The Young Visual Artists Award program was established in 1990 with the creation of the Jindrich Chalupecky Award in Czechoslovakia with the mission of promoting and recognizing artistic accomplishment and promise by providing young artists with a US residency and cultural exchange experience. Under the aegis of President Vaclav Havel, the founders: Wendy Luers, President of the Foundation for a Civil Society, and a group of dissident artists named this initial award after the Czech art historian Jindrich Chalupecky, underscoring the role of culture in democratization and civil society.
This founding mission and programmatic framework — to promote contemporary art, foster cultural exchange, and build the capacity of local art NGO’s — as led by the Foundation for a Civil Society, NY, has guided the creation of the other nine awards that comprise the YVAA network in the region. Young Visual Artists Awards were ten countries: the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, and Bulgaria.
YVAA operates in partnership with local nongovernmental art organizations to conduct an open call and transparent annual or biannual competition and curated exhibition, through which an independent and international jury selects a young visual artist as the winner and recipient of a US residency. The awards, often named in honor of a leading art historical figure or artist group in the country, signify a commitment to nurturing and recognizing emerging artists at the national and international stage. Over the years, the YVAA program has partnered with leading art organizations in each country, reflecting the development and vibrancy of contemporary art in the region.
The Foundation for a Civil Society has managed not only the program’s development in the region and cultural exchange with the US, making it the longest running wide-spread program of its kind, but also a number of exhibitions, symposia, and other projects over the years, intended to strengthen the network and foster greater exchange among the YVAA partners, artists, and cultural stakeholders in the region, Europe, and the US. To date, it has organized seven such joint events in Prague, Belgrade, Prishtina, Bratislava, Tirana and the US in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NY.
Initially, the YVAA award winners were artists-in-residence at the Headlands Center for Contemporary Art in Sausalito, California. FCS eventually started hosting the artists in NY, first in partnership with International House and Columbia University, and later at the International Studio and Curatorial Program(ISCP), to reflect the artists’ increasing desire to be in NY and participate in an international residency program. Over the years, the YVAA program has also partnered with art institutions (Art in General and ApexArt, among others) and art professionals to present and promote the artists’ during and long after their stay in NY.
Residency Unlimited (RU) assumed leadership of the YVAA program in 2015, hosting the artists for two-month residencies in New York. Residency Unlimited (RU) supports the creation and presentation of contemporary art through its unique residency program and year-round public programs. Artists benefit from customized residencies, weekly studio visits by curators and other arts professionals, and RU Activities and events, through which residents are introduced to the New York art world and have access to RU’s extensive national and international network.
The Trust for Mutual Understanding has provided not only financial support for the YVAA program, since its founding, but has stewarded its vision, advancement, and achievements, including this website. This support has made a significant contribution to the artistic development and international success of the 150+ artists who have benefited from pursuing their artistic practice and professional relationships in the United States.
YVAA laureates have represented their country at the Venice Biennial and have had work included in the Berlin, Lyon and Istanbul biennials, Documenta, Manifesta, as well as in other exhibitions around the world. These artists’ continued success at the international stage has significantly and positively impacted the artistic scenes in their 10 respective countries, where they are active as exhibiting artists, curators, teachers, and cultural leaders. The YVAA program counts more than 20 organizations, over 50 arts professionals, close to 500 finalists, and countless applicants that have been involved and participated in it over the past 27 years.