Meet the extraordinary artists and culture bearers nominated for the 2023 Johnson Fellowship.
In 2023, the Johnson Fellowship focuses on rural communities. In rural towns, villages, and tribal communities across the country, artists and culture bearers are bringing vision and creativity, partnership, initiative, and leadership to efforts that enhance and improve quality of rural life. They celebrate rural assets and reflect and uphold rural values and ways of working. They are agents for positive change in areas of arts and cultural expression and preservation, agriculture, economic development, and equity. They are addressing critical issues such as: the needs and rights of immigrants and farmworkers, disrupting stereotypes of rural places and people, healing trauma caused by colonization and slavery, and fostering self-determination and action by rural BIPOC people. They are advancing food justice and sovereignty, land stewardship, and health equity. In indigenous communities, they are celebrating and reconnecting to traditions, language, and reclaiming the sacred responsibilities of Two-Spirit people that help restore social structures and ways of relating. Through every artistic discipline and genre, and even defining new ones, they uphold traditions and break the mold.
Americans for the Arts recognizes and encourages you to explore the work of each of these artists and culture bearers for their significant contributions to making positive change in rural communities across the country.
2023 Nominators and Selection Panel are also listed below.
Maribel Acosta, North Charleston, SC
Maribel Acosta, originally from Cuba, is a multidisciplinary artist and community builder who works with immigrant communities in the Lowcountry of South Carolina where she and her family settled following a period when she worked in Equador with rural and indigenous peoples. Acosta centers her creative work in the rural town of Hanahan, SC, whose population is 10 percent Hispanic and growing. Using theater and an array of creative forms, she meets newcomers where they are to address the traumas they may have fled, as well as current fears, challenges of language and cultural differences, and misperceptions of others as they seek a better life in their new home. Being able to speak Spanish with Acosta helps new immigrants build trust and facilitate exchange of stories about their realities which may include anything from understanding immigration laws and workers’ rights, to finding health care, to addressing domestic tensions and concerns. Through weekly artmaking, Acosta engages Hispanic as well as non-Hispanic residents in theater performance and visual art exercises that foster meaningful connections and build confidence, while surfacing and honoring cultural traditions that newcomers bring with them. Besides building relationships within the Hispanic community, Acosta forges relationships between immigrants and local service providers, e.g. with local police by performing on stage together toward creating reciprocal sense of trust and understanding or with school leaders and newcomer families to improve family and school communications. In 2015, Acosta founded Art-Pot, a nonprofit cultural center with the help of volunteers representing different nationalities, cultures, and races to serve as a community meeting point. It is a space, not only for artists, but for community organizations and government entities to engage with newcomers around human services, education, and social services. Through her sustained and deep work with this community, Acosta emboldens people who feel outside the systems to better recognize and realize themselves as contributors and assets within the places thy now live.
Lacy Hale, Ermine, KY
Lacy Hale is an Appalachian painter, printmaker, muralist, curator, and educator. Her work is known to celebrate community assets while addressing social issues. In a region often defined by external stereotypes of poverty and prejudice, Hale uses her creativity and position in the community to express inclusion, equity, pride of place, and rural cultural wealth. Hale’s mural projects weave together Appalachian stories, symbols and iconography and are anchored in community participation. Hale is determined to celebrate the hard working, good people of these communities and to reflect a sense of pride about being from this really special place. She is firmly rooted in a community where generations of ancestors have made a home and uses her social capital and visibility to make that community more welcoming to newcomers. Each mural reflects and honors the unique cultural life that is specific to the area. In 2017, she created the viral campaign “No Hate in my Holler” in response to white nationalist efforts to recruit in Pikeville, KY. The campaign communicated the antithesis of what the organizers of that event, and many coastal Americans, assumed– that rural Kentucky was an easy target for supremacist culture. The resistance was so strong that the event was canceled, and “No Hate” T-shirts, prints, and bumper stickers became a ubiquitous symbol of resistance in both rural and urban Kentucky. In the months that followed, three communities across the region commissioned billboards of “No Hate,” and Lacy has donated more than $7,000 to organizations promoting inclusion and equity in the region.
