Will Kasso Condry, 44, is the first-ever winner of the Vermont Prize, created earlier this year as a collaboration among four art groups: Burlington City Arts, The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, The Current and Hall Art Foundation.
The prize carries a monetary reward of $5,000, and Condry will be featured on the Vermont Prize website and on social media.
Condry is an Afro-futuristic-style visual artist, graffitist and artist educator with a career spanning over 20 years.
He said he creates fictional stories “based in a very Black reality,” and uses art as a form of self-expression and also as a way to bring “the great traditions of the griots of West Africa” to Vermont communities. A griot is a West African storyteller, singer, musician and oral historian.
Although he applied for the prize without expectation of winning, Condry said the award will encourage him to stay curious as an artist and will help him flesh out new ideas.
In creating the Vermont Prize, “what we wanted to do was celebrate the best of art being made in Vermont today,” said Rachel Moore, executive director of The Current, which is based in Stowe, and to highlight the importance of national and global awareness of the art that is happening in Vermont.
The Vermont Prize received 250 applications from nearly all parts of the state, Erin Jenkins, gallery manager and marketing coordinator for Brattleboro Museum, said in an emailed statement. Artist applications were reviewed for perceived artistic excellence by a juried team of five people — one representative from each of the partnered art groups, and one guest juror.
“Will Kasso Condry impresses in every way,” Kelly Baum, this year’s guest juror and the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, said in a press release. “For Condry, it is abundantly clear that the form and content of his work matters just as much as how, why, and for whom he makes that work.”
Condry has taught courses on graffiti culture, its politics and its relation to hip-hop at Middlebury College, and led elementary school lessons on more general art forms, according to the announcement. He received an education in fine art and illustration at The College of New Jersey before studying under graffiti artist Daniel “Pose 2” Hopkins and later Dave McShane at Mural Arts Philadelphia.
“Condry uses acrylic, ink, and marker to conjure up new, extraordinary forms of Black humanity,” Baum also wrote. “Adapting African traditions, his ‘more than humans’ are almost always armored and ornamented and immersed in fantastical, otherworldly landscapes. Together they amaze and inspire. Condry is an exceptional artist doing exceptional work in and for Vermont.”
Condry’s submitted pieces can be viewed in his artist profile on the Vermont Prize website.
“It's just that I enjoy it. I enjoy making art,” Condry said.