These 17 metro Detroit artists won $25,000 fellowships from Kresge Foundation

2014 Kresge Artist Fellowship winners. Photo by Corine Vermeulen
2014 Kresge Artist Fellowship winners. Photo by Corine Vermeulen


The 2014 Detroit Artist Fellowship was for artists working in film, music, theater and dance.

The idea is “to advance the artistic careers of Detroit artists living and working in its hometown, as well as to elevate the profile of the area’s artistic community,” the foundation said.

Here are the winners:

Dance & Music Fellows

Juan AtkinsJuan
As an originator of techno music, Juan Atkins transformed electronic music and joined the ranks of Detroit’s musical legacy. In 1981, Atkins and Richard “3070” Davis co-founded the groundbreaking electro group Cybotron, which laid the foundation for Detroit techno. In 1985, Atkins founded his own label Metroplex Records and recorded his first single with his new group Model 500. Toward the end of the 1980s, techno music swept the planet with Atkins in high demand for live performances around the world. With the re-launch of Metroplex Records in 2011, his band Model 500 Live and a feature-length fil in the works, Juan continues to bring musical innovations to the world.

Ben HallBen Hall–
Sculptor and composer Ben Hall creates installations incorporating durational performances, existing objects and indeterminacy. Hall received his Bachelor of Arts from Bennington College and his Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University. His practice includes curating, the world’s largest online Black American spiritual collection. Hall also produces new American improvisation on his LP label brokenresearch, including the last small group recordings of visionary trumpeter and composer Bill Dixon. Hall has written for The Wire and BOMB and has performed at INSTAL in Glasgow, Scotland; the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; and kunstenentrum BELGIE in Belgium.
The story of Jeedo, aka Waajeed, is a Detroit story. In the shadows of a towering Motown legacy, underground hip-hop and heroes of Detroit techno, Jeedo found his calling card somewhere in between. Alongside well-known luminaries and comrades like J Dilla and Slum Village, he helped pioneer a distinct sound in hip-hop and beyond which continues to inform a generation of beat-builders worldwide. After years of championing this beat movement through personal projects, concept groups such as Platinum Pied Pipers, artist collectives like Complex Movements and his own label, DIRT TECH RECK, Jeedo looks to pivot in a new direction, combining Detroit hip-hop and techno to create a hybrid expression of the city.

Kisma JordanKisma Jordan
Kisma Jordan, a native of Detroit, is recognized for her soul-stirring communicative ability and “shimmering soprano voice,” as noted by New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini. Among her honors are the Fritz and Lavina Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition, the Bel Canto Vocal Scholarship, National Association of Teachers of Singing, and the Education Fund award from the Metropolitan Opera National Council. In addition to her awards, she has also made concert appearances with the New Mexico Philharmonic, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Gayelynn McKinneyGayelynn
Gayelynn McKinney began playing the drums at the age of two. She received much of her musical training in Detroit’s jazz scene, and she received a Bachelor of Music degree from Oakland University. McKinney’s eclectic style garnered her recognition, including her Grammy-nominated work with the all-female jazz band Straight Ahead, which also received a 2004 Motor City Music Award. Her diverse musical range has given her the opportunity to travel extensively and perform at many renowned jazz festivals and venues including Montreux Jazz Festival, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to her prolific solo career, she has accompanied notable musicians such as, Aretha Franklin, Benny Golson, Freda Payne, Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave, Chaka Khan, Roy Hargrove, Randy Brecker, Rick Margitza, Larry Coryell, Steve Turre, Kevin Mahogany, James Carter, Regina Carter and the rapper Speech of Arrested Development, among others.

Stephen NawaraStephen Nawara
Stephen Nawara has performed and composed music in the city of Detroit since the age of 13. He has toured the world and achieved critical success with The Detroit Cobras and Electric Six. In 2003, Electric Six received a gold record in England for the album Fire. In 2006, Nawara began to focus on his own compositions and launched The Beehive Recording Company, an online, independent music label that records and distributes work created by Detroit-based artists. In less than three years, Beehive has recorded 68 musical acts representing diverse musical genres and has had its music downloaded more than 400,000 times.

New Music DetroitNew Music
New Music Detroit (NMD) is a collective of musicians dedicated to performing groundbreaking musical works from the late-20th century to the present day. A highly flexible ensemble with a cast of core members and prominent guest artists, NMD performs new and adventurous classical music in a wide variety of settings, for a wide variety of people. NMD strives to collaborate with the most exciting creative voices of our time and regularly gives performances of rarely-heard works by major composers. Through innovative programming and risk-taking virtuoso performances, NMD continues to explore new ways of bringing the best of new and experimental music to the city of Detroit.

Tracey Halloran PearsonTracy Halloran Pearson
Choreographer and dance artist Tracy Halloran Pearson is interested in cultural identity and the relationship between artistic expression and the human condition. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance performance from Marygrove College, a Masters of Fine Arts in choreography from the University of Michigan, and is currently a professor, choreographer and rehearsal director at Marygrove College. She has choreographed works for Illinois Ballet Theater, the University of Michigan’s Department of Dance, Noretta Dunworth School of Dance and many more companies. She is an accomplished teacher of ballet, contemporary, jazz and modern dance.

Britney StoneyBritney
Britney Stoney is a singer, songwriter and guitarist whose performance career began at open mic nights throughout the city. She now plays at festivals and events across metropolitan Detroit such as Arts, Beats, & Eats, River Days, Meridian Winter Blast and at Campus Martius Park. Stoney is deeply inspired by the human experience and hopes to empower all listeners. She aspires to be a role model for Detroit’s emerging artists and an ambassador for Detroit’s arts communities.