Ashley Hanson, Granite Falls, MN
Ashley Hanson has centered her artistic career on exploring and addressing rural issues through arts-based approaches that activate stories, connect neighbors, and exercise collective imagination. Born into rural, generational poverty in the Northwoods of Minnesota, she “fell in love with theater at a young age” because it allowed her to imagine alterative futures for self, family, and community. In 2011, she started PlaceBase Productions (PBP), a theater company that works with rural communities in the Midwest and increasingly nationally to create unforgettable, mobile, site-specific theater based on people’s stories, hopes, and dreams for the future. Hanson’s participatory approach involves deep community research and collaboration with residents that results in musical theater productions and performances by all-ages casts of local people. Productions have engaged performers and audiences in hiking, bird-watching, and paddling the Minnesota River. In the latter, local actors performed the river’s history, ecology, and pollution to promote stewardship and water quality education. Audiences are invited to rediscover the possibilities, promise and potential of a place they may have only recently come to know or known their entire life. The goal is to foster creativity, wonder and, above all, a sense of place by engaging local residents in their unique stories, increasing cultural connection, and promoting a deeper appreciation for the essential role of the arts in rural community life. Hanson was named an Obama Foundation Fellow and a Bush Fellow for her work with rural communities and has received fellowships from the Creative Community Leadership Institute and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture. She is a member of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice Leadership Circle and was an Artist-in-Residence in both the Planning Department at the City of Minneapolis and with the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, where she employed creative community engagement strategies for equitable participation in urban and rural planning and development processes.
Daryl Lucero, Isleta Pueblo, NM
Daryl Lucero is a farmer and cultural cultivator who lives in Isleta Pueblo, NM. In the early 2000s, in the studios of the Working Classroom, a youth art center in Albuquerque, Lucero nurtured the first seeds of a political identity grounded in mutuality, racial justice, and civic participation. “We were mentored by Indigenous, Brown, and Black artists for whom community practice was not only central to making meaning in their art, but was essential to making meaning within community life.” In 2011, Lucero began to create, design, and implement community-based projects that included: traditional weaving and embroidery, Pueblo architecture, and farming and language acquisition. His current work is devoted to Pueblo Resurgents, the group he founded to steward his ancestral homelands through a practice of Indigenous farming. The work focuses on food justice and sovereignty that seeks to connect people to place, community, and land, and to engage in cultural exchanges through traditional food growing. Programs have evolved to include: Community Composting, Isleta Pueblo Farmers’ Market, Mutual Aid CSA, and Radicle Food Distribution. With the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020, he initiated the Cultivat(Ed) Apprenticeship through Pueblo Resurgents, to support broader acquisition of knowledge around food growing and cultural food practices through annual apprentice cohorts. Lucero and fellow Resurgents teach food growing methods and how “Pueblo food systems are the foundation for sciences, engineering, arts, ceremony, architecture, poetry, athletics, and governance structures. Pueblo food systems create the space for Pueblo relationality and knowledge to be exercised, where the impacts can be measured by our own cultural determinants of health. Through these initiatives, Lucero and others are creating a new food economy, creating employment for community members, providing education around diet and nutrition, giving access to organically certified food, and supporting the acquisition of Pueblo knowledge and relationalities, via language and traditional ecological knowledge.
Nikiko Masumoto, Fowler, CA
Nikiko Masumoto is an artist, a memory keeper, and a fourth generation farmer at the Masumoto Family Farm in the rural Central Valley, CA. Whether tending a peach, creating a relational space, telling a story, or curating, Masumoto’s work is deeply tied to the milieu of growing up a on a farm, the rural landscape, Japanese cultural traditions, being queer, and being a storyteller. In the Central Valley, her work has focused on food systems and hunger, among other topics. The family peach farm itself serves as a site of connection to the land, offering “Blossom Bathing” and “Blossom Tables” inspired by Japanese practices of “forest bathing.” Masumoto’s Yonsei Project activates history and archives; for example, curated bus tours that linked public monuments and private spaces of memory through site-specific arts engagement. The project led to the creation of an annual Day of Remembrance of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII which also focuses on building bridges with Black and Indigenous communities around reparations and the return of lands unjustly stolen from these populations. Her one-woman theatrical piece, What We Could Carry, tells the story of Japanese American incarceration through 13 different vantage points based on the testimony given at the 1981 and 1980 Hearings of the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in Los Angeles. She performed it across the country, including at the White House, as a way to spur dialogue on the Redress Movement. On the Mend, another project, centers on the Central Valley’s Japanese-American faith community to create a space for healing around harm against queer folks. Masumoto serves on regional and national policy and arts committees including: the Center for Performance and Civic Practice’s leadership circle; boards of the Western States Arts Federation, Alliance for California Traditional Art, and Art of the Rural; and as a volunteer in movement building for the Rural Generation Summit) and the Farm Service Agency.
