It was an art show two years ago that first sparked an idea for Madison artists Bird Ross [MFA ’92] and Brenda Baker [MFA ’90]. And then another idea. And another.

The culmination of that chain of sparks came Friday night with the announcement of the two winners of the first Forward Art Prize, an annual award targeted to support the work of outstanding female artists in Dane County.

Artists Jennifer Angus and Dakota Mace [MFA ’17] won the pair of $10,000 prizes, drawn from the Women Artists Forward Fund established by Ross and Baker as part of that original show.

Seventy female artists from Dane County entered the competition. A five-member jury (whose identities remain secret) whittled the field down to seven finalists: Hannah Bennett [Art Certificate ’19], Angelica Contreras, Martha Glowacki [MFA ’78], Emily Leach [BFA ’19] and [Professor of Glass] Helen Lee, along with Angus and Mace.

“I would say that the jury would have been thrilled” to name any of the seven finalists a winner, Baker said. “They’re all extremely talented. I would say that with (Angus), there’s a maturity to her work. A sophistication, a beauty.”

The jurors were also taken with “the message, the language, the visual representation” of Mace’s work, Ross said. “Basically she’s really working with her heritage in a really out-there way. But her work is also very skilled, very beautiful. It’s very precise and very meaningful.”

Read more at The Wisconsin State Journal