Skip to content

Kresge Arts in Detroit announces 2020 artist fellowships and Gilda Award winners


Total awards and fellowships increase from 20 to 30, this year and next, in light of pandemic and economic downturn

Thirty Detroit-area artists will share $550,000 in Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Emerging Artist Awards announced today by Kresge Arts in Detroit. This is an increase of $90,000 and 10 additional awards from recent years.

In announcing the 2020 Kresge Artist Fellows and Gilda Award recipients working in Live Arts and Film & Music, Kresge Arts in Detroit recommits to and deepens its support of metro Detroit artists by increasing the number of $25,000 Kresge Artist Fellowships from 18 to 20, and the number of $5,000 Gilda Awards from 2 to 10. (Learn more about the new fellows and the Gilda Award winners.)

“With artists in the midst of an unprecedented loss of employment, we’re thrilled to provide more awards than ever,” said Christina deRoos, director of Kresge Arts in Detroit. “Given the no strings attached nature of the awards and the central role of artists throughout the city of Detroit, we know these resources will have a positive impact on far more than the 30 individuals receiving them.” Funded by The Kresge Foundation and administered by the College for Creative Studies, Kresge Arts in Detroit facilitates Kresge Artist Fellowships, Gilda Awards and the annual Kresge Eminent Artist Award. In announcing the 12th cohort of award recipients, Kresge Arts in Detroit has, thus far, awarded 252 artists more than $6 million.

Kresge Artist Fellows in Live Arts. Top row: ​Kia ix Arriaga, interdisciplinary work; Melanie Manos, performance art; Ajara Alghali, dance; Chris Jakob, interdisciplinary work; Andrew Morton, playwriting and theater directing. Bottom row: Michael Manson, dance and choreography; Salakastar, interdisciplinary work; Karilú Alarcón Forshee, interdisciplinary work; Shawntai Brown, playwriting; Debra J. White-Hunt, dance and choreography.

Local and national panelists pored over hundreds of applications to choose the metro Detroit artists to receive 2020 Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards, the latter honoring the late artist, educator and 2009 Kresge Artist Fellow Gilda Snowden, who died unexpectedly in 2014 and whose absence remains deeply felt. The latest awards provide 10 Kresge Artist Fellowships in Live Arts and 10 Kresge Artist Fellowships in Film & Music. There are four Gilda Award winners in Live Arts and six in Film & Music. The Kresge Foundation has committed to fund this increased number of awards – 20 fellowships and 10 Gilda Awards – in 2021 as well.

“Kresge’s commitment to the arts – forged over more than a decade – is a commitment to the creative processes indispensable to healthy, vibrant, and hopeful communities,” said Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson. “And it is in times like these – full of uncertainty, pain, and injustice – that the arts play a unique role in provoking society to deeper reflection and arcing us to higher aspiration. A long, enduring investment in the arts, and in individual artists, is an insurance policy – that we never lose sight of our common humanity, never overlook the travails of our history, and never give up hope for the boundless possibilities for our future. There could be no clearer proof than the group of artists presented today.”

Fellows in Film & Music: Top row: ​Amp Fiddler, music composition; Mike Khoury, music composition and performance; Joo Won Park, music composition and performance; Naima Shamborguer, music composition and performance; Vincent Chandler; music composition and performance. Bottom row: ​Marcus Elliot, music composition and performance; bree gant, interdisciplinary work; Brandon Walley, film directing; Paige Wood, screenwriting and film directing; Rafael Leafar, music composition and performance.

The awardees were selected by independent panels of local and national artists and arts professionals who reviewed the applications over many months and several rounds of review. The selection criteria for Kresge Artist Fellowships include: A demonstrated track record of artistic achievement and high-quality work, the potential to grow and advance in one’s artistic career, and the potential to reflect, enhance, or impact communities within metropolitan Detroit.

“It was meaningful to serve as a panelist for an organization that values racial equity within the arts,” said Film & Music panelist Marshalle Montgomery Favors. “I am excited about this cohort of Kresge Artist Fellows. They are a reflection of the rich and diverse talent that we have in our community.”

Gilda Award Winners in Film & Music: Top Row: Ian Fink, music composition and performance; Emily Rogers, music composition and performance; Karl Kingson, Screenwriting and Film Directing. Bottom Row: We Are Culture Creators (Elizabeth Stone, Michael Reyes, Xavier Cuevas), interdisciplinary work; Teddy Dorsette III, interdisciplinary work; Summer Like The Season (Summer Kinsky), music composition and performance.

