Home Entertainment Lilada Gee awarded $10,000 Forward Art Prize

Lilada Gee awarded $10,000 Forward Art Prize


The Women Artists Forward Fund has chosen beloved Madison artist Lilda Gee to be honored with the 2022 Forward Art Prize, given to those who “show exceptional creativity in their work and compelling prospects for the future.”

Gee tells Madison365 that she is “very grateful” for the award in what has really been a tough year for her on a personal level. Back in March, in a story that Madison365 broke first, Gee was verbally assaulted and belittled by a physically aggressive Overture Center for the Arts employee as Gee tried to re-enter the building where she was working on her art. In June, her artwork was vandalized at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA)’s “Ain’t I A Woman?” exhibit, which highlighted Black women artists in Wisconsin. Also this summer, Gee was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It feels good to get this award because doing art in this community hasn’t felt good for a minute,” she says. “And this was some needed balm just to be reminded that doing art as a Black woman in Madison doesn’t have to be traumatic. It doesn’t have to be injurious …that there is a way that Madison can engage with Black women artists that do good and is not harmful. This award was just that reminder for me.”

Gee, along with fellow artist Katherine Steichen Rosing, whose work is rooted in exploring the complex interrelationships between forests, watersheds, and the carbon and hydrologic cycles, were announced as this year’s winners of the Forward Art Prize at Giant Jones Brewery on Oct. 7.

Gee is a fierce advocate for Black girls to be safe in their homes, schools, and communities and her bright, bold graphic paintings that can be seen all over town — from murals to yard signs to beer labels to children’s coloring books — celebrate and defend the joy of young Black girls.

Katherine Steichen Rosing
(Photo supplied)

“Lilada is a valued voice and artist in Dane County who is deeply invested in highlighting the experiences and stories of Black girls and women through a multidisciplinary approach using public art, installation, and painting,” says Gail Simpson, one of the judges, in a statement.

Gee says that she applied for this award back in May and became quite emotional when she recently found out that she won.

“When they called me to tell me that I had won, honestly, I cried like a baby,” Gee says. “It’s like when you’re just holding so much emotion, and then something good happens, it gives you permission to have any emotional response. I think I’ve been holding that cry since June, if not before, and it was just my release in that moment. I was so grateful.”

Gee and Steichen Rosing both will receive the $10,000 unrestricted prize with the award, which, according to Women Artists Forward Fund, is designed to “provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations.” The Forward Art Prize is now in its fourth year and finalist grants from Dane Arts have provided $100,000 to women-identifying artists of Dane County.

“That’s the neat thing about this award and the money that comes with it – you can use it in any way that you feel advances your artwork,” Gee says. “So I am very grateful for that. It just opens up a possibility to really imagine what could be a joyous way and so at this season in my life, I’m seeking joy. And so this gives me the opportunity to fund joy.”

The mission of the Women Artists Forward Fund is to address gender disparity issues that exist for women-identifying artists, by providing them with financial resources to strengthen their work, along with recognition and community support to leverage their creative capital.

The work of the winners and finalists will be on display at Giant Jones Brewing Co., located on 931 East Main Street, through Dec. 1.