This year’s finalists for the Betty Bowen Award, named after the late journalist and art supporter, all deal with social issues in their work.

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Seattle Art Museum has announced its five finalists for the annual Betty Bowen Award — a $15,000, no-strings-attached grant for one Northwest artist, plus an exhibition at SAM. The award was launched in 1977 in honor of journalist and art supporter Betty Bowen (who briefly worked at The Seattle Times), who died of a brain tumor that year. This year’s Bowen committee, which included artists, curators and arts philanthropists, reviewed 466 applications.

Almost half of this year’s finalists were first-time applicants, SAM spokeswoman Rachel Eggers said. They are: photographer Evan Baden (Albany, Ore.), sculptor and printmaker Dawn Cerny (Seattle), multimedia artist Wendy Red Star (Portland), photographer Sadie Wechsler (Seattle) and fabric-based artist Mark Mitchell (Seattle).

All of the finalists deal with social issues in their work: Mitchell, for example, has used fabric and fashion design to make burial shrouds and address prison reform. Red Star, who was raised on the Apsáalooke (Crow) reservation in Montana, works in a wide range of mediums — photography, performance, sculpture — to lampoon traditional, romanticized images of Native Americans. (She also curated the first all-Native contemporary art exhibition at Bumbershoot.)

The Betty Bowen award will be formally presented at a free celebration, open to the public, on Nov. 10 at SAM.