Noé Montes, Los Angeles, CA
Noé Montes’ grew up in a family of migrant farmworkers in rural communities in California and Arizona. Seeing first-hand challenges of social fracturing, an extractive national economy, and climate change that they face, Montes believes that acting as a unified community is a matter of survival for places like these. This has forged his commitment to a creative practice that aims to change the prevailing narrative about farmworkers by focusing on how critical they are to regional development. Through durational work in rural communities, Montes builds relationships with people that enables his photodocumentary and storytelling work to communicate the human conditions experienced by farm and service workers. This, in combination with honoring data sovereignty, and strategic partnership with local nonprofit cultural, civic, and service organizations has made Montes an essential ally to ensure that resources are allocated inclusively in our rural regions where there has been a history of leaving out our most marginalized populations. A 2022 partnership with Blue Sky Center funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exemplifies how Montes helped engage community members to collectively heal and rebuild following the global pandemic. With the intent of affecting local policy, Montes’ work demonstrates the power of arts-based civic engagement. In the Eastern Coachella Valley and Cuyuma Valley he has created numerous spaces and experiences of dignity for the most marginalized populations to participate and lead in civic matters that affect their lives. Through a process of relationship building and deep listening, Montes creates written profiles and photographic portraits of residents that are then incorporated into workshops, presentations, and exhibitions that amplify and bring human dimension to regional issues. He has taught photography and writing skills to help students and residents voice their stories using the power of art. A current partnership with the organization Lift to Rise is addressing issues of affordable housing and economic development for farm and service industry workers.
Geo Soctomah Neptune, Indian Township, ME
Geo Soctomah Neptune, artist, master basketmaker, and culture bearer, is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township, on the unceded Wabanaki land commonly referred to as the State of Maine. They were the youngest person to achieve Master status at 20 years old by the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance and the Elders of the Wabanaki Nations in Maine, having learned starting at age four from their grandmother, Molly Neptune Parker. Geo Neptune is also a two-spirit leader whose performances as a drag artist are as much an example of their artistic excellence as their baskets which have been exhibited and collected widely across Turtle Island. Their very existence is in both a return to cultural traditions and values, and a challenge to Native and nonnative communities alike who are entrenched in the colonized system of gender. While known for their extraordinary basketry, in recent years Neptune has expanded into the worlds of modeling, fashion design, garment construction, traditional adornment and fiber preparation methods, traditional tattooing, and metal work. Neptune shares, “Creative energy and expression, the act of creation itself, are primary aspects of what it means to be a Two-Spirit within Indigenous communities; the ability to combine the opposing energies of Male (projective) and Female (receptive) spirits in order to give birth to an entirely new creation: an entirely new spirit.” In 2019, after many years as an interpretive ranger, a museum educator, and an independent Indigenous education consultant, Neptune joined the team at Wabanaki Public Health and Wellness and began the Nutokehkimucik Program (a.k.a. “Art Lab”) to support Passamaquoddy youth to develop their modern and traditional artistic passions and career potential. In their commitment to youth, Neptune adds their intent, “to stand firmly in my multiple roles as a Two-Spirit and use that stance to leave behind a legacy for the Two-Spirit descendants of my tribe that allows them to focus more on reclaiming their sacred responsibilities instead of fighting for truth and acceptance as myself and my Two-Spirit Elders have been forced to do.”
