FY2024 Creation Grantees
Our highly competitive Creation Grants support the creation of new work by Vermont artists. Reviewed by independent panels of practicing artists and arts professionals, the top criteria for applications is artistic excellence.
Arista Alanis | Christal Brown | Susan Calza | Tom Gerswhin | Meredith Holch | John Killacky | Sean Kirby | Ivan Klipstein | Chelsea Knight | Carlene Kucharczyk | Shanta Lee, Alan Blackwell, and Damon Honeycutt | Angelo Madsen Minax | Willow O’Feral | Evan Premo | Kyle Saulnier | Erika Senft Miller | Jessica Sticklor | James Sturm | Linda Urban | Carole Vasta Folley | Ricardo Wilson | Corrine Yonce
This page is under construction. If you’re looking for a bio that isn’t here yet, please check back soon.
Arista Alanis is a third-generation Mexican American who spent most of her youth growing up in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. As a child, she enjoyed many family trips to South Padre Island and other excursions. Much time spent swimming and being in the water impacted the artist she is today. Arista received a BFA from Texas Woman’s University in Denton, TX, and an MFA from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA. Arista’s artwork has been exhibited nationally since 1989. Most recently, her paintings were shown in Mountains at Collioure, organized by Jared Quinton, and in 2019 in Made in Vermont, at the Hall Art Foundation. In addition, her artwork is part of many private and public collections. She was the featured artist in the publication of Iterant, Quarterly Poetry and Art, Spring issue 2023, and her artwork is the book cover of poet Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude.
Arista moved to Vermont in 1995, where she began working as a staff artist at the Vermont Studio Center (VSC). She was the School Arts Coordinator for the VSC for twenty years in partnership with Johnson Elementary School. As a teaching artist, she created, organized, and developed a successful school art program to allow children to express themselves artistically.
Currently, in the studio, Arista is preparing for three 2024 exhibitions. She is part of a two-person show at the Ava Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, NH, a solo show at Iridian Gallery at Diversity Richmond in Richmond, VA, and a show at the VSC Red Mill Gallery in Johnson, VT. Arista continues to live in Northern Vermont, where she spends her time painting, teaching, running, and taking endless walks.
Arista’s grant will support the creation of three large-scale paintings.
Christal Brown is the founder of INSPIRIT, a dance company, and Project: BECOMING; creator of the Liquid Strength dance training module; and CVO of Steps and Stages Coaching, Facilitation and Consulting. She serves as Asso. Professor of Dance, Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence, and Director of the Anti-Racist Task Force at Middlebury College. In 2022, Brown was honored with the Walter Cerf Medal for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts by the Vermont Arts Council.
A native of Kinston, NC, Brown accompanied her mother to NAACP meetings and Black Caucus rallies. Alongside her mother’s political path, Brown learned the mechanisms of cultural organizing and the organic synthesis of art and activism. This early training taught Brown to navigate segregated spaces and expand communication beyond words. Her physical experiences of justice were shaped in part by being born to a father who lost both legs in Vietnam. Brown recollects, “Loss was normalized for me at an early age. I learned that accessibility could counteract loss, and that movement was the only justice.”
Brown earned a BFA in Dance and a minor in Business from UNC-Greensboro, and an MFA in New Media Art and technology from Long Island Univ. She performed with Chuck Davis’ African-American Dance Ensemble, Andrea E. Woods/Souloworks and Gesel Mason Performance Projects, and apprenticed with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. Upon moving to NYC, Brown apprenticed with The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. before joining Urban Bush Women as a principal performer, community specialist and apprentice program coordinator. In 2018, after performing with Bebe Miller Company, Brown achieved a personal and professional milestone of dancing her way through the African diaspora. She then began focusing solely on her own work.
Christal’s grant will support the creation of story circles, listening parties, movement workshops, and community engagement around a dance-theater work entitled “What We Ask of Flesh.”
Susan Calza is a conceptual artist and gallery founder/director living in Montpelier, VT. She served as a full-time Visual Arts faculty at Indiana University, Bloomington and was a tenured professor at Northern Vermont University, Johnson. Susan Co-created and directed the Johnson State College/Vermont Studio Center MFA Program. Before retiring in 2014, she designed a million-dollar sculpture studio at NVU’s Johnson campus as well as The Black Box Gallery, which bears her name.
