The Arizona Commission on the Arts is pleased to announce the recipients of the Artist Research and Development Grants for Fiscal Year 2017. This highly-competitive grant program awards funding to Arizona artists practicing in a variety of artistic disciplines in support of research and development leading to the creation of new works of art. This year, thanks to the state’s increased investment in the arts for the current fiscal year, 17 applicants received an award of up to $5,000 in funding—six more than were awarded funding last year.

2017 Artist Research and Development Grant Recipients

Rachel Bess (Phoenix)
Amy Carpenter (Phoenix)
James Colby (Tucson)
Julie Comnick (Flagstaff)
William Cordeiro (Flagstaff)
Ashley Davidson (Flagstaff)
Henry Flurry (Prescott)
Danielle Foushee (Phoenix)
Sara Fraker (Tucson)
Yanara Friedland (Tucson)
Hakeem Khaaliq (Scottsdale)
Johanna Lundy (Tucson)
Yvonne Montoya (Tucson)
Delisa Myles (Prescott)
Ned Schaper (Tucson)
Melissa Sevigny (Flagstaff)
Claire A. Warden (Phoenix)

Project descriptions and artist bios are provided below.

In addition to the Artist Research and Development Grant, the Arts Commission also presented the Bill Desmond Writing Award, which offers funding in the amount of $1,000 to excelling nonfiction writers for specific project-related costs. The recipient is selected from the pool of applicants for Artist Research and Development Grants, and a single applicant may be awarded both. The award was established by Kathleen Desmond to honor her late husband, Bill Desmond, a reporter, editor and nonfiction writer.

2016 Bill Desmond Writing Award Recipient

Melissa Sevigny (Flagstaff)

2017 Artist Research and Development Grant Review Panel

Applications were reviewed by a diverse and distinguished panel of Arizona residents:

Jane Armstrong (Flagstaff), Artist / Professor of Creative Writing, Northern Arizona University
Rogelio Gutierrez (Tempe), Artist / Assistant Professor of Art, Arizona State University
Alexandra Jimenez (Tucson), Visual Artist
Milta Ortiz (Tucson), Playwright / Marketing & Outreach Director, Borderlands Theater
Christina Park (Phoenix), Artist / Arts Collection Manager, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture
Elizabeth Vogler (Flagstaff), Deputy Director, Flagstaff Arts Council
Rachel Zebro (Phoenix), Curatorial Associate of Contemporary Art, Phoenix Art Museum

The panel was chaired by Ruben Alvarez, a Governor-appointed Commissioner of the Arizona Commission on the Arts; co-founder and managing partner of Molera Alvarez, a government and public affairs firm; and Chairman of CALA Alliance.

The panel’s recommendations for funding were approved by the Arts Commission’s Governor-appointed board of commissioners.

2017 Artist Research and Development Grant Awards

Rachel Bess will take four months in 2017 to study the science and techniques of underpainting, overpainting and glazing of which very little accurate, in-depth information is currently being shared or used. She will study historical texts related to the techniques of carefully crafting the layers of oil paint and media used to make the luminous and lifelike paintings from the 17th-19th centuries. Bess graduated with honors from the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University in 2001 with a degree in Painting. She is currently represented by the Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix and her work is shown in many galleries and museums around the world.

Amy Carpenter, along with her collaborator, Stacey Hanlon, will explore improvisation as a viable medium to improve the quality of life for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Carpenter is a founding member of The Torch Theatre and can regularly be seen performing with her troupes, Mail Order Bride and Havens Tafting. Her traditional classroom experience led her to work with a variety of special populations, introducing improvisation not only as art, but as a form of therapy. She directed a program for older adults with dementia, has taught children of all ages, has worked with women’s groups, and currently teaches at a creative vocational school for adults with Autism.

James Colby’s “Saxorcism” is an electronic musical composition and performance project that looks to explore the sonic limits of saxophones as well as the tensions between electronic and acoustic musical performance. Colby has been playing and composing music in a wide variety of contexts and locations for many years, including time spent studying saxophone at a conservatory in his home state of New York. In 2014, Colby and Enrique Castellanos of Vox Urbana were awarded a Puffin Foundation Grant and a P.L.A.C.E. V grant by the Tucson Pima Arts Council for their project, “Cumbia Corridos.” Colby has toured extensively, including performances in Berlin, Mexico City, Zagreb and the Canary Islands.