Jenea Sanchez, Chandler, AZ
Jenea Sanchez was born and raised in Douglas, AZ/Agua Prieta, SON. As “a first-generation American and third-generation fronteriza, Sanchez’s creative practice reflects “a personal journey to undo the trauma as a fronteriza by presenting with her community the beautifully complex reality of a place that perfectly sits at the margins.” After receiving her MFA from Arizona State University in 2011, she returned to Douglas to pursue her career as an artist, educator, and entrepreneur and to support the community development of the place where she grew up. She opened a coffee shop in Douglas that has become a significant "cultural hub" supporting local artists. Her work as an artist, community organizer, and educator often manifests as installations along the border itself and multifaceted projects that occupy, complicate, and erase dominant narratives that paint oversimplified images of border communities. In 2015, Sanchez brought together emerging and established local artists with community members to foster the arts community within Douglas and its transnational neighbor city of Agua Prieta, Sonora. The project evolved into Border Arts Corridor, an arts organization dedicated to sharing the stories of her community through fellowships, artist residencies, binational performances and art walks, workshops, exhibitions and public dialogues, with hundreds of artists and community members participating in the arts. A subsequent collaboration with DouglaPrieta Trabajan women’s collective interrogated issues of food security, self-representation, and self-determination through the women’s self-portraits and videos that examine what it means to nourish brown bodies alongside the highly militarized border document. Sanchez was a 2021 Creative Values Cohort participant at the Arizona Commission on the Arts, a 2020-2021 Catalyst for Change Awardee, a 2019-2020 Mellon-Fronteridades Creative Scholar, and a 2019 fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture’s Leadership Institute. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson; Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian; Latino Museum of History, Art, and Culture, among others.
Anita Singleton-Prather, Beaufort, SC
Anita Singleton-Prather is a native of the Sea Islands of Beaufort, South Carolina and the founder and artistic director of the musical performance group the Gullah Kinfolk Traveling Theater. As a “keeper of the culture,” she has contributed to cultural preservation, community engagement, racial and cultural equity, and civic participation for the greater Gullah Geechee community along the North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida Corridor. Her work weaves her multifaceted skills as storyteller—connecting her to the African “griot” who passes on an oral knowledge of their community’s ancestral history—theater artist, and musician. Prather’s character of Aunt Pearlie Sue is an important symbol of the mother and grandmother who was the matriarch of the home and even the community for many Gullah Geechee people. Her music is grounded in traditional Gullah Geechee songs but she often infuses them with new harmonies, rhythms, and instrumental accompaniments that bring new life to them. Beaufort’s historical importance is ever present when she describes the challenges Blacks experienced during the Transatlantic slave trade as enslaved Africans on the Sea Islands, and later as freedmen during Reconstruction. Prather uses these moments to celebrate the perseverance of the enslaved. Prather’s Tales from the Land of Gullah and Circle Unbroken: Gullah Journey from Africa to America, was broadcast nationwide on PBS. She partnered with South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) to create an award-winning interactive children’s website, that featured the Aunt Pearlie Sue character in animated form. Prather has partnered with school systems around the world to present her “Education of Gullah Culture Through the Arts” curriculum. In 2016, she was invited to perform at the United Nations to kick-off the UN-SONG, a project to promote inclusion, recognition, and contributions of people of African descent. The event highlighted the realities, drivers and dynamics of racial disparity and called for renewed action to eliminate them by 2030.
Carlton Turner, Utica, MS
Carlton Turner works across the country as a performing artist, arts advocate, policy shaper, lecturer, consultant, and facilitator. His current creative work is River Sols, a new play being developed in collaboration with Pangea World Theater that explores race, identity, class, faith, and difference across African American and South Asian communities through the lens of the river. Along with his brother Maurice Turner, the Mississippi-based performing arts group M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction) blends jazz, hip-hop, spoken word poetry, and soul music with non-traditional storytelling. Carlton recently co-founded with wife Brandi Turner the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture) which uses arts and agriculture to support rural community, cultural, and economic development in his hometown of Utica, Mississippi. Sipp Culture focuses on the intersection of two needs of healthy human development–food and story. By strengthening the local food system, advancing health equity, and supporting rural artistic voices, while activating the power of story, Sipp Culture aims to promote Utica’s legacy and and the development of its present and future. Turner is a former Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow and a Cultural Policy Fellow at the Creative Placemaking Institute at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design in the Arts. He was recently distinguished as an Interdisciplinary Research Leadership Fellow with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation for a project to understand the impact of individual and collective storytelling on rural food system design. Turner previously served as the executive director of Alternate ROOTS, a regional arts service organization based in the South, supporting artists working at the intersection of art and social justice.
