2023 Fellowship Award Recipients

Colleen Abel (she/her/hers)
Prose Fellowship Recipient
Champaign, IL

Photo credit: Adam Murphy

Colleen Abel is a multi-genre writer and teacher. She is the author of one full-length poetry collection, Remake, which won Unicorn Press’ Editors Prize. She has also authored two chapbooks of poetry, Housewifery and Deviants, a hybrid chapbook that won Sundress Publications Chapbook Petry Prize. A former Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at UW-Madison, she has also received fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale, KHN Center for the Arts, the Tulsa Artist Fellowship, and elsewhere. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Southern Review, Cincinnati Review, The Journal, The Stinging Fly, Colorado Review, LitHub, and in multiple anthologies of disabled writers. An assistant professor of English at Eastern Illinois University, she has been the editor-in-chief of Bluestem magazine since 2022. She is currently at work on a lyric memoir about friendship, girlhood, and dreams.


Bobby Broom
Music Improvisation Fellowship Recipient
Evanston, Illinois

Born in Harlem and raised on the Upper West Side of NYC, Bobby Broom took up guitar at 12 and five years later, in 1977, made his first appearance with Sonny Rollins at Carnegie Hall. Even prior to that auspicious start, he had dedicated himself to the art, culture, and life of jazz, with the goals of learning to express himself within the idiom, while honoring its historical traditions and spirit.  Nearly 50 years later, Bobby has amassed a formidable jazz pedigree, working closely with historic figures such as Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell, as well as many of his contemporaries. To date he has made fourteen leader recordings and has traveled to perform, as an accompanying musician and with his own ensembles, in countries on five continents.  Broom is a tenured Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University and has devoted much of his career to jazz education. He began teaching at the tertiary level under the direction of NEA Jazz Fellow and saxophone great Jackie McLean at University of Hartford. Bobby has also worked with high school students through the Herbie Hancock (formerly Thelonious Monk) Institute and currently, with the Ravinia Jazz Mentor Program.


Suzanne Buffam (she/her)
Poetry Fellowship Finalist
Chicago, IL
Website: suzannebuffam.com

Photo credit: Robyn Schiff

Suzanne Buffam (she/her) is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently A Pillow Book (Canarium Press, 2016). Her work has recently appeared in Harper's, The New York Review of Books, and The New York Times. Born and raised in Canada, she lives in Chicago. 


Carlos Carrillo (he/him/his)
Music Composition Fellowship Recipient
Urbana, IL

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, composer Carlos Carrillo holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music (BM), Yale University (MM), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.). He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bearns Prize, the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, BMI, and ASCAP awards. He has been commissioned by Music and the Anthology, Casals Festival, the New York Youth Symphony, Concert Artists Guild, and Boston Opera Collaborative, among others. He is the 2023-25 Vanguard Opera Composer with Chicago Opera Theater. Carlos has taught composition at DePauw University, Reed College, and the Conservatory of Music in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and currently is an Associate Professor of Composition/Theory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


Robert Chappell (he/him/his) and Liam Teague (he/him/his)
Music Improvisation Fellowship Recipient
DeKalb, IL

Robert Chappell's career has encompassed an inclusive range of musical genres in performance, education and composition. After receiving degrees from Ohio State and the University of North Texas, Chappell’s interest in world percussion resulted in continued study of Ugandan amadinda xylophone and Indian tabla (Ustad Zakir Hussain and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri). He also received an Indo-American Research Fellowship for continued study with renowned tabla master Ustad Alla Rakha in Mumbai, India.  Robert has performed with major symphony orchestras and toured extensively with the Paul Winter Consort and his own group, Rhythmic Union. Since 1995, Chappell has performed and recorded three CDs with steelpan virtuoso Liam Teague in the Liam Teague+ Robert Chappell duo and their Caribbean/Latin group, Panoramic.  Chappell is a Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus at Northern Illinois University (NIU) where he was Director of Percussion Studies from 1983 to 2012. He currently splits his teaching year between NIU and Costa Rica.  A composer in jazz and cross-cultural idioms, Robert's works are noted for integrating disparate styles into a musical totality. He was the winner of the 2006 Percussive Arts Society International Composition Competition for Open Window, a duet for steelpan and marimba.

