Stephen Luoni, director of the University of Arkansas Community Design Center, recently received a $50,000 fellowship grant from United States Artists (USA).

A 2012 USA Ford Fellow, Luoni is one of 54 artists to receive a fellowship from United States Artists, a national grant-making and advocacy organization, which recently awarded 50 unrestricted grants of $50,000 each. This year’s recipients were announced at a Dec. 2 ceremony hosted by actor/director Tim Robbins, which also featured performances by new and former fellows, held at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Luoni is a Distinguished Professor of architecture in the Fay Jones School of Architecture. The Community Design Center, an outreach program of the Fay Jones School, specializes in interdisciplinary public works projects combining landscape, urban and architectural design, with a focus on shaping urban design approaches to issues of sustainability.

Luoni shared the spotlight with other USA Fellows who included author Annie Proulx, choreographer Tina Brown and jazz musician Jack DeJohnette.

“To be selected as a USA Fellow is certainly an unexpected and truly humbling honor, considering the stature of the other fellows – some whose work I have looked up to and admired for quite a while,” Luoni said. “It should be understood that this work is possible because of the talented associates at UACDC who are as dedicated as I am to design excellence in the public interest.”

Luoni said his USA Fellows grant will go toward the Community Design Center’s staff budget to support the advancement of projects that are unfunded or underfunded. This could include publishing Food City: An Urban Agriculture Design Manual; developing a housing project proposal for special populations; and possibly participation in a design competition with an important public interest issue aligned with the center’s expertise.

“I am not only privileged to have such co-workers in the development of this work, but also to have the university’s special support of the center, for which the work would not have been possible,” Luoni said. “Work like ours depends upon a supportive infrastructure within both the school and the university. The right chemistry of talent, organization and values allows the University of Arkansas to be a national leader in public interest and community design.”

This award is the largest that Luoni has personally received. In the seven-year history of the USA Fellows program, this is the first year for Arkansas to be represented. In addition to Luoni, Leon Niehues, a renowned craftsman whose basket-making studio is in Huntsville, was also named a fellow.

This year’s fellowship recipients are based in 19 states, range from 31 to 81 years of age and represent the most innovative and influential artists in their fields. Reflecting the diversity of artistic practice in America, they include cutting-edge thinkers and traditional practitioners from the fields of architecture and design, crafts and traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts and visual arts.

USA fellowships are awarded to artists at all career stages who demonstrate artistic excellence, unique artistic vision and significant contributions to their fields. Since the USA Fellows program started in 2006, it has named a total of 371 fellows from 46 states and Puerto Rico, putting $17.5 million in the hands of these creative leaders.

“The USA Fellows for 2012 are not only incredible artists, they also give back to their communities and engage with the most pressing social issues of our time,” said Katharine DeShaw, USA executive director. “We are proud to honor 54 of this country’s greatest living artists and celebrate their extraordinary contributions.”

For more information about the 2012 USA Fellows, visit

AuthorMatthew Petty