Amber Webb, Aleknagik, AK
Amber Webb is an Indigenous Alaskan (Yup’ik) artist-activist from the rural village of Aleknagik, a tribal community of 200 people. As a Curyang tribal member, she started studying Yuraq (Yup'ik dancing and drumming) when she was four years old which shaped her identity and formed her relationship with Yugtun storytelling and art. After graduating from University of AK, Anchorage with a BA in woven fibers and a minor in history, she worked industrial jobs while designing apparel featuring Yup’ik language in solidarity with language reclamation efforts. Webb’s portraiture, drawings, and textiles visually explore the effects of colonization, and the evolution and strength of Indigenous people after genocide and intergenerational trauma. Of significant impact is a series of qaspeqs (handsewn traditional garments) on which she draws portraits of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) in North America who have experienced sexual violence and erasure. The qaspeqs have been shown in many context to heighten awareness and advocate for policy change. Webb’s broader body of work responds to stigma around behavioral health and addiction; suicide prevention for native youth; body acceptance in response to fatphobia, and Qayurun, or empathy-building, within the Yupiaq worldview. Work toward community health has necessitated finding the root of these issues in Native communities and restoring Yupiaq social structures and ways of relating. Her next large project goal is to create a large-scale commemorative project using drift wood, grass, ink and cloth honoring those who survived residential schools and boarding homes as a vehicle to encourage traditional healing methods through empathy. She has received awards from the Rasmuson Foundation, Choggiung Ltd. Shareholder citizen of the year, Bristol Bay Native Corporation Citizen of the year, and the Walter Sobeleff Warrior of Light Award from Alaska Federation of Natives in 2019. Her work has been featured on Alaska’s State Capitol, Washington D.C, The Tonight Show, and many rural Alaskan communities.
Savannah Barrett is the Exchange Director for Art of the Rural, co-founder of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange (RUX) and led training and technical assistance to replicate RUX in Minnesota. She previously served as National Programs Director of Next Generation Initiatives at the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI), where she co-led the development of the Next Generation Rural Creative Placemaking Summit and the Rural Generation Summit. Savannah is a Field Trips to the Future Fellow, a Center for Performance and Civic Practice board member, and an Advisor to the Art of Community: Rural South Carolina and Pennsylvania Humanities. She was Lead Advisor for the Bush Foundation Community Creativity Cohort II, and previously advised the EmcArts’ Community Innovation Lab, RUPRI’s Cultural Wealth Lab, Freedom Maps: A Southern Cultural Fieldscan, and other national roundtables. Savannah holds a Master of Arts Management from the University of Oregon and has widely published and presented her work, recently at the Kennedy Center Arts Summit and Rural Women’s Summit. She is a member of Alternate ROOTS and a Kentucky Colonel. Savannah is a twelfth-generation Kentuckian and was raised in Grayson Springs, where she co-founded a local arts agency in high school and now stewards six acres of her family home place.
Vickie Benson worked for 30 years as a respected arts grantmaker and leader. She was Arts Program Director for the McKnight Foundation (2007-2019), leading the program to center its work around Minnesota’s working artists and their artistic, social, cultural, and economic impact on the state. Working closely with her team and funding peers, she was instrumental in co-creating coalitions and practices that center on racial equity in grantmaking. Benson served on the Grantmakers in the Arts’ board of directors (2003-2010), and as Board President in her last two years. She was a leader in the ArtPlace America initiative, a grantmaking collaboration focused on creative placemaking. Before joining McKnight, she was Vice President of the Jerome Foundation in St. Paul, program director at Chamber Music America in New York City, and senior program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C. She holds a BA in arts administration from St. Paul's Metropolitan State University, and an MA in nonprofit management from the Hamline University Graduate School of Management. She studied music at the University of Minnesota as an undergrad. She also holds professional certification with the International Coach Federation and as an Intercultural Development Inventory administrator. She is now a certified professional coach, ww.vickiebenson.com.
Lyz Crane works at the intersection of comprehensive community development, philanthropy, and systems change, with an emphasis on how creative and cultural practices can help to build equitable communities of all sizes. Most recently, Crane was the Deputy Director for ArtPlace America, where she led grantmaking, capacity-building and knowledge-building strategies focused on advancing the role of arts and culture within community development and local government systems in rural, tribal, and urban communities across the country. Previously, she served as the Communications Director at ArtHome, an organization that helps artists and their communities build assets and equity through financial literacy; and the Director of Program Development and Program Manager of the Shifting Sands Initiative at Partners for Livable Communities, a national nonprofit leadership organization working to improve the livability of communities by promoting quality of life, economic development, and social equity. In 2009, Crane was named a ‘Next City Vanguard’ by nonprofit news organization Next City. She received her MPA in policy analysis from the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University and her BA in Urban Studies and Sociology from Barnard College, Columbia University.