In addition to a $25,000 “no strings attached” award, Kresge Artist Fellows receive one year of professional development support. This year, for the first time, Kresge Arts in Detroit will lead the professional development program – formerly handled by third parties – which has been reimagined and will be driven by participants. Fellows will select the skill-building, networking, promotion and coaching support that best suits their goals and definition of success.

“In these unprecedented times, if one needed a reminder of Detroit’s resilient and tenacious spirit, it’s exemplified in the inspiring work of the 2020 Kresge Artist Fellows and Gilda Award recipients,” said College for Creative Studies President Donald L. Tuski. “CCS is proud to honor and invest in this group of artists and looks forward to their ongoing contributions to our cultural community and progress. Our world needs the transformative power of the arts, now more than ever.”

The fellows will also be featured in Kresge Arts in Detroit’s commissioned film series, which documents the work and perspectives of the fellows throughout the program’s history. Short individual artist videos and a feature-length documentary film of the 2019 fellows are available online at and Vimeo, respectively. The 2020 fellows’ films will go online next winter.

Gilda Award winners in Live Arts: Lis Chere Thomas,​ performance art; ​Celia Benvenuitti, dance and choreography; Thank You So Much For Coming (Maddy Rager, Scott Crandall), interdisciplinary work; Aj Sims, dance and choreography.

“Detroit is known for talented, innovative artists whose work not only reflects and documents the world as it is, but also heals, confronts and inspires us all to imagine what’s possible – how we can approach the past and present with a commitment to truth and reconciliation, and build a future where everyone can fully thrive,” said deRoos. “At this critical moment, as always, artists are critical to Detroit’s position as one of the most creative cities in the United States, and one that remains at the forefront of the ongoing struggle for justice.”

This year marks the first time a prior recipient of the emerging artist award has received a Kresge Artist Fellowship. Aja Salakastar Dier received a Gilda Award in 2018 and is among the new cohort of Kresge Artist Fellows.

“Winning a Gilda Award in 2018 gave me the resources I needed to boost my career, much of which came in the form of an automobile. Having a car enabled me to teach more classes, go to more rehearsals, collaborate with more artists, attend more classes and workshops, and play more gigs,” Dier said. “Having the space and time to experiment as an artist, especially as a Black woman artist (and especially during this time), is crucial. My intention as a Kresge Artist Fellow is to take my work to the next level, connecting to a global experience while being rooted in my hometown.”

The Live Arts panelists were Sherrine Azab: theater maker, director, educator, co-director of A Host of People,2018 Kresge Artist Fellow; Anna Drozdowski, cultivator, curator, guide; Miryam Johnson, dancer; co-founder of Collective Sweat Detroit, student fellowship coordinator of Daring Dances, dance educator and youth dance ensemble director for Living Arts; Toby MacNutt, dancer, choreographer; Jeff Michael Rebudal, dance maker, educator and consultant for Rebudal Dance.

The Film and Music panelists were Ephraim Asili, artist, filmmaker, professor of film and electronic arts at Bard College; Leith Campbell, composer, creative programmer, sculptor, professor of music at Wayne State University, staff at College for Creative Studies; Amy Denio, composer, musician, record producer, publisher, president of Tiptons Sax Quartet LLC, vice president of Seattle Composers Alliance; Marshalle Montgomery Favors, filmmaker, producer/director, co-founder of Trinity International Film Festival, co-founder of Fearless Tribe of Fanatic Filmmakers; Oona Mosna, artist, author, curator, director of Media City Film Festival.

The selection criteria for Kresge Artist Fellowships include: A demonstrated track record of artistic achievement and high-quality work, the potential to grow and advance in their artistic career, and the potential to reflect, enhance, or impact communities within metropolitan Detroit.

A celebration of the 2020 award recipients will occur online on July 16. Building on the 2020 award announcement, Sidewalk Detroit is curating a group of past recipients of Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards to present work in a hybrid virtual and socially distanced performance series titled NOW:FUTURE. From July 24 to August 14, musicians, theater-makers, dancers and more – including Marion Hayden, Britney Stoney, A Host of People and Erika Stowall – will present work exploring the story of Detroit artists today and the future they desire to actualize.

In announcing the 12th cohort of award recipients, Kresge Arts in Detroit has thus far awarded 218 Kresge Artist Fellowships, 22 Gilda Awards, and 12 Kresge Eminent Artist Awards totalling more than $6 million.