Two San Antonio artists are among the 2017 recipients of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s painters and sculptors grant program. Ruth Buentello and Ana Fernandez each receive unrestricted funds of $25,000 to assist them in their artistic pursuits.

Buentello and Fernandez, who are both painters, join 25 other U.S. artists – representing 12 states – in winning the awards announced Tuesday. Buentello is a member of Mas Rudas Chicano Art Collective along with San Antonian Mari Hernandez, who won a 2016 Mitchell grant for emerging artists. Adriana Corral, also from San Antonio, won the emerging artist award in 2015.

“The fact that I was one of two Latinas from San Antonio selected this year makes this win extra special,” Fernandez said.

“When Ruth and I found out we were both nominated, we didn’t think it was possible for both of us to win. Then we thought, if we were two white men from New York, no one would bat an eye.” That both she and Buentello are grant recipients “is really a huge honor and nod to our city and the amazing art that can be found here,” she said.

Buentello said that with the award, she plans “to become a full time artist and focus on my studio practice for the next year, which is something I haven’t been able to fully focus on since taking on teaching high school. This grant will hopefully open doors to new opportunities and showing outside of Texas.”

Buentello’s section on the Mitchell website quotes her as painting “from a bi-cultural lens that documents my own intimate experience with familial interactions specific to Latinos in south Texas, and that her interest is “focusing on what sets my family apart and at the same time … finding what makes us Americans as well.”

Fernandez’s work “brings to life snapshots in time and actual momentary realities of the neighborhoods of San Antonio,” according to Susan Heard, who represents Fernandez through Cinnabar Gallery.

Fernandez is currently participating in the Texas Biennial in Austin and will be a fall 2018 Artpace artist-in-residence. “Ana joins several Artpace residents who have received the award, and we know that her work at Artpace next summer will benefit greatly from the increased profile and financial support,” wrote Scott Williams, Artpace director of archives and communications, in an email.

In 2010, Buentello won a $2,500 Artpace grant to travel, which “helped to foster Ruth’s development as a community-based artist and reinforce her public art work,” Williams said.

The Mitchell awards are among the largest annual individual artist grants in the U.S. Joan Mitchell, a leading Abstract Expressionist painter born in Chicago, traveled to France in 1948, where she eventually settled. The New York-based foundation she established after her death in 1992 seeks to “create a world in which artists are valued and thriving, according to its mission statement.

“The grants focus in particular on artists whose work has contributed to important artistic and cultural dialogues,” read the statement from the Joan Mitchell Foundation announcing the awards.

This year’s awards represent a “a wide range of artistic practices and demographics,” according to the statement, which also quotes Travis Laughlin, the Mitchell Foundation’s senior director of programs, as echoing important concepts of the City of San Antonio’s new equity lens budget process. “Ensuring access and equity is an important part of our process and our desired outcomes,” Laughlin states.

Past San Antonio winners include Vincent Valdez in 2015, Dario Robleto and Alex Rubio in 2007, and Franco Mondini-Ruiz in 2001. Former Artpace artists-in-residence Robert Hodge and Robert Pruitt won in 2013.

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...