Susan DuPlessis has been a rural advocate and program designer for more than 30 years as Community Arts Development Director at the South Carolina Arts Commission from which she recently retired. With deep roots in her home state of South Carolina, she stands on the shoulders of women before her who lived off the land, survived and built their opportunities from salt of the earth outlooks and ways. With that and an array of experiences across the United States, she has witnessed first-hand the legacies of place, both figurative and literal, fixed mindsets and outside-in approaches that limit thinking, reflection and considerations as well as their transformation through creative thinking and engagement. Her rural advocacy work going forward is built partly upon the initiative she created called The Art of Community: Rural SC. As an advocate and practitioner of multi-disciplined and multi-sector approaches, she is excited to connect people, services, and places in unexpected new ways, both in South Carolina and across the country. In May 2022, she was named Senior Fellow for The Write to Change Foundation in Columbia, SC which provides learning and leadership opportunities for youth and their adult mentors who use literacy and the arts to encourage social change and equity.
Asia Freeman is a painter and mixed media artist and Artistic Director and co-founder of Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. Born in Mexico, Freeman was raised in Alaska fishing, wildcrafting, and making art. After college, she returned to Alaska to help cultivate the cultural economy and found a deep sense of purpose in helping to renovate the historic Inlet Trading Post. In 1994, she co-founded with many local artists the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, a nonprofit multidisciplinary art space and served as its Executive Director for 24 years. In 2018 she helped guide the arts center through a horizontal leadership transition and is now Bunnell’s Artistic Directfor. Asia frequently writes, curates, and speaks about art in Alaska. Her work as an artist and curator has been written about extensively in Alaskan newspapers and books. Her artwork is represented in Alaskan museums and private collections worldwide. Since 1997, Freeman has taught visual art for the University of Alaska. She is President of Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and serves on the Board of National Performance Network.
Em Johnson is Director of Strategy with Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, a place-based organization that is building models for resilient, thriving, and inclusive rural economies in the Cuyama Valley and that celebrates the abundance of Cuyama. Through measured and deliberate work, Johnson has been leading rural innovation through social enterprises and systems thinking with Blue Sky Center since 2016. She is motivated by holistic community investment that uses celebratory tools of art and creative community engagement, often bringing people together over food. In the Cuyama Valley, Em connects people to resources, developing a self-sufficient model by blending entrepreneurial initiatives to reclaim the power of rural resiliency. Prior to her current role, Em served as Chief Operations Officer from 2016-2018 and Executive Director from 2018-2022.
Seitu Ken Jones is an artist and advocate who has been tending the soil of community through art for more than 40 years. He harnesses the tools of visual art, infrastructure, and civic engagement to create work that links history to the present and honors the community’s assets, from its historic figures to natural resources to cultural traditions. In his public art and events, Jones pushes beyond traditional art spaces to reach people in the context of their lives and communities. His large-scale sculptural installation Turnip Greens was dedicated in 2019 in the Nashville Farmers Market, inspired by the city’s bounty of food and black culture. First enacted in St. Paul in 2014, A Community Meal convened 2,000 people over dinner at a table half a mile long. In 2013, Jones co-founded Frogtown Farm, a five-acre urban farm in a St. Paul city park created with and for neighborhood residents. Jones is a recently retired faculty member of Goddard College in Washington State. He has been a Senior Fellow in Agricultural Systems in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Science Resources at the University of Minnesota and is a member of the board of managers for the Capitol Region Watershed District. He resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Betsy Richards (Cherokee) - For over 25 years, Betsy Richards has been dedicated to building cultural and narrative power for Indigenous peoples and other BIPOC communities bringing her experience in philanthropy, performing arts, Indigenous cultures, museums, arts education, media, and community advocacy to her various roles. She is the recently appointed (October 2022) Executive Director and Senior Partner with Wabanaki Nations at the Abbe Museum in Maine, a Smithsonian affiliate and a leader in museum de-colonizing efforts for and with Indigenous peoples. For the decade before this post, Richards led The Opportunity Agenda’s Creative Change efforts with artists, influencers, and advocates to shift narrative, culture, and policy. Richards spent seven years as a Program Officer in Media, Arts, and Culture at the Ford Foundation overseeing a national portfolio on Native American and place-based cultural communities. While at Ford, she initiated the creation of the unprecedented Native Arts & Cultures Foundation and served as the global chair of its Committee on Indigenous Peoples. Prior, she served as the Director of Public Programs for The Pequot Museum, the country’s largest tribal museum and research center. She has run two theater companies, served as a Fellow at NYSF/Public Theater and has directed on stages in NY, LA, and Toronto.
