Colene Brown Art Prize

The Colene Brown Art Prize was established to advance opportunities for our community of artists by awarding ten New York-based visual artists with a $10,000 unrestricted grant.

Each year, the Prize recipients are selected from a group of visual artists nominated by a multidisciplinary cohort composed of ten New York City-based curators, critics, and artists. The Prize aims to support artists who have yet to receive substantial institutional support by providing necessary resources which can be used to fulfill their unique, individual needs. It also expresses recognition of the exceptional merit exhibited by the cohort.

The Prize is underwritten by artist and former BRIC Board Member Deborah Brown and her sister Ellen Brown in memory of their late mother, Colene Brown, and is funded through the Harold and Colene Brown Family Foundation.

About Colene Brown

Colene Dunning Brown (1929-2018) was born and raised in San Francisco, the descendent of German-Scots immigrants who had sought their fortune in the hotel business during the Gold Rush. Perhaps it was this spirit of optimism and adventure that propelled her life. Colene’s family escaped the city fog to spend summers among the Redwoods with farm animals and much mischief. After her father, dean of an early dental college, passed away in mid-life, her mother and maiden aunt raised Colene and her brother. She attended Mills College before graduating from Purdue University with a degree in home economics.

Colene returned to San Francisco to work as a department store buyer and met her future husband, a smart kid from the Bronx, at a New Year’s Eve party. He was captivated by her beauty, enthusiasm, and verve and Colene spent the next 65 years supporting his career and nurturing her family. She encouraged childhood pursuits ranging from serious art to beekeeping, maintained households, marshaled complex travel schedules, and stylishly entertained politicos, academics, heads of state, technocrats, industrialists, CEOs, and even film stars on her husband’s government salary. From diplomatic travels, she returned with what-were-then obscure and inexpensive treasures. When her daughters, Deborah and Ellen, became old enough to travel along, she shared her enthusiasm and curiosity for the world with them. Colene had great style 60 years before it was simple to learn from Instagram.


Learn more about 2022 prize recipients