Susan has received grants from the Illinois, Indiana and Vermont Arts Councils, as well as The University of Illinois, Indiana University and (NVU) Johnson State College. In 2022 the Montpelier Public Art Commission funded Calza to exhibit her “Red Oculus” interactive sculpture in downtown Montpelier as well as curate a Video Salon screening the work of 11 artists from Vermont and beyond.
She continues to exhibit nationally and internationally and her work has been reviewed in the Hartford Current, the New York Times, The Chicago Sun Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New Art Examiner, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Christian Science Monitor, The Indianapolis Star, Arts Indiana, Dialogue Magazine, The Stowe Reporter, The Times Argus and Seven Days.
In recent years she has been awarded three artist residencies at the Studios at MASS MoCA and one residency at Stwidio Maelor in Corris, Wales. She has been invited to return to Stwidio Maelor in 2024 for both a residency and one person exhibition.
The Susan Calza Gallery opened in 2019 as a venue through which art speaks truth to power. It has exhibited installations focusing on Mass Shootings, Immigration, Climate Change, and Race Relations.
Susan’s grant will support the creation of three 20-minute videos for the “Red Oculus: Listening” video project.
Trumpeter and composer Tom Gershwin is based in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. His music is a blend of well honed compositions and expressive improvisation, creating a captivating musical journey that embraces both intricate structures and heartfelt emotional connection.
Tom has released three full length albums. Sweet Pastimes (2013), Live at Mighty Fine (2016), and Our Season (2018) have received international radio play and critical acclaim.
Tom’s experiences and influences range from the traditions of jazz, where he has shared the stage with Chris Potter, Jon Batiste, and Kenny Werner, to an eclectic array of artists including The Temptations, The Motet, Opiuo, Dumpstaphunk, The Revivalists, Father John Misty, and Portugal. The Man, and DeVotchKa. He has performed at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Blue Note, and dozens of music festivals worldwide.
Tom is a grant recipient from the Vermont Arts Council, Pathways to Jazz, and Colorado Creative Industries.
Tom’s grant will support the creation of an original jazz album.
Meredith’s grant will support the creation of a handmade stop-motion animation video entitled “Taking Flight” about interactions with birds and other living creatures perceived as messengers or incarnations of recently deceased loved ones.
John R. Killacky served two terms in the Vermont House of Representatives and was executive director of the Flynn Center (210-2018). His videos have been screened in festivals, galleries, museums, hospitals, and universities world-wide and are in the collections of numerous libraries and universities. His work has been televised in Minneapolis, Houston, and Vermont, and nationally on Free Speech TV, PBS, and Cultura24 in Holland. He co-edited the Lambda Literary Award-winning anthology, “Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories” and published a compilation of his writing, “because art: commentary, critique, & conversation.”
John’s grant will support the creation of a video rumination on living with chronic pain entitled “Still Point.”
Stemming from roots as a visual artist, Sean Kirby transitioned to a career in filmmaking in 2005 with the films Police Beat and The Gits, winning the Seattle International Film Festival Filmmaker’s Award for cinematography . Police Beat went on to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was also selected by Fimmaker Magazine in 2009 as one of “25 Filmmakers to Watch”. Sean has since photographed a multitude of other narrative and documentary films that have premiered at Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, Locarno and Cannes film festivals. Sean continues to work as a cinematographer nationally and internationally while living on an off-grid farm in southern Vermont. He is currently transitioning his focus to screenwriting and directorial narrative filmmaking, beginning with I Am My Domain, the story of Romaine Tenney.
Sean’s grant will support the creation of a feature screenplay based on the real life of Vermont dairy farmer Romaine Tenney entitled “I Am My Domain.”
People’s Choice Award Winner
Ivan Klipstein is an songwriter, illustrator, recordist, and performer; utilizing any and all of the aforementioned in the building of a practice which may be best described as folk anthropology. First emerging from the fertile soil of 90s DIY youth culture, the self-taught artist has ridden a long, gradual, and highly circuitous wave of photocopied comic zines, spray-paint stenciled records, and international solo tours, up to the present day. He has performed, exhibited, and led workshops in East Timor, Indonesia, China, Japan, Ecuador, Chile, Nicaragua, the UK, Canada, and all over the United States. A hybrid artist, Ivan records on tape, draws on paper, and then indulges in digital formats as necessary to make the work accessible. Long-term creative collaborations with social movements for migrant justice, anti-racist organizing, and tenants’ rights are on-going and evolving. Having resided in New Orleans, Montréal, and Wisconsin, Ivan has lived and worked in Vermont for the past dozen years.