Julie Comnick’s “Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra” is a painting and video project exploring the dissolution of culture in contemporary society through the symbolic ruin of a personal and cultural icon, the violin. The grant will fund the second phase of the project: symphony instruments are piled in a remote landscape and an ensuing snowstorm gradually covers the instruments with snow. This event will be depicted in a series of paintings and video. Comnick serves on the School of Art faculty at Northern Arizona University. She received an MFA in Painting from Montana State University and a BA from The Evergreen State College. Comnick’s solo projects have been exhibited at contemporary venues nationally and reviewed in the Washington Post, Chicago Sun Times and Dialogue Magazine.

William Cordeiro will complete a cross-genre creative nonfiction manuscript, The Book of Sand: Dunes of the Southwest. Specific pieces will focus on topics such as the rare or endangered species that are confined to particular dune fields; grazing rights and desertification on the Navajo reservation; and behind-the-scenes tales from movies filmed on location at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Cordeiro is currently a faculty member in the Honors Program at Northern Arizona University. His poetry has been published in over 100 journals. He has been awarded a fellowship from the Truman Capote Trust and artist residencies from ART 342, Blue Mountain Center, Ora Lerman Trust, Provincetown Community Compact, Petrified Forest National Park and Risley Residential College.

Ashley Davidson will complete a comedic epistolary novel, “A Daring Undertaking,” chronicling the experiment of introducing camels to the Americas. She has already begun researching and drafting sections of the novel, which will examine Arizona’s frontier mythos, treatment of Native populations, and relationship to the land and its resources over 80 years of Arizona history. Davidson earned a BA at the University of Arizona and an MA at L’ Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. She worked for several years in human rights and refugee resettlement organizations before landing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she completed her MFA in fiction writing, and also taught creative writing as a Third-Year Fellow. Her fiction has appeared most recently in Copper Nickel, Nashville Review and other journals.

Henry Flurry will organize and co-present a concert of his own orchestral works, including the premiere of his piano concerto Currents, a reaction to New Orleans’ complex relationship to water as a source of life, death and rebirth. Flurry is a composer and private teacher based in Prescott, Arizona. His orchestral work Fanfare for My City was selected by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra to be their official fanfare. Recent large ensemble works include Impulso: Concerto for Marimba, Flamenco Guitar and Dancer, a collaboration with Chris Burton-Jacome, and Fragments, premiered by the Yavapai College Master Chorale.

Danielle Foushée’s long-term goal is to create a half-size model for a modular community shade shelter that incorporates translucent, weather-proof, resin paintings that are embedded into large-scale, three-dimensional, geometric forms. The final product will be used as a maquette for use in public art proposals and meetings with community members and commissioning agencies. Foushée is Assistant Professor of Design at Arizona State. She received her first MFA in Design at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and recently completed another MFA in Visual Studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her design clients have included The Museum of Contemporary Art, LA, The Boston Conservatory, Chronicle Books, The US Forest Service, GameWorks and Myriad Pictures.

Sara Fraker will commission, perform and record a new piece of music composed by Asha Srinivasan and inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants (Milkweed Editions, 2013). Drawing upon ideas from the emerging field of ecomusicology, the project will explore the intersection of environmental sustainability, soundscape ecology and musical performance. Dr. Fraker is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (DMA), New England Conservatory (MM), and Swarthmore College (BA). She is Assistant Professor of Oboe at the University of Arizona and has been a member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra since 2005. She is also principal oboe of True Concord Voices & Orchestra.

Yanara Friedland received funding toward the completion of Groundswell, a book-length manuscript that will present a chorographic map (comprised by text) of two borderlands: the historical border region of her country of birth Germany/Poland and the borderlands of her current home in the Sonoran Desert. Friedland completed her MA in Migration Studies at the University of Kent and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Denver. Her most recent manuscript was a finalist for the National Poetry series and Essay Press’ annual book award. Other writings have been published or are forthcoming from Fence, Witness Magazine, Essay Press, The Poetry Foundation, Denver Quarterly and elsewhere. Friedland’s first book publication, a novel titled Uncountry A Mythology was published this fall.