Quita Sullivan (nákum/they/she) (Montaukett/Shinnecock) is Senior Program Director for Theater at New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) where she leads the National Theater Project, supporting the creation and touring of devised, ensemble-based theater. They hold Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in Theatre from Knox College and SUNY Stony Brook, respectively, as well as a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School. Before law school, they worked as a Stage Manager at ETA in Chicago. After law school, they practiced Environmental Justice law for 10 years in Detroit and Boston. Sullivan is a former Associated Grant Makers Diversity Fellow, the mission of which was to identify, recruit and cultivate emerging practitioners of color who represent the next generation of philanthropic leaders and offer them training, support and strong community. She continues to work to support equity and inclusion at all levels of theater and grantmaking. Sullivan is Board Secretary for Grantmakers in the Arts and a frequent speaker on supporting Indigenous Artists. Prior to joining NEFA as a staff member, Sullivan was an Advisor for NEFA’s Native Arts Program. Outside of work, they continue to develop her own artistic talents as a beadwork artist and are part of a group of community language researchers and learners working to restore Long Island Algonquin to spoken language status.
Gabrielle Uballez is a strategist, educator, and facilitator who is called to work that centers creativity, justice, and collaboration. Her passion for justice and transformation is rooted in 20 years of experience, in nonprofits, grassroots initiatives, cultural institutions, and philanthropy. She is the New Mexico Regional Program Officer for The Asset Funders Network, a membership organization of national, regional, and community-based foundations and grantmakers that strategically uses philanthropy to promote economic opportunity and financial security for low- and moderate-income families. Uballez is a founding co-facilitator of the New Mexico Women of Color Nonprofit Leadership Initiative at the Santa Fe Community Foundation led by initiative founder, Dr. Mi’Jan Celie Tho-Biaz. She has facilitated strategy and alignment for New Mexico grantmakers toward inclusive wealth building for the New Mexico Asset Funders Network. She has extensive leadership experience through nonprofit board and municipal committee service and has served on national task forces and panels. Uballez previously advised on national organizing strategy, programs, and non-art sector partnerships for the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture and served as the executive director of Working Classroom, a grassroots arts organization of which she is a proud alumnus.
Joy Young, Ph.D. is Vice President of Programs at South Arts where she applies 25 years of experience in the arts as an entrepreneurial performing artist, arts administrator, and academic. Young’s work as a performing artist included owning a successful music studio and performing as a recitalist, sanctuary soloist, and studio and background vocalist. In her 14-year tenure with the South Carolina Arts Commission, she served on the executive leadership team and implemented a variety of programs that included: arts/artist entrepreneurship; nonprofit leadership and organizational development; cultural tourism; statewide conferences and convening; and the AIR Institute. Joy’s contribution to the arts at the national level include: member of the Committee for Individual Artists with Grantmakers in the Arts, service as a grant reviewer for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a mentor for the NASAA DEI Mentorship Program. Most recently, Joy served as Executive Director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville. Joy teaches in the Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Winthrop University, preparing the next generation of arts administrators to be adaptive leaders.
2023 SELECTION PANEL
Lara M. Evans is an artist, scholar, curator, and an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation. She earned her PhD in art history at the University of New Mexico in 2005, specialization within Native American art history is contemporary art. Dr. Evans joined the Museum Studies department at IAIA in 2012 after eight years as faculty at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Since 2015, Dr. Evans has also been Program Director for the IAIA Artist-in-Residence Program (A-i-R), which brings 12-14 Native American artists to campus for month-long residency sessions each year. Dr. Evans’ curatorial projects at the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art have included Now is the Time: Investigating Native Histories and Visions of the Future (2017) and War Department: Selections from MoCNA’s Permanent Collection (2015–2016).