Film/Theatre Fellows

Diane CheklichDiane
Diane Cheklich is a Detroit-based, independent screenwriter, film director and producer. Her desire to tell stories with a specific rhythm and sense of humor resulted in the award-winning feature film Offshore, which is an Indo-American movie filmed in both the United States and India. Cheklich has also written and directed several short films, including the award-winning Doctor Reddy, which is in distribution through Ouat Media, and Late, which has screened at film festivals around the world and is in distribution through the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.

Tony D’AnnuzioTony D’
Tony D’Annuzio’s love of film and music got him into the broadcast television industry more than 25 years ago. Born and raised in Detroit, D’Annunzio’s work has aired on virtually every network worldwide. He recently challenged himself to direct and produce his first documentary, Louder than Love: The Grande Ballroom Story. His passion for filmmaking, storytelling, music and Detroit coalesced on the screen for this award-winning documentary film, which has screened globally to sold-out audiences and is archived at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. The film also screened at the Traverse City Film Festival founded by Michael Moore. D’Annunzio has taught film classes at the Traverse City Film Festival, as well as courses at the University of Richmond in Virginia. Tony is often heard to say that he’s living the dream!

Donavan GloverDonavan
Donavan Glover is a film director based in downtown Detroit. In 2010, Glover returned to Detroit from Eastern Michigan University and discovered his passion for visual storytelling. He took initiative to learn the fundamentals of directing, film editing and photography. Since 2011, Glover has worked with respected musicians and performers, such as Slum Village, Karriem Riggins, Obie Trice, Elzhi and Jessica Care Moore. Glover’s work can be viewed on websites such as XXL, Complex Magazine, illRoots, HotNewHipHop and Stones Throw Records. Glover’s natural ability to bring ideas to life is reflected in his short films, music videos and mini-documentary series.

Dream HamptonDream
Filmmaker, writer and social justice organizer dream hampton’s directorial credits include Black August, I AM ALI and QueenS. hampton was the co-executive producer of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and the associate producer of The Russian Winter. Over the past two decades her articles and essays have been published in dozens of magazines and anthologies. She’s a consultant at MomsRising and Amnesty International, and a board member of Color of Change, Young Nation, Detroit Summer and Write A House. She believes in using her pen and her camera to disrupt dominant narratives. She believes in magic. She believes in Detroit.

Leon JohnsonLeon
Leon Johnson was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and left for the United States in 1979, three years after the murder of Steve Biko. Johnson conceives, researches, designs and produces intermedia communications and events. These events include performances and interactive spectacles in multiple mediums, including installations, performance, video and photography. Johnson is a recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for Painting and a Yaddo Fellowship, and he won both the Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Williams Fellowship for Distinguished Interdisciplinary Teaching at the University of Oregon. He lives in Detroit, where he co-evolved Salt & Cedar Letterpress with his partner Megan O’Connell, and sons Marlowe and Leander. Johnson is the 2014 Martha Daniel Newell Distinguished Scholar at Georgia College, and was recently named a Bemis Foundation Fellow.

Daniel LandDaniel Land
Daniel Land is a Detroit-based filmmaker and visual artist. He completed his first feature-length motion picture in high school, and has since begun others while directing music videos, commercials, and an array of narrative, documentary, animated and experimental short films. As a visual effects supervisor, and entrepreneur through his Unit Circle Ltd., he has led teams of artists to design and deliver purposeful VFX imagery for television and Hollywood feature films. Land, via artist Gabriel Hall, has co-created narrative projection-mapping installations on both the Detroit Public Library and within the Detroit Institute of Arts, and performs annually as a VJ at the Movement Electronic Music Festival.

Rola NahsefRola
Born in Sidon, Lebanon and raised in Michigan, Rola Nashef is a screenwriter, director and producer. She uses her experience in the arts and involvement in Detroit’s diverse communities as a catalyst for creative expression and social movement. In 2011, Nashef was named one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine for her debut feature-length film Detroit Unleaded, which she wrote, directed and produced. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and won the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award. Nashef has worked for the nonprofit organization ACCESS and her work as a multimedia artist is on permanent display in the Arab American National Museum’s Facing Identity exhibit.

Jasmine RiveraJasmine
Jasmine Rivera is a film director and writer from Detroit. As a filmmaker, she has created numerous short narrative films, including her latest work, Nain Rouge, which won festival awards around the country. Rivera’s work takes inspiration from history and social justice issues, while exploring the rich narratives of community storytelling, especially those of her hometown and its people. She is currently working on a short, Sisters in Justice, and a narrative feature, American Prophet, set in 1968 Detroit. Rivera is an honors graduate with a Master of Fine Arts degree in film directing from Columbia University.

Sherina Rodriguez & www.shetroit.comSherina Rodriguez Sharpe
Sherina Rodriguez Sharpe is a writer, editor, performer and executive director of Obsidian Blues, an organization that uses art to transform, heal and forge new ground. She brings her gifts for inspiring others to where she serves as convener and publisher for an organization that creates an enriching space for women of Detroit to weave community. Her work draws from the profound healing she’s experienced through writing, so that she may help Detroit embrace its own self-worth. Her artistic practice connects with the wounded parts of herself, so that she can serve as a role model for others longing to do the same. Rodriguez Sharpe’s writing investigates cultural intersections, specifically in the patterns that emerge when class, gender, race and religion overlap.

Photo credits:
Kresge Artist Fellows Photographer: Corine Vermeulen
New Music Detroit Photograph: Kresge Arts in Detroit

Abigail Shah

Co-founder of Motor City Muckraker, Abigail Shah is a native Detroit and graduated with a BS in psychology from Wayne State University.