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Fellowships for FY2008

Fellowship grants acknowledge the work of Rhode Island's finest artists in a variety of arts disciplines. Meet below the recipients of our fellowship awards in FY2008.

Crafts: David Allyn of Providence

David Allyn of Providence

David Allyn received his BFA from the University of Wisconsin and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has served as a ceramics instructor at RISD and is the founder and head of the ceramics department at the Steel Yard in Providence. The panel immediately responded favorably to Mr. Allyn’s “simple”, “quiet”, “humble” cup forms overlaid with political, social and industrial imagery. They also saw the cups as a commentary on the politics of mass production, since the cup forms could easily be mass produced, yet are each crafted by hand with consistency and a high level of craftsmanship. They appreciated that the artist made most of the pieces within the past six months. They also appreciated the imagery that directly references Rhode Island architecture, industry and history. They saw the cups as very intimate, marketable objects that represent a relationship between their maker and the person who will use them. They commented positively on some of the artist’s color choices for the insides and lips of the cups and wished they could see more of those elements. They felt that the objects are political in a private way, edgy yet practical, attractive and well executed. The panel was enthusiastic about recognizing this artist who clearly has a high command of his craft, as well as a commitment to exploring the social and political through even the simplest objects.

The recipient of the Crafts Fellowship Merit Award is Liz Collins of Providence.[top]

Film & Video: Kendall Moore of Hope Valley

Kendall Moore is an assistant professor in the department of Journalism at the University of Rhode Island. Prior to academia, she worked as a journalist and producer for ABC, News/Discovery Health, the Discovery Channel, PBS, and Reuters. She has received two Fulbright Scholarships to work on her films: Tanzania (2001), and a Fulbright Specialist Award to Jamaica (2004). Her films have covered a variety of topics such as: race/identity, AIDS in the black community, and Native American land rights. In 2007, She received the “Independence Award” for a short on the Narragansett Indian Tribe from the Media That Matters Film Festival. She currently runs a non-profit organization, the Women’s Documentary Collective. She received her BA from Syracuse University and an MA in Media Studies from the New School for Social Research. Ms. Moore submitted two documentary films for her Fellowship application: "Sovereign Nation/Sovereign Neighbor" and "Song in the Crisis". The panel viewed these as less journalistic and more intimate than most documentaries. The films are informative without being dry or overly didactic. The films reveal a strong personal vision, yet they feel broadly accessible even when tackling controversial or difficult subjects. The panel saw these films as consistently strong and they hoped the filmmaker would go on to create many more compelling films.

The panel recommends that the 2008 Film & Video Merit Award go to Matthew Carl Brinkman of Providence.[top]

Folk Arts: Karl M. Dennis of Warren

The merit award receipient is Jose Fernandez of Riverside.[top]

Fiction: Brian Sousa of Wakefield

Brian Sousa received his BA in English from Boston College, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. He has been published in Redivider, The Writer Magazine, and Brown University's Gavea-Brown Journal, and his first book of linked stories, "Almost Gone," is due out next year. A writing instructor at Boston College, Brian is currently working on a novel. A writing instructor at Boston College, Brian is currently working on a novel. The panel unanimously selected Mr. Sousa’s piece “Let Me Help” for the Fellowship Award. They were unsure whether the writer is of Portuguese descent, but were compelled by the main character, Nuno, an elderly widower who emigrated from Portugal to the United States. They viewed him as an unconventional protagonist in that he is a somewhat unsavory character, yet the reader feels sympathetic towards him. The panel felt that it was a “gutsy” choice to focus on such an unappealing character. The panel commented on the writer’s command of narrative, structure and flow. They described the story as successful and complete. Overall, they appreciated this writer’s voice and point of view, describing his writing as confident and courageous.

The panel’s recommendation for the Fiction Fellowship Merit Award is Sarah Madsen of Providence. [top]