Liam Teague is Professor of Music and Head of Steelpan studies at Northern Illinois University (NIU), where he also directs the renowned NIU Steelband.  Teague is the recipient of an NIU Board of Trustees Professorship Award (2022) and a Presidential Research, Scholarship and Artistry Professor Award (2018).  Hailed as the “Paganini of the Steelpan”, his commitment to demonstrating the great musical possibilities of the steelpan has taken him throughout the world.  He has received many awards from his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago, including the Hummingbird National Award (Silver) and the Ansa McAl Caribbean Award for excellence.  Teague has won several notable competitions such as the Trinidad and Tobago National Steelband Festival Solo Championship and the Saint Louis Symphony Young Artist Competition.  He has also performed with many diverse ensembles including the National Symphony Orchestra, Taiwan National Symphony, Czech National Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, Panama National Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, Vermeer String Quartet, Avalon String Quartet, Hannaford Street Silver Brass Ensemble, Nexus, Dartmouth Wind Ensemble, Indiana University Symphonic Band, University of Wisconsin-Madison Marching Band, Nutrien Silver Stars Steel Orchestra and the BoTT Renegades Steel Orchestra.  


Aaliyah Christina (she/her)
New Performance Forms Fellowship Finalist
Chicago, IL

Born in Ruston, Louisiana and raised across Louisiana, Maryland, and Texas, Aaliyah Christina creates and supports performance work as an administrator, curator, movement artist, and writer. She improvises dances and writes poetic-prose about relationship/power dynamics, mental health, and Blackness as a resident on the South side of Chicago. Since 2015, she has collaborated with Chicago artists like Keyierra Collins, Ysayë Alma, Darling Shear, Wisdom Baty, Ayako Kato, and Dorian Sylvain to name a few. In 2021, Aaliyah received the 3Arts Make-A-Wave grant and as of 2023 she received the Illinois Arts Council Agency 2023 Artist Fellowship Finalist Award. She volunteers for community orgs and campaigns including Assata’s Daughters and Defund CPD to move towards Black liberation. Under her direction, PRAISE MOTHER is in-development as a community initiative and dance theater project highlighting stories of relationships between Black matriarchs and their kin through their mental health journeys.


Rita Coburn
Media Arts Fellowship Recipient
Flossmoor, IL

Rita Coburn’s  primary focus is the biographical stories of African Americans from a multi-generational lens. Through prominent figures, she reveals key ideals relevant to our global culture. Co-Director and Co-Producer of Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, the documentary premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and garnered a Peabody Award in 2017. The documentary Marian Anderson: The Whole World In Her Hands, garnered the Christopher Award and was presented through Carnegie Hall. Currently, she is approaching the life of W.E.B. DuBois. These documentaries are co-productions with American Masters through her company RCW Media Productions, Inc. Other credits include field production for the Oprah Winfrey Show, Radio productions for Oprah Radio, and production on Apollo Live! for BET/Centric. As Executive Director and Producer her company created and distributed Maya Angelou’s Black History Month Specials for Public Radio International. Regionally, she received several Emmy awards for documentaries, “Remembering 47th Street”, “Curators of Culture” and “African Roots, American Soil”. As a Director, Writer, and Producer, she has been awarded a Peabody and two NEH Awards and is ecstatic to be recognized by the State of Illinois for a commitment to the arts and “the stories of my people”.


Monty Cole (he/him/his)
Media Arts Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL

Monty Cole is an award-winning film and theatre writer-director from Chicago. His short that he co-wrote with Matt Foss, Sons of Toledo, has been shown by film festivals around the world including the American Black Film Festival, Montana International Film Festival (MINT Spirit Award), Detroit Black Film Festival (Best Short Film), Hip Hop Film Festival (Best of Fest), Dayton Independent Film Festival (Best Innovative Technique), Martha's Vineyard International Film Festival (Best Juried Short Film), Film Invasion LA (Winner of Filmmaker Award, Best Short, and Best Performance by an Ensemble), Norwegian Short Film Festival (Nominee for Best International Short), PWashington DC International Film Festival (Best Short) and many others. Cole has directed two other short films: SIX FEET APART by critically acclaimed playwright/screenwriter Isaac Gomez and WHOLE, written by Cole, which recently premiered at Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Cyberland short film festival. Cole is currently an Artist in Residence at the Center for New Performance in Los Angeles, a fellow at the Hermitage Artist Retreat and a Research Scholar of the Bridge to Faculty Program at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Coming up, Cole and Gomez will collaborate again on an anthology web series produced by Teatro Vista. Monty has a BA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MFA Directing degree from the California Institute of the Arts.


