Next Step Fund Awards Announced

On June 26, 2018 the MRAC board awarded a total of $179,200 to 36 individual artists in the FY 2018 Next Step Fund grant program. The Next Step Fund program, funded by the McKnight Foundation, is designed to help artists in the 7-county metropolitan region complete a project that will help them rise to the next level in their careers regardless of whether they are emerging artists or artists well established in their disciplines. Finalists were asked to submit work samples as background information and support for their Next Step project. Artists can work in any discipline and be at any stage of their artistic career, but must define a project that will help them advance to the next step in their artistic goals.

This year’s Next Step Fund was a record year for applicants, with 505 applications received and 69 second-round finalists named. Twenty artists and arts administrators served as the panelists for this year’s grant review process.

Teresa Audet  $5,000.00
Crafts – wood
Funding for a six-week studio fellowship at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine.

Ezra Bartsch  $5,000.00
Theater – puppetry
Funding to purchase a 3D printer.

Denzel Belin  $5,000.00
Theater – general
Funding to support an intensive study of sketch comedy and improv in the United States through travel, networking, and training.

Julie Benda  $5,000.00
Visual Arts – sculpture
Funding to purchase appropriate equipment to advance production of large scale, hand hewn, carved, and painted sculptural wood engravings.

Timi Bliss  $5,000.00
Funding to attend festivals and conferences in support of efforts to reach new communities and markets for current and future children’s book projects.

Mary Ellen Childs  $5,000.00
Music – new/experimental/electronic
Funding to participate in an expedition to study cold climate and environmental change in the Arctic Circle that will result in a new musical composition.

Melissa D. Clark  $4,540.00
Dance – ethnic/jazz/folk-inspired
Funding to support an evening-length dance production.

Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra aka Lady Xok $5,000.00
Music – new/experimental/electronic
Funding for first Lady Xok music album.

Cathy Durso  $5,000.00
Visual Arts – general
Funding to purchase tools and take workshops on collecting and creating natural art materials.

Marjorie Fedyszyn  $5,000.00
Visual Arts – sculpture
Funding to study with a master papermaker and learn the techniques of over-beaten abaca paper sculpture as well as prepare personal studio for paper-making.

Ritika Ganguly  $5,000.00
Music – ethnic/folk-inspired
Funding for travel to India for purposes of artistic research and for the creation of new work in Bengali folk music.

Rafael Gonzalez aka Tufawon $5,000.00
Music – general
Funding for headlining hip hop tour in Europe.

Azhae’la Hanson  $5,000.00
Funding to purchase a portrait photography kit, establish an independent business as a young African American entrepreneur, and increase community outreach and impact.

Christopher Harrison   $5,000.00
Visual Arts – painting
Funding to support metal casting workshops to create new sculpture and travel to Senegal, Africa to research and network for future exhibition opportunities.

Greg Herriges  $5,000.00
Music – ethnic/folk-inspired
Funding for Alexander Technique Training and instrument modification.

Markus Hoeckner  $5,000.00
Media Arts – film
Funding to create a narrative short film.

Alia Jeraj  $5,000.00
Funding to create first solo performance piece that explores themes of migration, diaspora, and mixed race identities.

Tia Keobounpheng  $5,000.00
Crafts – metal
Funding to produce 8-10 new metal sculptures for first solo-exhibition outside Minneapolis and Duluth.

Michael Lee  $5,000.00
Literature – poetry
Funding to attend and participate in three literary workshops/conferences.

Erinn Liebhard  $5,000.00
Dance – ethnic/jazz/folk-inspired
Funding to attend the Montreal Swing Dance Riot conference and to use embodied research to develop a new dance production.

Rita Mustaphi  $5,000.00
Dance – ethnic/jazz/folk-inspired
Funding for travel to India to research and develop future project, Ganga to Mississippi.

Sachiko “La Chayí” Nishiuchi  $5,000.00
Dance – ethnic/jazz/folk-inspired
Funding for mentorship and Tablao performance opportunities in New York City.

Nora Montañez Patterson  $4,660.00
Theater – general
Funding to travel to Peru for research and one-on-one Cajon lessons as the foundation for a one-woman-show.

Ann Prim  $5,000.00
Media Arts – video
Funding to purchase a 4K mirrorless camera, lenses, and a 4K monitor/recorder.

Akiem Scott aka DJ Kool Akiem $5,000.00
Theater – general
Funding to attend a theater technology conference, work with an established sound designer through a self-designed mentorship, and attend stage plays to better understand the role of sound design in American theater.

Erin Smith  $5,000.00
Crafts – clay
Funding to improve air filtration and ventilation in ceramic studio.

Wilhelmina Smith  $5,000.00
Music – solo/recital
Funding to support first solo recording.

Jovan C. Speller  $5,000.00
Visual Arts – general
Funding for a new multidisciplinary body of work titled Where I’m Meant to Be.

Emily Strasser  $5,000.00
Literature – nonfiction
Funding for conference attendance, writing studio rental, travel and related expenses to support revision of first book and to build a professional network.

Andrew Thoreen  (and and end) $5,000.00
Music – new/experimental/electronic
Funding to purchase of a professional quality audio interface and microphones to create a functional recording space to produce and record new work.

Julie Thoreen  $5,000.00
Music – new/experimental/electronic
Funding for a 24-week class in sound design and for recording first solo EP.

Ariel Tilson  $5,000.00
Media Arts – video
Funding to purchase a laptop and editing software and to compensate an editing mentor.

Domonique Venzant  $5,000.00
Crafts – clay
Funding to make improvements and renovations to a garage to create a four season ceramics studio.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay  $5,000.00
Funding for travel to research and conduct interviews for a new body of work, In the Camps: A Refugee Musical. 

Chamindika Wanduragala  $5,000.00
Media Arts – film
Funding to purchase a 27″ iMac with extra memory and storage to do post production work on stop motion animated films.

Dyani White Hawk Polk  $5,000.00
Visual Arts – painting
Funding for first solo museum exhibition.

Photo Credits for Above Image
First row: Azhae’la Hanson, photo by JanayeJohnsonPhotography; Ritika Ganguly; Tia Keo; Chamindika Wanduragala, photo by Sarah White; Jovan C. Speller, photo by Laura Vail; Alia Jeraj, photo by Taylor Donskey; Julie Thoreen. Second row: Ezra Bartsch, photo by Will Keeler; Tufawon, photo by Maddie Harrison; Wilhelmina Smith, photo by Juergen Frank; Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, photo by John Schaidler; Greg Herriges; Ann Prim. Third row: Michael Lee; Timi Bliss; Teresa Audet, photo by Tom DeBruyn; Sachiko “La Chayí” Nishiuchi; Erin Smith, photo by Marlo Munch; Andrew Thoreen (and and end); Rita Mustaphi, photo by Eric Saulitis.

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