Ivan’s grant will support a five-volume series of illustrated travelogue booklets.
Chelsea’s grant will support the creation of a short film exploring how we are shaped by the media and how as a society we can work to understand and develop agency in this process.
Carlene’s grant will support the creation of a full-length collection of poetry for a manuscript entitled “Strange Hymn.”
Shanta Lee, Alan Blackwell, and Damon Honeycutt
Shanta Lee is an artist across mediums and public intellectual. Her work has been widely featured in a number of anthologies and in places such as Harper’s Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, ITERANT Literary Magazine, Palette Poetry, BLAVITY, and DAME Magazine. Shanta Lee’s professional wingspan covers the public health, arts, local government, non-profit and other sectors. Shanta Lee created, produced and reported original series, “Seeing…the Unseen and In-Between within Vermont’s Landscape” for Vermont Public and is a regular contributor to Art New England. Shanta Lee is the author of the poetry collection, GHETTOCLAUSTROPHOBIA: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues, winner of the 2020 Diode Press full-length book prize and the 2021 Vermont Book Award. Her latest poetry collection Black Metamorphoses (Etruscan Press, 2023) – an interpretation, conversation and interrogation of Ovid’s original work – illustrated by Alan Blackwell. Shanta Lee’s forthcoming work, This is How They Teach You How to Want It…The Slaughter, debuts 2024 through Small Harbor Publishing. She is the 2020 recipient of the Arthur Williams Award for Meritorious Service to the Arts, the 2020 gubernatorial appointee to the Vermont Humanities Council’s Board of Directors, and serves on two state Humanities Council Speakers Bureaus. Her latest multimedia exhibition, Dark Goddess is currently traveling. Shanta Lee shares, “I am a practitioner of entanglement. Exploring the connections that extend beyond the categories or boxes we prescribe to places, things, and ourselves, is what excites me the most. Can you limit your life to a “one thing”?
Alan Blackwell is a visual artist who studied drawing and painting at SUNY Purchase College in New York. Alan paints using ink and brush in stylized and repetitive brushstrokes to invoke subtleties of movement and imagery. When asked about the length of time for his engagement with his practice, Alan shares, “When you have an innate drive, it is really hard to quantify a start and end date for your passion. My visual art and my relationship with it has been living in my body throughout my life.” Alan brings different traditions using traditional calligraphy and fine brush work paired with the influence from comic books and graphic novels. His craft has been shaped by his time spent with a calligraphy master in China while living in Beijing. Alan shares, “I have a singular goal when people view my artwork. I hope that the viewer will be able to see something unique to themselves. This can mean the slightest suggestion of a face or figure, a convergence of brush strokes, or perhaps a reversal of foreground and background.” Alan’s work is one of those rare jewels that you catch glimpses of if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. He has participated in a group exhibition in London and he enjoys bringing his work to the community through his permanent murals in spaces have included the East Village, Manhattan, parts of Southern Vermont, and his collaboration with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.
Damon Honeycutt is a professional artist across the mediums of martial arts, dance, and composition, educator, and academic. Working with dance companies such as Scapegoat Garden, Nai-Ni Chen, and, Pilobolus, Honeycutt has traveled to over 20+ countries around the world dancing in venues that range from the 2009 Royal Variety Performance in the presence of HM The Queen to the 79th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony. As a composer, Honeycutt has composed music for many including Chatham Baroque, The Power String Quartet headed by Jennifer Choi, The Delgani String Quartet, Ensemble Entelechron, and Ken Thomson’s Saxophone Quartet. Honeycutt’s work has evolved to connect all of these disciplines. He shares, “Music is an internal and arcane language that I use to express narrative concepts or states of being. As a physical artist, I believe that you do not have a body, you are your body. The physical form is a lifelong refinement that demands the ceaseless awareness of cultivation through time. Music, therefore, is the sonic extension of this personal philosophy.” Honeycutt has an M.F.A. in Music Composition from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, an M.A. in Conscious Evolution and Integral Studies from The Graduate Institute, and a B.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts.
