Betelhem Makonnen is the winner of the 2019 Tito’s Prize, a $15,000 award to an Austin visual artist, officials with Big Medium, the nonprofit organization that hosts the award, announced today.
Funded by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the Austin-based liquor company, the prize also includes a solo exhibition at Big Medium Gallery. Makonnen’s show will held March 6 to April 4, 2020.
Working with a variety of mediums that include video, photography, and installations, Makonnen artistically wrestles with questions on perception, presence, and place, along with the diasporic experience and identity.
A native of Ethiopia, Makonnen (b. 1972), received an MFA (2019) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a New Artists Society Merit Scholar, and a B.A (1995), History and Literature of the African Diaspora from University of Texas in Austin. She has also done graduate coursework in painting, time-based media, and modern and contemporary art History at the School of Visual Arts of Parque Lage in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Thee Tito’s Prize was created to provide an Austin artist the means to take a new step in their career.
For Makonnen that means having the financial assistance to maintain a working studio in Austin’s increasingly unaffordable real estate market.
“I am immensely grateful to have been awarded the 2019 Tito’s Prize,” Makonnen said. “The award will be a big help towards enabling me to effectively sustain and build on my practice by providing the financial security for my work studio (my rent has gone up twice and I have yet to finish a new two year lease), and the research and material needs of my practice. Ultimately, this opportunity will allow me to increase the focus, time dedication, and professional development that I am committed to.”
Makonnen was selected by a curatorial panel that includes Florencia Bazzano-Nelson, Assistant Curator, Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art; Annette Lawrence, Artist, and Professor of Studio Art at the University of North Texas; and Rigoberto Luna, Director and Curator at Presa House Gallery in San Antonio.