Log in

The Deborah Newton Award is a tribute to the incredible journey of a visionary artist. Like Deborah, when she purchased, created, and became chatelain of the 317 Market Street building and its guest gallery, and when she later birthed the idea of what is now known as Rockford Art Scene, the awards inspire new artists and sustain established visual artists…so they might touch others through their work.

The awards —with intention — reflect the two that Deborah herself received, both as a youth and as an active established adult artist:

a Katherine Lord Scholarship for art lessons (in the summer of 1956,  between her 7th and 8th grades at Lincoln Junior High School) from the Burpee Museum of Art (now Rockford Art Museum)…a seed sowing experience,

and the first Jessica Holt Purchase Award from Rockford Art Museum (in 1992 while a successful adult artist and advocate in her dreamy skylit studio at 317 Market Street). Her work and inspiration were recognized

More about Deborah…

Although the two awards that Deborah received have faded into history, the spirit of the early experience

and established artist recognition will continue for generations.

To honor the life and artistry of Rockford’s own Deborah Newton, and to inspire new young artists and sustain established adult artists, a legacy endowment was established on September 16, 2021 to fund awards that emulate Deborah's own early art making experience and the recognition she received as an adult artist, organizer, and leader. Participation in visual arts is a form of self-expression where the artist not only does "what-they-cannot-do-without" but allows them opportunity to reach others through their work.

The Deborah L Newton Legacy Endowment Fund is held and managed by the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois to serve the Rockford area visual arts community in perpetuity. As the endowment grows, supported by generous donations, so do the annual distributions that fund the awards. The annual distributions from the Endowment to its designated 501(c)3 charitable arts organization — Womanspace of Rockford — enables Womanspace to issue Deborah Newton Awards which provide:

  • Art Making Experience Awards to public, private and/or home-schooled 7th or 8th grade students in the Rockford Area*, and
  • Recognition Awards (including possible monetary, purchase, exhibition, or stipend/commission) to established adult visual artists in the Rockford Area*

For the purpose of the Deborah Newton Awards, *ROCKFORD AREA is defined as:

Winnebago to the west, Rockton/South Beloit to the north, Belvidere to the east, and New Milford to the south. See map…


  • Applications can be submitted anytime up until the 5:00 pm deadline on:   March 20, 2024
  • Selection committee meets to review applications:  March 21–27, 2024
  • Notification of award winner:  March 28, 2024
  • Name and photograph of awardee announced to the public:   April 18, 2024
  • Awardee participates in experiences and represents Womanspace and the award:   April 19, 2024–March 31, 2025



  • Regardless of the student’s previous experience with visual art, this award is open only to students currently enrolled (as of March, 2024) in 7th or 8th grade public or private schools or home-school curriculums within the Rockford area (as defined above*). 


Applicant submissions shall be made electronically using the button below. If you need help, seek assistance from your parents, home room teacher or other school/homeschool representative.



  • Meet eligibility requirements
  • Interest in participating in an art making experience either at Womanspace or at another organization (describe your interests within your essay)
  • If selected, you must have a willingness to represent the award (be photographed, interviewed, etc.)
  • Interest in helping to select the next recipient(s) of the award
  • Write an essay expressing your interest, motivation, and commitment to receive award
  • Submit at least two letters of support from your school or homeschooling organization
  • Submit electronic application by March 20, 2024, 5:00pm 
  • Awardee will meet with Womanspace to select a desired art experience: April 7–11, 2024



  • Must be an active visual adult artist (or nominator thereof) within the Rockford Area.  Artist must have had a studio or residence within the Rockford Area* for no fewer than 12 months prior to application.



  • Meet eligibility requirements
  • Images of prior work shall be provided. Selection group may request to visit artist's studio.
  • Open to having a piece of your artwork selected and displayed at a Rockford area charitable organization
  • Interest in exhibiting your work in the Womanspace William Reif Gallery or other art/public venue during the year of your award
  • Open to serving on the selection committee for subsequent award recipients
  • Open to representing the award during the 12-month period of the award (photograph, interviews, etc.)
  • Open to the possibility of offering an art-making experience to 7th/8th grade Deborah Newton Award recipient
  • Submit electronic application by March 20, 2024, 5:00pm

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software