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History ​

Since its founding, in 1990, the Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU) is the main supporter of the Young Visual Art Awards (YVAA) program. From the start, TMU has stewarded YVAA’s vision, advancement, and achievements. This support has made a significant contribution to the artistic development and exposure of artists from Eastern, Central and Southern Europe. 

The YVAA program is constituted by eleven individual awards organized by local galleries and institutions. Since its foundation, thanks to the TMU, the YVAA program has never stopped growing by integrating more and more awards inside its structure.

The Young Visual Artists Award program was established in 1990 with the creation of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award in Czechoslovakia with the mission of promoting and recognizing artistic accomplishment and promise by providing young artists with a US residency and cultural exchange experience. Under the aegis of President Vaclav Havel, the founders: Wendy Luers, President of the Foundation for a Civil Society, and a group of dissident artists named this initial award after the Czech art historian Jindrich Chalupecky, underscoring the role of culture in democratization and civil society.

Over the years, the YVAA program has partnered with leading art organizations in each country, reflecting the development and vibrancy of contemporary art in the region.This founding mission and programmatic framework — to promote contemporary art, foster cultural exchange, and build the capacity of local art NGO’s — led by the Foundation for a Civil Society in New York City has guided the creation of the other eleven awards:

– Jindřich Chalupecký Society, Prague, Czech Republic : Jindřich Chalupecký Award (1990)
– Foundation – Centre for Contemporary Arts, Bratislava, Slovakia : Oskár Čepán Award (1996)
– Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art, Prishtina, Kosovo : Artist of Tomorrow Award (2002)
– Institute for Contemporary Art, SCCA, Zagreb, Croatia : Radoslav Putar Award (2002)
– Contemporary Art Center & FRU, Skopje, Macedonia : DENES Award (2002)
– Remont Gallery, Belgrade – Mangelos Foundation, Novi Sad, Serbia : Mangelos Award (2002)
– Zavod P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E., P47 Center and Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia : OHO Award (2005)
– KRAK: Center for Contemporary Culture, Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina : ZVONO Award (2006)
– ZETA Contemporary Art Center, Tirana, Albania : Ardhje Award (2007)
– Institute of Contemporary Art, Sofia, Bulgaria : BAZA Award (2008)
– ISU – Institute of Contemporary Art, Cetinje, Montenegro : Milčik Award (2017)

 YVAA operates in partnership with local nongovernmental art organizations to conduct an open call and transparent annual and biannual competitions and curated exhibitions, through which an independent and international jury selects a young visual artist as the winner and recipient of a US residency. 

The Foundation for a Civil Society has managed not only the program’s development in the region and cultural exchange with the US, making it the longest running wide-spread program of its kind, but also a number of exhibitions, symposia, and other projects over the years, intended to strengthen the network and foster greater exchange among the YVAA partners, artists, and cultural stakeholders in the region, Europe, and the US. To date, it has organized seven such joint events in Prague, Belgrade, Prishtina, Bratislava, Tirana and the US in Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and NY.

Initially, the residencies for the YVAA award winners were hosted by the Headlands Center for Contemporary Art in Sausalito, California. In New York, FCS started hosting the artists first in partnership with International House and Columbia University, then later at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP). Over the years, the YVAA program also partnered with art institutions such as Art in General and ApexArt.

In 2015, Residency Unlimited (RU) assumed leadership of the YVAA program hosting the artists for two-month residencies in New York. Residency Unlimited  supports the creation and presentation of contemporary art through its unique residency program and year-round public programs. Artists benefit from customized residencies, weekly studio visits by curators and other arts professionals. Thanks to RU activities, events and sense of community, the residents are introduced to New York City and its wide art world  

YVAA laureates have represented their country at the Venice Biennial and have had works included at the Berlin, Lyon and Istanbul biennials, and international exhibitions as Documenta and Manifesta, as well as in other exhibitions over the world. These artists’ continued success at the international stage has significantly and positively impacted the artistic scenes in their 11 respective countries, where they are active as exhibiting artists, curators, teachers, and cultural leaders. The YVAA program counts more than 20 organizations, over 50 arts professionals, close to 500 finalists, and countless applicants that have been involved and participated in it over the past 32 years.


The YVAA program has been generously supported by a number of private foundations, cultural institutes, governmental organizations, and individuals over the years, in the region as well as in the United States.

Erste Foundation
European Cultural Foundation
Central European Initiative
US Department of State
Vilcek Foundation
Malcolm and Carolyn Wiener Foundation and
various US Embassies and Ministries of Culture in the region

Relevant contact

For the YVAA program at Residency Unlimited:

Cultural exchange programs between the US and Central and Eastern Europe since 1990


Residency Unlimited Inc.
360 Court Street, Unit #4 Brooklyn, NY 11231