Shanta, Alan, and Damon’s grant will support the creation of an immersive digital installation inspired by “Black Metamorphoses.”
Angelo Madsen Minax
Angelo Madsen Minax is a filmmaker, visual artist, performer, and educator. His projects consider how human relationships are woven through personal and collective histories, cultures, and kinships. Madsen’s works have shown at Berlinale, Toronto International Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, BAM CinemaFest, European Media Art Festival, Anthology Film Archives, BFI, REDCAT, Ann Arbor, Berwick, Alchemy, and others. His film, “North By Current” (2021), aired on season 34 of POV (PBS), was nominated for an Independent Spirit award, and won the Cinema Eye Honors Spotlight award, Best Writing from the IDA and numerous festival jury prizes. A New York Times Critics Pick, “North By Current” has been called “A beautiful, complex wonder of a film,” by Rolling Stone and “A titanic work” by Criterion. Madsen is currently a Queer|Art Mentor, an Associate Professor of Time-Based Media at the University of Vermont, and a Guggenheim Fellow.
Angelo Madsen’s grant will support the creation of a film entitled “A Body to Live In” that traces the life and work of legendary photographer, performer, and non-binary cultural icon, Fakir Musafar.
Willow’s grant will support the creation of a short documentary about Fred Homer, an 85-year-old wildlife rehabilitator and artist.
Evan’s grant will support the creation of visual elements for a new composition entitled “The Primacy of Consciousness.”
Composer Kyle Saulnier’s work has been celebrated by Downbeat as “a Great American Songbook of another order.“ His music has been performed by the Awakening Orchestra, the Metropole Orkest, the Westerlies, the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic, Saturn People’s Sound Collective, and TURNmusic, among others, and he has scored for television, advertising, and independent film projects. As a performer, Kyle leads and conducts the Awakening Orchestra, and has recently debuted the collaborative ensembles Edna (with Michael Chorney and Jeremy Frederick) and Cleary/Gagnon/Saulnier (with Tom Cleary and Andy Gagnon). He performs on acoustic bass and baritone saxophone, and has premiered new works by Eve Beglarian and Erik Nielsen, and appeared with artists including Moppa Elliott, Kat Wright, Francesca Blanchard, Brian Boyes, Michael Chorney, and LOVECRAFT.
Kyle is the incoming artistic director of the Vermont Jazz Ensemble and the director of the Vermont Youth Symphony’s Jazz Program. He has served as music faculty at Middlebury College, Quinnipiac University, and Northern Vermont University, and is active with the visionary Music-COMP mentoring program. He lives in Monkton with his wife, violinist Brooke Quiggins.
Kyle’s grant will support the creation of an extended work for jazz ensemble with strings.
Photo by Luke Awtry.
Erika Senft Miller
Erika Senft Miller creates collaborative multi-sensory experiences. Her explorations, set in unique physical sites, employ a complement of art forms that invite empathy for and honor connection with place and community. Her work is typically set within the context of large-scale performance, installation, painting and sculpture. As a creator of dance theater and performance art Erika has appeared in both the United States and Europe. She has spent over 20 years teaching in universities, theaters, businesses, and community centers. Erika’s work has been widely exhibited in Vermont.
Erika sees the world in many different ways. She often gets drawn to the cracks, the messy places, the daily routines and the shadows that exist in our everyday lives. She has explored these places since childhood, having lived in 18 different places by the time she was in her 30s. The skills required to learn quickly how to read the landscape and to successfully enter a new community inform her work today. Erika trained in dance theater with Fe Reichelt. She is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, and holds a masters in physical therapy and a doctorate in Dance Education. Erika lives in Colchester Vermont.
Erika’s grant will support the creation of multisensory storytelling elements for an immersive experience entitled “Net Works.”
