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Meet the 20 new Kresge Artist Fellows and 10 Gilda Award winners


A group of 30 artists from across metro Detroit are the latest to share $550,000 in Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Emerging Artist Awards.

The awards were announced today by the Kresge Arts in Detroit office at the College for Creative Studies, which administers them on behalf of The Kresge Foundation.

Last year, in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on the arts community, Kresge expanded funding to support two additional Kresge Artist Fellows, for a total of 20 annual fellowships, and an additional eight Gilda Awards, for a total of 10. In announcing the 2021 award recipients working in Literary Arts and Visual Arts, Kresge Arts in Detroit and The Kresge Foundation commit to sustaining this increased level of investment.

“We know from the testimony of artists themselves how important the support and affirmation of these awards can be — life-changing in some cases,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. Rapson added, “There’s no doubt the past year-plus of pandemic and unrest has been particularly challenging for the arts sector, and we hope that the elevation of these 30 artists — exciting as they are — speaks also to our admiration and support for our community of artists writ large.”

Despite the ongoing pandemic, metro Detroit artists applied for the awards at similar rates to recent years. Over the course of several months and numerous rounds of review, panels comprised of local and national artists and arts professionals evaluated over 800 applications to select the artists who receive 2021 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. The latest awards include 10 Kresge Artist Fellowships in Literary Arts and 10 Kresge Artist Fellowships in Visual Arts. There are four Gilda Award winners in Literary Arts and six in Visual Arts.

In announcing the 13th cohort of award recipients, Kresge Arts in Detroit has, cumulatively, awarded 283 tri-county (Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb) artists over $6.7 million in funding.

“CCS is extremely proud to honor and invest in this cohort of Kresge Artist Fellows. Our world needs the transformative power of the arts, now more than ever, and we look forward to observing these artists’ ongoing contributions to our cultural community and progress,” said College for Creative Studies President Don Tuski.

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.

“Anyone claiming surprise at the amount of talent in Detroit must not be thinking of its long-standing history as a cultural seedbed,” said Literary Arts panelist, poet Douglas Kearney. “So, talent? In abundance. These writers choose nuanced witness, pride too sharp for boosterism, overflowing communal energy, and commitment to representing the voices of their city.”

The other Literary Arts panelists are: Sarika Chandra, associate professor of English, Wayne State University; Jack Cheng, author; 2019 Kresge Artist Fellow; Jina B. Kim, feminist literary scholar; writer; assistant professor of English and the study of women and gender, Smith College; and Leslie Reese, writer; poet; creator of Folklore & Literacy; teaching artist, Chicago Poetry Center.

The Visual Arts panelists are: Sima Familant, Private curator and art advisor; John Brinton Hogan, photographer and mixed-media artist; sound artist; operations manager, Museum of Photographic Arts; Sydney G. James, fine artist/muralist; 2017 Kresge Artist Fellow; 2018 Fellowship.Art fellow; 2020 Alain Locke Award recipient; Osman Khan, artist; associate professor, Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan; and Kameelah Janan Rasheed, artist.

In addition to a $25,000 no strings attached award, Kresge Artist Fellows receive one year of professional development support. Fellows are invited to participate in strategic planning workshops, mentorship sessions, artist salons, and other activities designed to support artists across a wide range of career stages and trajectories. Many of these activities are also made available to Gilda Award recipients.

The fellows will also be featured in Kresge Arts in Detroit’s commissioned film series, which documents the work and perspectives of fellows throughout the program’s history. Short individual artist videos are available online at and Vimeo. The 2021 fellows’ films will go online next spring.

“Last year, we reimagined the artist film series—with the wide range of filmmakers, subjects, and styles that is typical of a short film festival as our inspiration. We matched fellows with filmmakers and invited the ideas from these pairings to determine the direction of each film,” said Kresge Arts in Detroit Director Christina deRoos. “We look forward to continuing with this new format that fostered connections across artistic disciplines in addition to producing stunning results.”

The 2021 cohort of Kresge Artist Fellows includes luminaries of the Detroit art scene, as well as rising stars.

LITERARY ARTS FELLOWS: Emell Derra Adolphus, creative nonfiction; Danielle Aubert, interdisciplinary work; Jeni De La O, poetry; Ann Eskridge, playwriting; Tariq Luthun, poetry; MARS Marshall, poetry; Jassmine Parks, spoken word; Van Randall, graphic novels; Casey Rocheteau, poetry; Zig Zag Claybourne, fiction.

VISUAL ARTS FELLOWS: Peter Daniel Bernal, painting; Judy Bowman, collage; Brian Day, photography; Darcel Deneau, glass; Solomon Johnson, illustration; Gisela McDaniel, painting; Sabrina Nelson, interdisciplinary work; Rachel Reid, animation; Andrew “AndyT” Thompson, installation; Graem Whyte, interdisciplinary work.

Gilda Award recipients are chosen from among the applicants for the 2021 Kresge Artist Fellowships. In keeping with the late Snowden’s legacy of mentoring early-career artists, Gilda Awards recognize artists who are early in their artistic career, are gaining momentum, and who demonstrate exceptional potential through creative risk-taking and pushing the boundaries of their chosen art form.

GILDA AWARDS IN LITERARY ARTS: Bayan the Poet, spoken word; Ana Gavrilovska,  arts criticism; Rochelle Marrett, fiction; Donnevan Tolbert, playwriting.

GILDA AWARDS IN VISUAL ARTS: Ijania Cortez, painting; Bakpak Durden, painting; Jessica Frelinghuysen, performance art; Cyrus Karimipour, photography; Cinnamon Triano, video art; Neha Vedpathak, painting.

“I am in awe of this cohort’s immense talent and range—they undoubtedly represent the best of what metro Detroit has to offer,” said Literary Arts panelist Jina B. Kim.

An online celebration of the 2021 award recipients is scheduled for the evening of July 15. The public, virtual event will include remarks from the 30 award recipients, performances by Kresge Artist Fellows Cherise Morris (2019) and Passalacqua (2012), as well as reflections on Detroit’s arts and culture sector from Carole Harris (2019 fellowship panelist and 2015 Kresge Artist Fellow), Rip Rapson (president and CEO, The Kresge Foundation), and Don Tuski (president, College for Creative Studies) in a conversation moderated by W. Kim Heron (senior communications officer, The Kresge Foundation). Information is available on Eventbrite.

Application information for the 2022 Kresge Artist Fellowships in Live Arts and Film & Music will be available in fall 2021.