Poetry: Nehassaiu DeGannes of Providence

After completing an MA in African American Studies at Temple University, where she studied with Sonia Sanchez, Nehassaiu completed her MFA in Creative Writing/Literary Arts at Brown University and then went on to train at Trinity Rep Conservatory. Among other publications, her poems have appeared in Callaloo, Painted Bride Quarterly and American Poetry Review and her chapbook, “Percussion, Salt & Honey,” was selected by Michael Harper for The Providence Athenaeum’s Philbrick Poetry Prize in 2001. Excerpts from her contributions to Thomas Sayers Ellis’ Quotes Community: Notes For Black Poets (forthcoming) have appeared in Black Renaissance /Renaissance Noire, SABLE Lit Magazine and Urban Dialect. She has new work forthcoming in The Encyclopedia Project and Callaloo:The Next 30 Years. Nehassaiu is a former member of The Dark Room Collective and a Cave Canem Fellow and has read and performed her poetry throughout the North East, Canada and the Caribbean, including St. Mark’s Poetry Project, The Blacksmith House in Cambridge, MA and The Caribbean Writers Festival of The University of Miami. This summer she will attend poet Marilyn Nelson’s Soul Mountain Retreat in East Haddam, CT. She is happy to be hard at work on her book-length collection of poems, now titled “TRANCE.” The panel described Ms. deGannes’ poems as “perfectly in tune with what they were meant to do.” They enjoyed her use of myth and metaphor and appreciated her skill in making their meanings literal, yet tongue-in-cheek. They felt that Ms. DeGannes tackles heavy topics in her poetry, infusing them with smells and imagery and darkness, but the reader is able to enter into her world with a trust in the writer's voice. They commented on her ability to break down syllables and play syntax against line, creating powerful rhythms yet maintaining the nature of speech. They found her voice to be very strong and her poems ambitious.

The panel’s recommendation for the Poetry Fellowship Merit Award is Jennifer Tynes of Providence.[top]

Playwrighting/Screenwriting: no recipient

The panel selected Bruce Reilly of Providence for the 2008 Playwriting/Screenwriting Fellowship Merit Award.[top]

Photography: Jesse Burke of Barrington

Jesse Burke of Barrington

Jesse Burke received his BFA in Photography from the University of Arizona, Tucson and his MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. His photographs and installations are an autobiographically driven investigation into the psychology of masculine identity and the presence of vulnerability and sensitivity that act as forces against the mythology of male dominance and power. He photographs his friends and family in an attempt to understand where ideas about masculinity originate. He is drawn to moments where a rupture or wound is physically, emotionally, or metaphorically inflicted. He employs concepts such as male bonding and peer influence, masculine rites and rituals, and men’s connectedness to nature to expose these instances. He is currently working on a commission for the Providence Police Department and as an instructor at RISD. His work has been exhibited in New York, Tokyo, Milan, Stockholm, Madrid, Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, Tucson, Providence, Ottawa, Boston and we recently part of the 2005-6 Art + Commerce Festival of Emerging Photographers. One member of the Fellowship Selection Panel remarked that they had seen this photographer’s work before and they were “a real fan of these photographs.” The panel appreciated his ability to explore the topics of manhood and masculinity with depth and humor. They felt that each photograph is infused with complex emotions including implied violence, humanity and empathy. They felt that the photographs have an ambivalent sense of either being posed or spontaneous, but that each photograph feels very genuine and presents a challenge to the viewer.

The panel selected Jennifer Kodis of Cranston for the Photography Fellowship Merit Award.[top]

Three Dimensional Art: Eamon Brown of Providence

Eamon Brown of Providence

Eamon Brown received his BA in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and his MFA in sculpture from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has taught courses at RISD and worked as a stonemason and carpenter throughout New England. He currently teaches sculpture and drawing at Boston University. The Fellowship Selection Panel described Eamon’s work as “unique” and “well realized”. They were impressed that he is able to work successfully in a variety of media including fiber, glass and wood. The work shows great variety, yet there is a sense of cohesion among the pieces, reflecting the artist’s personal vision and conceptual approach. One panelist explained that this artist’s work inspired the viewer to want to see more of his work and to seek out future projects.

The panel recommended the Three Dimensional Art Merit Award be presented to Steve Easton of Providence

Choreography: Melody Ruffin Ward of Providence

A dancer and choreography for the last two decades, Melody Ruffin Ward is also a professor in the Department of Music, Theater, and Dance at Rhode Island College.  The panel unanimously selected this artist for the Fellowship award, recognizing her work as sophisticated, moving, and grounded.  They commented on her use of the floor, open space, and her suspension.  They described the work as not predictable and very spatially aware, using all sides of the dancers’ bodies.  The panel preferred the first piece titled Reconstructing the Memory as I Watch Time Go By and commented on the dancers’ relaxed demeanor and command of the movements.  They liked the use of sand at the beginning and end of the piece.  They appreciated the chorographer’s ability to move the dancers in unison as well as providing them with independent movements.  They loved the use of repetition and felt that each movement had meaning and weight.  There were no poses in the piece, each movement progressing nicely to the next.  They loved her use of silence and music and they recognized a continuous line running through both of the choreographer’s pieces.  The panel felt that even non-dancers would appreciate this work.   

The Choreography Fellowship Merit Award recipient is Nathan Andary of Providence.