Jessica is a published author, essayist and poet. Under her pen name Jessica Stilling, she has published six works of literary fiction including the novels, Betwixt and Between, The Beekeeper’s Daughter and The Weary God of Ancient Travelers. Under the pen name JM Stephen, she’s published six Young Adult Fantasy novels including the HUGO nominated series The Chronicles of Pan, The Rise of Runes and Shields and Nod. Ms. Stilling has been awarded The Bronx Council on the Arts Chapter One Award and two EVVY Awards. Her essays have appeared in magazines such as MS. Magazine, Bust and The Writer. Ms. Stilling grew up in Northern Illinois, about sixty miles northwest of Chicago, among the cornfields and the Wal-Mart Superstores, in the small town of Woodstock, Illinois, whose claim to fame is that it is the actual location of the film Groundhog Day. Ms. Stilling graduated from The New School University with a BA in Creative Writing and holds a Master of Fine Arts from The City University of New York. Ms. Stilling has taught creative writing at The Gotham Writers Workshop, The City University of New York, The State University of New York and The New School. She moved to Southern Vermont in 2020. She currently lives in South Newfane with her two children, Addison and Jacqueline, a dog who is afraid of everything, a very fearless cat and a gaggle of chickens who prove to her every day that these squawking birds are descended from the mighty T-Rex.
Jessica’s grant will support the creation of a novel exploring women’s mental health.
James Sturm’s graphic novels include Off Season, The Golem’s Mighty Swing, and Market Day; he co-authored the popular instructional series for children Adventures in Cartooning (with Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost). His most recent graphic novel is an adaptation of Richard Adams’ Watership Down (with Joe Sutphin). Sturm co-founded Vermont’s The Center for Cartoon Studies, where he currently serves as the director of its Applied Cartooning Lab. James is a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellow and a 2020-21 Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellow.
James’ grant will support the creation of a graphic novel memoir.
Linda’s grant will support the creation of a novel for young adults entitled “The Object Does Not Agree” exploring the lessons we internalize about what it means to be a young person in America.
Carole Vasta Folley
People’s Choice Award Winner
Carole Vasta Folley is a Vermont playwright, essayist, performer, and columnist. Her plays include the comedies Pronouncing Glenn, The Family of Ewe, Alumni Pie, Borrowing Time, Lunch Money, and The Sleepover ~ A Comedy of Marriage, which won the 2015 Vermont Playwrights Award. Vasta Folley’s two-woman play, The Seymour Sisters, about siblings grappling with the lifelong impacts of incest, was developed with support from the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. It toured the state with a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation’s Arts Endowment Fund. Reviewed as having the “storyteller gift,” Vasta Folley’s plays speak to the themes of belonging and “the crazy, complicated ways we connect.” Her plays feature women 40 and older, fulfilling the playwright’s mission to create leading roles for women of all ages.
As an essayist, Vasta Folley is an insightful memoirist who uses her quirky humor and tender heart to unearth what’s hidden underneath. As part of the Vermont Writer’s Prize, Vasta Folley’s essay, “The Girl in the Opera House,” was published in Vermont Magazine. She is currently working on her first book of essays. Since 2017, Vasta Folley’s award-winning column, In Musing, has employed her unique comedic/introspective point of view to explore the ridiculous to the sublime of life. In addition, she writes about social justice issues in an effort to continue to expand her own and other’s awareness. In Musing has won numerous accolades from the New England Newspaper & Press Association, the Vermont Press Association, and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.
Carole’s grant will support a play about women and the lifetime impact of gendered clothing.
Ricardo’s grant will support the creation of a novel entitled “Even Worse Than the Nightmare.”
Corrine Yonce is an artist, fair and affordable housing advocate, and documentarian. Yonce often combines visual art with ethnographic media, including audio interviews, household objects, and photographs. Her story-centered figurative paintings and installations dig into the concepts of home and housing from a community and personal perspective. She is the founder of the Voices of Home project, a seven year partnership with the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition and housing providers across the state where she interviewed residents about “home” and co-created art installations and portraits. Corrine Yonce recently completed her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Arts as a Leslie King Hammond fellow and Alfred T Granger scholar. Yonce lives and works in Winooski, Vermont and teaches tenant skills and Fair Housing workshops with the Fair Housing Project of CVOEO.
Corrine’s grant will support the creation of a public art project entitled “Longing is Just Our Word for Knowing” that uses images, story, and public art to illustrate the personal nuances and complexities in how we individually think of home.