Kresge Arts in Detroit announces 2019 fellowship awards

Poets, photographers, journalists, authors, and more literary and visual artists represent the 2019 cohort of Kresge Artist Fellows and Gilda Awards recipients.

Twenty Detroit-area artists will share $460,000 in no strings attached Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards, Kresge Arts in Detroit announced Thursday. Local and national panelists selected 18 metro Detroit artists to receive 2019 Kresge Artist Fellowships, with nine fellows in visual arts and nine in literary arts. Two were also selected to receive Gilda Awards, which honor the late artist, educator, and 2009 Kresge Artist Fellow Gilda Snowden (1954-2014). Kresge Artist Fellows will receive $25,000 each and Gilda Award recipients will receive $5,000 each.

Artists who spoke with Model D on Thursday expressed joy over being selected for the fellowship, which will allow them to focus on craft for the next year.

Cherise Morris is a writer and poet who writes about intergenerational trauma and healing through the lens of the Black experience. She recently performed a multidimensional literary and performance show titled “Visions of the Evolution” at Room Project, a New Center space for women and non-binary writers and artists.

Morris was working as an editor for an online publication but left the security of her full-time job to devote herself to the show. It was a leap of faith.

“The day that I got the Kresge phone call, I was working on some stuff for the show. And I was like, OK, I'm going to do this show and I'm going to be broke for a little while. I'm gonna have no money and, but it's going to be OK. And then they called me.”

The fellowship will allow her to continue to develop her show and work on her book.

“I literally would not have been able to pay my water bill,” she says. “I can live for the next year (on the fellowship award). I don't have to worry and I can focus on writing a book and not have to worry about paying my bills.”

Photographer Cybelle Codish, a Visual Arts Fellow this year, agrees.

“Artists, no matter what level you are or measure of success that you've achieved, it is still a struggle all the time. … Kresge is so massively important that they recognize that some people just need it to live and a lot of times that level of stress can impede creative progress.”

Codish says the fellowship will allow her to explore her project idea of chronicling Native American communities in Metro Detroit.

“As somebody who works as a freelancer, I’ve never truly been afforded the amount of time that I need to delve into something without like pretty much taking (on any assignment that comes up out of necessity). This will give me a little bit of breathing room on many levels, but also on a creative level.”

Each Kresge Artist Fellow receives a $25,000 grant that they can use however suits their work and a year of professional support, which begins with a professional development retreat presented by New York-based artist-service organization Creative Capital. Gilda Award recipients receive a $5,000 award, which is also no strings attached.

“A decade ago we recognized Detroit’s arts community as one of its bedrock strengths. We were convinced that heightening the visibility and advancing the careers of artists themselves would bring cascading benefits for the community of artists and the community at large – socially, culturally, economically,” Kresge President Rip Rapson said in a statement. “In the 2019 Kresge Artist Fellows and Gilda Awardees, we see yet another accomplished group poised to lift spirits, open hearts, stir our thinking, and challenge our complacency.”

To mark its 11th year, Kresge Arts in Detroit is hosting an exhibition titled “Parallel Visions,” which opens to the public July 12 at Wasserman Projects in Eastern Market. The exhibition, which will run through Aug. 24, will feature nearly 20 Kresge Artist Fellows from the first 10 years of the program.

Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards are funded by The Kresge Foundation and administered by the Kresge Arts in Detroit office of the College for Creative Studies.

Previous Kresge Artist Fellows include filmmaker and writer dream hampton, who was cited as one of “Time” magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2019”; novelist Michael Zadoorian, whose “Pleasure Seekers” was adapted into a movie starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland; and poet and performer jessica Care moore, who recently presented an Afrofuturist choreopoem, “Salt City,” at The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

For a full list of the winners, go to kresge.org.

Photo by Noah Stephens, courtesy of Kresge

Read more articles by Dorothy Hernandez.

Dorothy Hernandez is managing editor of Model D. Prior to joining Issue Media Group, she was a food journalism fellow with Feet in Two Worlds and WDET and has contributed to NPR, Thrillist, Eater and a variety of other publications.  Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @dorothy_lynn_h.
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