Design: Kevin Cunningham of Providence

kevin cunningham image

Kevin Cunningham received his BA in Fine Art and his BA in Architecture from the Rhode Island School of Design.  In addition to owning and operating his surfboard design company, he works professionally in Architecture Design & Engineering in Rhode Island and Massachusetts .  This artist primarily submitted surfboard designs that incorporate sustainable materials, innovative design and a high level of craftsmanship.  The panel remarked on the cohesive nature of this artist’s work.  They would have liked to have seen more images of completed surfboards, but were enthusiastic about providing him with funds in order to fabricate a new series of boards.  The panel had a positive response to the artist’s use of honeycomb construction for the interior of the boards and they were interested to see if he might use that technology in other kinds of design projects.  The panel recognized that there are a number of surf-related products that use green materials and they discussed whether some of the applicant’s materials, such as balsa wood, are really “green”.   They agreed that the artist’s approach is ecologically conscientious and they appreciated that his passion for surfing inspired him to make advancements in surfboard design and fabrication. 

The Design Fellowship Merit Award recipient is Arley-Rose Torsone of Providence.

Drawing & Printmaking: Stephen Fisher of Warren

stephen fisher

Stephen Fisher is a Professor at Rhode Island College whose work has been collected by numerous institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Museum. The panel saw in this artist’s work a true dedication to his craft. His vision is strong and his aesthetic consistent. These works are rooted in formalism and realism, yet the panel described them as “poetic”. The compositions are not risky and the content is not as strong as the craft. However, the panel acknowledged the pleasure of viewing the work of an artist who is so highly skilled. Technically, these works cannot be beat. One artist who has seen the artist’s work in person explained that when viewed up close his drawings “look better than real life.” The panel felt that these pieces rise above and this artist will clearly continue to create wonderful work.

The Drawing and Printmaking Fellowship Merit Award recipient is Lloyd Martin of North Providence.

Music Composition: Gerald Shapiro of East Greenwich

gerald shapiro

Gerald Shapiro is a composer of acoustic and electronic music and a professor of music at Brown University .  He has had works commissioned and performed in Europe, Israel , and across the United States .  The panel unanimously agreed on this composer as the fellowship winner.  They described brilliance in the orchestration, harmony, timbre and dynamics of the works, and appreciated that this composer knows how to use an orchestra in an effective way.  They were intrigued by the fusion of classical and jazz sounds, and felt that these elements were meshed well in the ensemble.  The panel described the tonalities, melodic development and color of the orchestra piece as excellent and well thought out, with a "nice use of swing.”  All of the panelists felt that the solo saxophone piece is an outstanding composition--they described it as exceptionally well executed, "smartly written," and with a very strong texture and rhythm.  Over all they felt that this composers work is strong, exciting and compelling.

 The Music Fellowship Merit Award recipient is Nina Ott of Providence.

New Genres: Thomas Doran of Pawtucket

thomas doran

Thomas Doran received his MFA from Tufts University. His interdisciplinary artwork has been exhibited in Europe and New England. The panel felt that this artist’s work truly fulfills the notion of “New Genres” art. It combines sculptural elements with installation, audience participation, performance, happening, chance and ambiguity. The individual pieces have strong formal and architectural qualities and they invite many interpretive possibilities through different configurations. The panel felt that this work does not feel overly self-important and embraces a humorous and mischievous quality. The materials are not precious and, therefore, not intimidating for people to interact with. The panel was impressed that the photos of the installation show the gallery audience engaging with the piece, remarking that it is difficult to get audiences to participate in happenings. The panel felt that this artist demonstrated an ambition and adventurousness that promise exciting possibilities for the future.

The New Genres Fellowship Merit Award recipient is Ju-Pong Lin of North Providence.

Painting: Sam Duket of Providence

sam ducket

Sam Duket received his BFA in painting from the Massachusetts College of Art in 2003 and has exhibited his work primarily in Massachusetts as well as Rhode Island . The panel saw this artist as exploring an innovative and unexplored approach to painting.  The works are more like craft and collage, but with an undeniably painterly and sophisticated approach to composition.  The works play with spatial illusion, presenting light, shadow, depth and flatness in complex and misleading ways.  The panel was disappointed that grey elements within the pieces were not painted, but are shadows.  They hoped this artist might push that idea of fooling the eye with painted elements.  They appreciated that the pieces have a sense of mystery and surprise, while still succeeding as very tight compositions.  These works were described as strong both visually and conceptually.

The Painting Fellowship Merit Award recipient is Dan Talbot of Providence.