Arts Foundation Selects Photographer Julia Cumes as its 2024 Artist of the Year

Filed Under: Awards, Creative Economy

February 14, 2024 (Cape Cod, MA) – Ever since she was a young girl growing up in apartheid-era South Africa, Julia Cumes has understood the power that photography can have in telling stories, revealing truth, and serving as a catalyst for change.

Julia Cumes

It is that approach Cumes has taken with her own work since moving to Cape Cod in 2001 when she was hired as a summer photography intern at the Cape Cod Times. “I believe in using photography as a tool for engaging in dialog about the complex issues facing our society today, including climate change, gender inequality, and more,” she said. “My favorite projects have been focused on women and the struggles they face around the world, as well as wildlife conservation.”

The breadth, depth, and impact of Cumes’s work has led the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod to name her as its 2024 Artist of the Year. Cumes is the third recipient of the award which recognizes a Cape-based artist whose work shapes thought, inspires change, and creates a deeper sense of connection in the community.

“Julia is a beacon for how an artist can make a profound difference through their art. Her photographs shine a bright light into the human experience and important topics like gender identity, climate change, sustainable food production, and the struggles that women have faced around the world,” said Arts Foundation Executive Director Julie Wake. “These issues become so palpable through Julia’s lens that it makes us not only want to learn about them but to take action to address them. Julia epitomizes what we want out of our Artist of the Year – someone who moves us to think about our place in the world and the role each of us can play in shaping it for the better.”

The Arts Foundation will celebrate Julia and her art on Thursday, April 4th, 5-6:30 pm, at the Cahoon Museum of American Art. During the event, Julia will unveil her latest piece which the Arts Foundation will auction off at its Prelude to Summer Gala on Thursday, June 6th at the Hyannisport Club.

Cumes, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, an MFA in writing from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in photojournalism from Syracuse University, has had her work published in the New York Times, Boston Globe. The Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, and USA Today. She was a 2017 Arts Foundation of Cape Cod fellow, an Art Within Reach grant recipient, and an Alexia Foundation student grant recipient.

Last year, Cumes launched Photo Artfolio (, an online organization that serves as a resource center and gallery to support emerging and established photographers. She started the website, she said, because “as a young photographer, I experienced firsthand the profound impact of having mentors in my photographic journey. Their guidance, support, and insights were instrumental in shaping my skills and artistic vision. It is with this understanding of the value of mentorship and a strong photography community that the idea of Photo Artfolio was born.”

She has traveled the world, helping bridge cultures, tell stories, and document our shared connection to one another, in India, Rwanda, Thailand, Lebanon, Tanzania, Cuba, Kenya, and more. Her work has led her to photograph the aftermath of several of the world’s recent natural disasters, including following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and the catastrophic floods that damaged nearly 9,000 homes in Eastern Kentucky in 2022.

“I am so honored at being named the Arts Foundation’s Artist of the Year,” Cumes said of her latest career accomplishment. “It is truly a wonderful and unexpected gift to receive this.”

Cumes joins painter Jo Hay (2021) of Provincetown, and painter, cartographer, educator, and naturalist Mark Adams (2022) of Truro as recipients of the Arts Foundation award. The trio will convene on Wednesday, April 24th, 5-7 pm, at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth, for a roundtable discussion where they’ll share insights into their creative process and talk about the inspiration for their work.

The three are emblematic of the rich arts community found on the Cape. “I’ve found this to be a very welcoming place where I’ve really felt embraced as a photographer,” said Cumes. “Each time I’ve taken on a project here that I feared might be too controversial or difficult for people, I have instead found support and open heartedness.”

The Artist of the Year is made possible through generous support from William Raveis Real Estate.

About the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod
Founded in 1987, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod’s mission is to support and strengthen a vibrant arts and cultural sector for everyone in the region. It fulfills its mission by funding grants; by increasing access to arts and culture in the region for all on Cape Cod; by advocating for more awareness on the impact the Cape’s creative economy has on our region and beyond; and by building a strong arts community network through membership as well as professional development opportunities that fall under its Creative Exchange program.