Former Homewood Artist Vanessa German Wins $250,000 Heinz Prize

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Former Pittsburgher Vanessa German won a $250,000 award for her contribution to the visual arts. She is one of two artists selected nationally for the 2022 Heinz Awards.

German says she creates art not only to be admired, but also to bring about change.

“I believe in the power of art. It’s love to me,” she said. “Creativity saved my life, so I know deeply, intimately, that creativity is a sure force of power, and everything I do lives in that power…I want people to feel the work, that the work enters their life places, so that it awakens their own spaces of power, creativity and hope.

German is a self-proclaimed “citizen artist” who specializes in sculpture, painting, poetry, photography and performance art. Based until recently in Homewood, German has been providing spaces for art and creative expression in its neighborhood for over 10 years. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that she recently moved to North Carolina.

German is self-taught and his work often confronts racism, violence, homophobia and hatred, in an effort to express hope for healing, according to a press release announcing the award. She often refers to her sculptures as “figures of power” and constructs them from everyday objects found around her, such as mirrors, vintage figurines, toy weapons, African beads or cowrie shells. His work acknowledges the collective suffering of Black Americans while offering affirmation, protection and optimism. A strong focus on the female form guides much of her art.

German’s work can be found on his Instagram account and is also exhibited in museums across the United States, such as the Kasmin Gallery in New York.

Established in 1993, the Heinz Prize honors individuals who make extraordinary achievements in the arts, environment and economy – themes of central importance to its namesake, the late U.S. Senator John Heinz.

“The Heinz Awards recognize artists and creators who help us better understand the challenges of our culture,” said Teresa Heinz, President of the Heinz Family Foundation. “Vanessa’s bold and thought-provoking sculptures, as well as her community programs, clearly reflect this spirit, demonstrating not only a commitment to artistic excellence, but also work that draws viewers into an experience that is both confronting and healing.


  • Cauleen Smith — an interdisciplinary artist and educator whose experimental films, installations and multimedia works reflect on history and imagine possible futures.


  • Hilary Abell and Alison Lingane — co-founders of Project Equity, a non-profit organization leading the movement to create better jobs and a fairer economy by advancing the employee ownership business model.
  • Chrystel Cornelius — President and CEO of Oweesta Corporation, a community development financial institution that strives to return wealth and financial independence to Indigenous lands and peoples.


  • Anne Evens – Energy equity leader transforming energy efficiency improvements in affordable housing and CEO of Elevate, a nonprofit that ensures everyone has equal access to heat, power and water clean and affordable in their homes and communities.
  • Butler Rhett Ayers – founder and CEO of the non-profit global environmental science and conservation information platform Mongabay, which produces meticulously researched and evidence-based information and investigative articles.

About Debra D. Johnson

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