Kimberly Dixon-Mays (she/her/hers)
Scriptworks Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Photo Credit: Tony Daniels

Kimberly Dixon-Mays is a poet, playwright and sometimes performer. Her work was featured in Congo Square Theatre Company’s 2019 August Wilson New Play Initiative, and a semi-finalist for the 2019 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. Kimberly was also a semi-finalist for the 2020 National Black Theatre I Am Soul Playwright Residency, selected for Goodman Theatre's 2022 Future Lab series, and a 2023 finalist for American Blues Theater’s Blue Ink Award. She is currently developing work with Shattered Globe Theater’s Global Playwright Series development program and Stage Left’s Playwright Residency Program. She was nominated for a 2021 3Arts Award. Kimberly is a former Tutterow Fellow with Chicago Dramatists, and one of its Resident Playwrights. She holds a B.A. from Yale, an M.A. from UCLA, and a Ph.D. from Northwestern.  Kimberly’s form and language are in a conversation between poetry and theater, and between the voices of different communities. And her stories center characters surviving threats to how they want to see themselves and move through the world. She aims to showcase the complicated consciousnesses of (Black) (women) with clarity and joy. She considers it a form of caretaking.


Lisa Fay (she/her/hers) and Jeff Glassman (he/him/his)
New Performance Forms Fellowship Recipient
Urbana, IL
Photo credit: Billy Keniston

Lisa Fay and Jeff Glassman are originating composing and performing theatre artists known for applying complex formal structures to the narratives of daily life in order to raise radically effective questions that require deep social critique. The results, ranging from humorous and disarming to mesmerizing and disorienting, arise as metaphors for social processes. Most comfortable in an experimental laboratory setting, they work as independent artists performing, composing, and teaching locally, nationally and internationally - for over 40 years.  Master teachers, sought after collaborators, and published writers, their work is further informed by studies in movement notation, music composition and cybernetics, the study of complex systems. They have been artists-in-residence and have toured their work in Europe, Cuba, Asia, South America and the United States to festivals, universities, and theatres. At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Fay holds a faculty appointment and directs the INNER VOICES Social Issues Theatre program and ensemble, a vibrant ensemble of artists who work to generate the changes they wish to see. Most recently Glassman has taught at Evergreen College.  Currently, Fay|Glassman Performance company is engaged in a creative residency at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. They reside in Urbana, Illinois.


Allison Funk (hhe/her/hers)
Poetry Fellowship Recipient
Edwardsville, IL
Photo credit: Teri Dinnius.

Allison Funk is a poet based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is the author of six books of poetry and the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has also received awards from the Society of Midland Authors and the Poetry Society of America, as well as residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Internationally, she has been awarded residencies at the Dora Maar House in France, Hawthornden Castle Writers Retreat in Scotland, and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland.  Her most recent book of poems is The Visible Woman (Parlor Press, 2021). She is currently working on a volume of new and selected poems. Over a hundred of her poems have appeared in individual journals, some of which include Poetry, The Paris Review, The Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Poetry Northwest, and Poetry Review (UK).  Her work has been selected for The Best American Poetry and anthologized widely, including in When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women. She is a Distinguished Professor Emerita at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.


Joel Hall (he/him/his)
Choreography Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Photo credit: Jennifer Girard

A native of Chicago’s Cabrini Green neighborhood, Joel Hall established and with Joseph Ehrenberg cofounded the Chicago City Theatre Company in 1974. This unique performing arts organization includes the professional company known as the Joel Hall Dancers, and training facility, The Center. Hall served as the artistic director and primary choreographer for his dance company and chief instructor for the training studio until transitioning from that role in 2018. He remains active in the company’s artistic life, and he has mentored dancers who direct the Joel Hall Dancers the Joel Hall Dancers Youth Company, and numerous other dance organizations in Chicago. During the past 49 years, Hall has achieved an international reputation for his Dance Company and acclaim as a choreographer whose work— in his own unique style known as Urban Jazz— is based in jazz and expresses a rich vocabulary embracing classical, modern, and street dance idioms. Mr. Hall also served as Mayor Harold Washington’s International ambassador for the arts. “Jazz dance at its best,” says Dance Magazine. 


