every flavor of figurative realism competing for this coveted

The Prize is not open to hobbyists or students, or to artists whose work has been sold for $25,000 or
more, or who have received an award, prize or other recognition for their art in that amount.

In recognition of the extraordinary circumstances we are facing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
and the resulting economic hardship, The Pittsburgh Foundation, Muskegon Museum of Art, and Prize
founders Dr. Elaine Melotti Schmidt and Steven Bennett have made the decision to reduce the fee for
entry by half, to $25.

In addition to the first round winner, Ingold, the nine finalists were:
• Dorielle Caimi, Santa Fe, NM
• Jennifer R. A. Campbell, Washington, D.C.
• Kira Nam Greene, Brooklyn, NY
• Mary Henderson, Philadelphia, PA
• Stefanie Jackson, Athens, GA
• Rebecca Léveillé, Amherst, MA
• Jenny Morgan, Brooklyn, NY
• Daniela Kovačić Muzio, Evanston, IL
• Carrie Pearce, Peoria, IL

PRESS RELEASE 04.16.2020



June 1 through June 1, 2021

The North American Indian

Edward Sheriff Curtis
Inashah – Yakima
copyright 1910, published 1911
Volume 7 Portfolio, Plate 220

In the summer of 2017, the Muskegon Museum of Art exhibited, in its entirety, Edward Curtis’s masterwork The North American Indian. Comprised of 20 volumes of texts and thousands of images, including 723 large format photogravures in accompanying portfolios, The North American Indian recorded the lives, culture, and history of Native American Tribes from the Southwestern, Plains, and Northwestern United States in the early 20th century. For 30 years, Curtis traveled extensively, producing photographs, copious field notes, and wax cylinder recordings. Available by subscription, the project enjoyed initial success but Curtis was bankrupt and forgotten by the time the final volume was published in 1930. The surviving prints and plates were rediscovered in the 1970s, leading to a revival of interest that continues today. The Muskegon Museum of Art’s complete set was obtained in 1907, when Lulu Miller, the librarian of the Hackley Public Library, convinced the Muskegon Board of Education (who governed the library) to subscribe.


Awaiting Return of Snake Dancers Hopi

Modern scholarship reveals many of the flaws of Curtis’s work, products of the prevailing Euro-centric prejudices and attitudes of his time. Curtis’s intention to record and preserve the cultures of Native American Tribes before they vanished under a deliberate campaign by the United States government was commendable and ultimately successful. Ironically, his project also served to codify and perpetuate the dominant stereotypes of the time. As an artist and historian, Curtis staged images, edited contents to reflect his own intentions and pre-existing beliefs, and cloaked much of his product in a veil of romanticism. Curtis’s texts indeed preserved oral history, music, and language that may have otherwise been lost, but the cultural heritage of America’s Native peoples ultimately endured without his efforts, never “vanishing” as predicted by leading scholars of the day.

Self Portrait by Edward S. Curtis, copyright 1889, printed 1907. Photogravure. Collection of the Muskegon Museum of Art. Hackley Picture Fund Purchase. 1983.5.

Video Project: Sharing the Story

It was vitally important to the MMA and guest curator Ben Mitchell that our exhibition reflect not only the history of such a monumental artistic undertaking as The North American Indian but also the full range of controversies that surround it. Working with leading Native Indian scholars, artists, and West Michigan area Tribes, our team developed programming, content, and text that shared the fullest story possible with our viewers, while challenging assumptions and inviting new perspectives. The text developed as part of our exhibition appeared on panels throughout the galleries and was narrated by Ben Mitchell in a series of YouTube videos. As we look back on our successes and forward to our expanding future, these videos remain an important resource to understanding our permanent collection and shared cultural heritage.

You can find the entire series at the links below.

Find all our videos on the Muskegon Museum of Art YouTube channel.





May 19 through October 31, 2020

A Virtual Exhibition

The Muskegon Museum of Art presented SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male, portraits of black men from greater Muskegon photographed by artist Jerry Taliaferro, December 13, 2018 through March 10, 2019. We organized the exhibition with the advisement and help of a committee of African American men from the Muskegon area. In the spirit of community, we again present the SONS portraits in this virtual exhibition.

