Artist Trust announces 2018 Arts Innovator Award recipients

Quenton Baker and Paul Rucker are the recipients of the 2018 Arts Innovator Award. Funded by The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation, the Arts Innovator Award (AIA) comprises two unrestricted awards of $25,000 that recognize Washington State artists of all disciplines who demonstrate innovation in their practice.

“As an artist, you can never worry too much about appreciation or validation, but I’ve learned to accept it when and if it does appear,” said 2018 Arts Innovator Award recipient Quenton Baker. “To know that folks believe in my work and want to see me succeed is a phenomenal gift. I will continue to sweat and push and grind in order to pay that belief back. Thank you.”

“Every Artist Trust grant has been a major contributor to where I am now. As I continue to create more ambitious work through more challenging projects, unrestricted support from organizations like Artist Trust is invaluable,” said Paul Rucker, 2018 Arts Innovator Award recipient.

This year’s Arts Innovator Award recipients create work that draws heavily on research, bringing historical and contemporary socio-cultural issues and narratives of the Black American experience sharply into focus. Not defined or constricted by artistic formality and conventionality, Quenton and Paul’s works are viewed, heard, read, contemplated, discussed, and reflected upon in a broader context. Themes embedded in their art making align with the critical thinking and activist movements that have been amplified by the current political climate, while adding to the larger discourse that critiques the idea of a post-racial America.

Quenton Baker is a poet and educator from Seattle. His current focus is anti- blackness and the afterlife of slavery. His work has appeared in Jubilat, Vinyl, Apogee, Pinwheel, Poetry Northwest, The James Franco Review, and Cura and in the anthologies Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters and It Was Written: Poetry Inspired by Hip-Hop. He has an MFA in poetry from the University of Southern Maine and is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Quenton is a 2017 Jack Straw fellow and the recipient of a James W. Ray Venture Project award from Artist Trust. His first collection titled This Glittering Republic was published in 2016 by Willow Books.

Paul Rucker of Seattle is a visual artist, composer, and musician who often combines media, integrating live performance, sound, original compositions, and visual art. Much of his current work focuses on the Prison Industrial Complex and the many issues accompanying incarceration in its relationship to slavery. He has presented performances and visual art exhibitions across the country and has collaborated with schools, active prisons, and also inactive prisons such as Alcatraz.

In one of his largest installations, REWIND, Paul addresses social and cultural issues in race, class, and power by re-envisioning historical events and connecting them to current issues of power and injustice in America. He is a 2012 Creative Capital grantee, a 2014 MAP Fund grantee, a 2015 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant recipient, 2016 Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship recipient, a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, and was most recently named a 2018 TED Fellow.

“The arts are essential to building stronger connections in our community, and supporting artists is critically important to me and Dale,” said Leslie Jackson Chihuly, co-founder of The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation. “We applaud the innovative work of Quenton Baker and Paul Rucker, and we are proud of the positive impact that Artist Trust continues to have on artists from all disciplines.”

“Quenton and Paul have each received Artist Trust grants in the past, and we are elated to continue supporting their work with the 2018 Arts Innovator Award. Their impact is not only felt within their respective fields but across an extensive audience of artists, activists, and arts community members,” said Artist Trust CEO Shannon Halberstadt. “We extend our deepest gratitude to the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation for their generous support of the Arts Innovator Award and the transformational, positive influence it has made on the creative wealth and innovative spirit of our region.”

First presented in 2010, the Arts Innovator Award is given to artists who are originating new work, experimenting with new ideas, taking risks, and pushing the boundaries in their respective fields. A total of 175 applications were received across four disciplinary categories: visual, literary, performing, or media. Past Arts Innovator Award recipients can be viewed on the Artist Trust website.

2018 Arts Innovator Award Finalists

Literary Arts – Rachel Kessler, King County

Media Arts – Wes Hurley, King County

Maja Petric, King County

Performing Arts – Degenerate Art Ensemble

(Joshua Kohl & Haruko Crow Nishimura), King County

Visual Arts – Sena Clara Creston, Benton County

Jennifer Zwick, King County

2018 Arts Innovator Award Panelists

Literary Arts – Anastacia-Renee Tolbert, Seattle Civic Poet, King County

Media Arts – Jessica Plumb, Filmmaker & Writer, Jefferson County

Multidisciplinary Arts – Justin Colt Beckman, Artist & PUNCH Projects

Board President, Kittitas County

Performing Arts – Lucia Neare, Performance Artist, King County Visual Arts – Kristen Ramirez, Artist & Program Manager at City of Seattle, King County

About The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation

The Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation’s mission is to inspire and educate the public regarding all forms of art, and to provide support to artists and arts organizations.

About Artist Trust

Artist Trust has invested over $10 million in Washington State artists since its founding in 1986, through grant programs and direct support. Artist Trust also provides a comprehensive suite of career training and professional development resources to help artists achieve their career goals.

Artist Trust is a not-for-profit organization whose sole mission is to support and encourage individual artists working in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout Washington State. Find out more at

    – Artist Trust