Metro Atlanta man beats out 8 Southern artists to win $25,000 award

Paul Stephen Benjamin

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Paul Stephen Benjamin

A metro Atlanta man has won a $25,000 cash award and residency from the Atlanta-based South Arts organization.

Paul Stephen Benjamin was one of nine visual artists from the South considered for the "Southern Prize:" a $25,000 cash award and a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia.

Benjamin is a sculptor, painter and video artist originally from Chicago who received his master of fine arts from Georgia State University. His video installation "Black is the Color" was on display at the High Museum of Art in 2016.

Benjamin was announced as the winner at a ceremony in New Orleans on Monday. Artists living in South Arts’ nine-state region — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, were eligible to apply, and a winner was chosen from each state.

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“When I look at what opportunities we have, as artists living in the South, this is so significant,” Benjamin said after winning. “There are not many of these prizes for artists who are not in New York.”

Louisiana photographer Jeremiah Ariaz received the Southern Prize finalist award of $10,000.

A panel of four jurors reviewed nearly 700 submissions with the only criterion of “artistic excellence” to determine the nine fellows, a press release said. A second panel of jurors reviewed the fellows to determine the winner and finalist.

Susie Surkamer, executive director of South Arts, said the fellows “reflect the richly diverse arts and culture of our region, and each offers a distinct viewpoint with their work and background.”

The fellowship and prize program is in its second year. The awards are presented to the artists as unrestricted funds.

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