About the Exhibition

SONS was meant to explore how the black American male perceives himself and how others perceive him. At the time of the original exhibition, artist Jerry Taliaferro stated, “[The exhibition] is both timely and relevant. Recent events point to the urgent need for conversations about the contemporary black American male. Any effort, however humble, to foster an understanding of this largely misunderstood and often marginalized segment of the American population is of utmost importance.” The effort to foster understanding and respect is needed as much now as it was then.

A committee of their peers nominated the men pictured in the show from the greater Muskegon area. The goal was to portray a wide range of ages, backgrounds, occupations, and interests to best represent not only the black men of our community, but also to mirror the day-to-day experiences of their fellow Americans. It was the first time many of these men were publicly recognized.

The men pictured are artists, musicians, barbers, doctors, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, teachers, athletes, retired servicemen, clergy, poets, factory workers, laborers, security guards, school administrators, and coaches. They are also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, co-workers, teammates, friends, and neighbors.

Virtual Gallery

The first part of the exhibition features black and white photographs that do not indicate professions or pastimes. The second part features color photographs with items and apparel indicate these activities, as well as expressing more of the subjects’ outward personalities.

Learn about the men in SONS. THE MEN’S STORIES [pdf]

Click on each of the thumbnail pictures to see full portraits.

Part 1




About the Artist

Jerry Taliaferro was born in the small southern town of Brownsville, Tennessee. After graduating high school in May 1972, he joined the Army. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973 and graduated as a member of the Class of 1977. Taliaferro’s interest in photography began during his post at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for Special Forces training in 1981. While serving in Germany, his interest in photography continued and, in 1985, his work was published for the first time when a Munich magazine purchased the rights to one of his images. Jerry returned to the U.S. and began doing assignments for advertising and design firms in 1985. He left the military in 1988 and began a career in commercial photography. Over the ensuing years, his interest turned more to fine art photography. This change in direction has resulted in several projects and published pieces. Women of a New Tribe, a photographic study of the spiritual and physical beauty of black women, is one of his latest projects. Jerry Taliaferro currently resides in Charlotte, NC.

SONS Committee

Special thanks to the members of the SONS Committee, without which this exhibition would not have been possible: TJ Chappel, Jon Covington, Chris Dean, Arthur Garner, Ed Garner, Justin Jennings, Bernard Loudermill, William Muhammad, Marvin Nash, Dr. Dale Nesbary, Kelly Richards, J. Arthur Sanders, Andrew Sims, George Walker, Rodney Walker, James Waters, and Jonathan Wilson.


SONS: Seeing the Modern African American Male was underwritten by Fifth Third Bank, and co-sponsored by Arconic – Whitehall Operations and Warner Norcross + Judd LLP. Program support was also provided by the Michigan Humanities Council and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Media Partner was WGVU Public Media.





PAST EXHIBITIONS from the ARCHIVE: Curator’s Blog

Exhibitions from the Archive

While our doors are temporarily closed to the public until further notice due to COVID-19, MMA staff continue to work behind the scenes.  We are planning for the future and finding new ways to engage with our audiences until we can again welcome you into the galleries. This series of posts offers a look back at staff-favorite exhibitions and gives some insight into the hows and whys of what we do. The MMA  staff selected these shows for how they have helped shape the Muskegon Museum of Art of today and serve as templates for our exciting future. It’s critical to note that none of these shows would have been possible without our generous sponsors and volunteers and our highly engaged museum community. Ultimately we exist to serve you: to educate, entertain, inform, inspire, surprise, and occasionally challenge.

Art Martin, Director of Collections and Exhibitions/Senior Curator


April 13 – Children’s Illustration: Patricia Polacco’s My Ol’ Man

April 17 – Expressions of Faith

April 21 – Good Design: Stories from Herman Miller

May 7 – Japanese Warriors: Robots from the Warren Schwartz Collection