Hakeem Khaaliq is developing an anthropological interactive digital augmented reality photo essay that will showcase the isolated descendants of the African-Diaspora in Mexico through a collection of photographs shot in Central America. This photo essay project, “Encuentro Phoenix,” will reveal a side of Mexico most people are unaware of–depicting the people who reside on the country’s rural Pacific and Gulf Coasts referred to as Afro-Mexicanos. Khaaliq is a photographer, award winning film director, multi-media activist and graphic designer. He is the co-founder and creative director of the internationally distributed publication and news media outlet, Nation19 and a former program director for NBC Interactive.

Johanna Lundy will create a recording of solo music for horn and perform several coordinated outreach concerts across Arizona. The project will contribute much-needed recordings to the brass world, including two brand new works by Arizona composers. Lundy is the principal horn of the Tucson Symphony, a position she has held since 2006. In the 2007-08 season, she joined the faculty at the University of Arizona as a guest lecturer in horn. Prior to moving to Arizona, Lundy spent seven seasons as the principal horn of the Des Moines Metro Opera Orchestra. For three years, she participated in the prestigious Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music from the New England Conservatory.

Yvonne Montoya received funding in support of the dance film “Reflections,” a collaboration between choreographer/mother Montoya and film maker Dominic Bonuccelli. Inspired by Montoya’s personal experiences, “Reflections” portrays a day in the life of a working mother, a story not often seen in dance/dance film. Montoya is a mother, freelance choreographer, consultant, guest lecturer and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre based in Tucson, AZ. She studied modern dance at the University of Arizona where she earned a BA in Spanish and an MS in Mexican American Studies, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Delisa Myles’ “Intimacy with Disappearance” is a multidisciplinary collaboration among six women, five dancer/choreographers and one photographer/videographer who have a 23 year history of working together. The project juxtaposes geologic time and the comparatively minuscule lifespan of humans. Myles is a dancer, choreographer and educator who has been working professionally in all three areas since 1988. She holds an MFA in Choreography and performance from University of Colorado. From 1994 to 2016 Myles was a professor of dance at Prescott College where she developed the dance program. She is a founding member of Human Nature Dance Theatre, a collective of multi-disciplined performing artists from the Western US.

Ned Schaper will develop his Museum Of Kinetic Art into a virtual reality tour. Approximately 5 minutes from start to finish, the tour will allow viewers to feel as if they are inside the machines and will get a close look at many of the mechanized characters. Schaper is a kinetic sculptor, poet and performer. While living in New York City, he had one-man shows at Avenue B Gallery and Todd Capp Gallery and was a regular at the Red Spot Theater. In 1987, Schaper launched his Surrealistic Pop Science Theater in Tucson. In 2012, the City of Tucson commissioned Schaper to create a public art kinetic sculpture called “Iron Butterfly.” In 2014, Schaper’s work was featured at the Tucson Museum of Art in a two-month solo exhibit entitled “Welcome to Beveldom: Mat Bevel’s Museum of Kinetic Art.”

Melissa Sevigny will produce a book-length nonfiction manuscript that explores what it means to make a home in a world defined and reshaped by catastrophic events. She will rely on interviews with scientists and local experts, as well as her own observations, to explore the science of planetary catastrophe and how it relates to our most intimate choices about home and family. Sevigny is the author of two nonfiction books, Under Desert Skies: How Tucson Mapped the Way to the Moon and Planets (University of Arizona Press, 2016) and Mythical River: Chasing the Mirage of New Water in the American Southwest (University of Iowa Press, 2016). She studied environmental science and creative writing at the University of Arizona and worked as a historian at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. In 2015 she became the science reporter for Flagstaff’s NPR station, KNAU.

Claire Warden’s Mimesis is an ongoing series of large-scale experimental photographs produced with cameraless processes through which she investigates the abstract nature of identity and personal experiences as an immigrant and person of mixed race. Warden received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and abroad. She received an artist residency through the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in Léhon, France; an Individual Artist Grant Award supported by the Creative Capacity Fund; and the Contemporary Forum Artist Grant, supported in part by the Nathan Cummings Foundation Endowment. Her work has been featured in Real Simple magazine, The HAND Magazine, Common Ground Journal, Prism Magazine and Diffusion Magazine.