Adriana Gallego is the executive director of the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona. As an artist at the service of other artists, Adriana Gallego's work in arts administration and education is motivated by human rights, where she seeks to connect people with meaningful resources that grow personal and organizational capacity, build community, foster collaboration, and bridge cultural understanding. Leading from this perspective, Gallego was the first chief operating officer of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC). She also recently served as co-chair the Grantmakers in the Arts Support for Individual Artist Committee. Previously, she was director of Strategic Initiatives with the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Educational Assistant at the Norton Simon Museum, and arts educator throughout the Southwest. She has served on many review panels, advisory boards, and committees including the: National Endowment for the Arts, Arizona Mexico Commission, Arizona Public Art Network, Asset Building for Artists of Color Advisory Board, and The Association of American Cultures.
Erin Genia, an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, is a multidisciplinary artist, educator and community organizer specializing in Native American and Indigenous arts and culture. Genia’s work in these areas is focused on amplifying the powerful presence of Indigenous peoples in the arts, sciences, and public realm to invoke an evolution of thought and practice that is aligned with the cycles of the natural world and the potential of humanity. Genia’s artistic practice merges Dakota cultural imperatives, pure expression, and exploration of materiality with the conceptual. She was awarded the 2021 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grant from Mass. Cultural Council, the 2019 MIT Solve Indigenous Communities Fellowship and the AAF Seebacher Prize for Fine Arts in 2018. Erin's public arts commissions include: Boston University, the Minnesota Historical Society, the City of Saint Paul, and the City of Seattle. Genia lives and works in the greater Boston region, was a 2020 artist-in-residence for the City of Boston. Erin has an M.S. in Art, Culture, and Technology from MIT, an M.P.A. in Tribal Governance from the Evergreen State College and studied at Institute of American Indian Arts.
Margo Miller is a daughter of Appalachia, born and raised in East Tennessee. She’s a retired DJ of a weekly radio show, a frustrated poet, and an avid crafter with a strong affinity for art and culture and social justice. In 2011, she became executive director of the Appalachian Community Fund, a non-profit grantmaking organization that provides support to grassroots organizations working to overcome the underlying causes of injustice in Central Appalachia, where she’s helped leverage millions of dollars to support social change work in the region. In the early 1990s, she worked with Carpetbag Theatre, a professional African American ensemble company. Through Miller's work with Carpetbag and various networks, like Alternate ROOTS and the National Performance Network, she has had the opportunity to collaborate with artists, arts organizations, and organizers all over the United States. Mostly recently, she is one of the founding assembly members of the Waymaker’s Collective, a radical grantmaker in the heart of Appalachia that is disrupting philanthropy through community led and controlled giving that supports Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+, and Immigrant artists and groups often overlooked by traditional philanthropy.
Jay Salinas is an artist, farmer and co-founder of Wormfarm Institute. Wormfarm’s programs have taken many forms for the past 20 years, from a farm-based artist residency to large scale annual festival, Committed to a healthy polyculture Wormfarm considers the vital connections across and between rural and urban, people and land, culture and agriculture. He coordinates the Artist Residency program, and leads food and agriculture outreach initiatives. Salinas helped conceptualize the Farm/Art DTour and has served as juror, logistics and Food Chain coordinator from 2011-2020. Trained as a sculptor, Jay holds a BFA from University of IL Champaign and an MFA from University of Cincinnati. He has operated a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm since 1995. He has worked nationally for food justice and sustainability issues and was a director at Growing Power in Milwaukee from 2006-09.
Gerard Stropnicky has been working in theatre for 50 years, and has centered his practice of gathered story for the past 20 or so. An award-winning director, he has helped create compelling work from interviews, gathered stories, letters to the editor, even advertisements, recipes, and children’s games. In 1978, Stropnicky co-founded Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE), where he worked for the next 34 years. He’s written, directed, and acted in countless styles, and coached thousands of diverse performers--professional and community, young and old, from every walk of life—to bring their stories to vivid life. In rural communities, mostly in Appalachia and the deep South, he writes and directs large-scale, site-specific productions featuring diverse community casts employing local story to celebrate, challenge, and address intractable issues. Most recently he was invited by a group of Mardi Gras Indian Queens to lead them in the creation of a performance based on their powerful personal narratives. For his story work, as well as for his role in co-founding the national Network of Ensemble Theaters, Stropnicky was honored as a United States Artists Fellow in 2010.