Reina Hardy (she/her)
Scriptworks Fellowship Recipient
Skokie, IL


Reina Hardy's plays, which usually contain magic and sometimes contain science, have been produced across the U.S. and in London, Australia and Greece. They include "Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven" (four-theatre rolling world premiere 2021-2), "Glassheart," (Rorscharch, The Shrewds, Everyday Inferno, The Know), “Changelings,” (The Vortex),  “Fanatical,” (The Stable), “Stargazers” (Brighton Theatre Company, Theatre Nova) and "The Other Felix" (Echo Theatre). Writing honors include: Michener Fellowship, Kilroy’s List, National New Play Network New Play Showcase, Source Festival, Kennedy Center MFA Playwrights Workshop, Interact 20/20 Commission, Kennedy Center ACTF TYA Prize.  Recently in 2022:  a new production of "Midnite" at Plymouth State and the world premiere of the Greek translation of "The Afterparty" in Thessaloniki.  Out now: “Annie Jump and the Library of Heaven” from Broadway Play Publishing and “Glassheart” from TRW Plays. MFA: UT Austin Michener Fellow. Reps: Susan Gurman for theatre, Arlook Management and Verve Talent for TV/Film.


Laura Ann Harrison (she/her/hers)
Media Arts Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Website: laurasomer.com

Laura Harrison is a contemporary animation artist using unorthodox painterly techniques in her animation practice to push the boundaries of experimental storytelling and pull apart themes such as feminism, trauma, and mortality. Her animations focus on marginalized, social outcasts with their own sub cultures. These fringe characters provide a focal point for her concerns with diaspora, transhumanism, gender and the loss of touch in an overwhelmingly visual world. Films like "Lingerie Show"(2015) and "Little Red Giant, The Monster That I Was" (2017)  helped to earn her several awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017. Her latest film, "The Limits of Vision" (2022), explores the inner and outer turmoil of a trapped housewife named Marcia. Her films have shown at various festivals internationally including The New York Film Festival, Ottowa International Animation Festival, Animafest Zagreb, Eyeworks, Florida Film Festival, GLAS, Chicago International Film Festival and many others. She is currently based out of Chicago.


Missy Hernandez (she/her/hers)
Sciptworks Fellowship Finalist
Chicago, IL

Missy Hernandez (writer/director) is a Filmmaker whose writing focuses on female-centric narratives that highlight and investigate Latinx experiences within the US and the Caribbean. Her credits include Writer and Producer of THE LAST ELECTION AND OTHER LOVE STORIES a feature narrative/fiction hybrid shot on election day 2020 (Warsaw Film Festival, Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, Urbanworld), Writer/Co-Producer for narrative/documentary social-thriller AMERICAN THIEF (distributed via Film Movement 2020), and Associate Producer for Terence Nance’s Peabody Award-winning television series RANDOM ACTS OF FLYNESS (produced in partnership with A24 for HBO). In 2020 pilot script, FAMILY MEDICINE was a finalist for the 2020 Script Pipeline TV Writing Competition and feature script, I DON'T DREAM IN SPANISH ANMORE, was a participant in the Cine Qua Non Storylines and Revision Labs, a NALIP Media Market Fellow, the 2022 Chicago Independent Producers Lab, and the 2023 Chicago International Film Festival Industry Exchange Lab. Missy is an Assistant Professor in the Cinema and Television Arts Department at Columbia College Chicago where she teaches courses in writing, directing, and producing for film and TV.


Martha Callison Horst (she/her/hers)
Music Composition Fellowship Finalist

Normal, IL

Ms. Horst is a composer who has devoted herself to the performance, creation, and instruction of classical music. Her music has also been performed by musicians and groups such as the Fromm Players, Grossman Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, CUBE, Earplay, Alea III, Empyrean Ensemble, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, ~Nois, Chicago Composers Orchestra, Susan Narucki, Left Coast Ensemble, and Dal Niente. Ms. Horst has won the Copland Award, the Symphony Number One Commissioning Prize, the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra Evolve Contest, the Alea III International Composition Competition, and the Rebecca Clarke International Composition Competition for her work Cloister Songs, based on 18th century utopian poetry. She has held fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Wellesley Composers Conference, Norfolk Chamber Music Festival and Dartington International School in the UK. Her works have been recorded by the Avanti Trio, Durward Ensemble, Symphony Number One Wind Ensemble, and pianist Lara Downes.  While living in San Francisco, Ms. Horst served as a professional member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.  Dr. Horst currently is a Professor of composition and theory at Illinois State University and was recently composer-in-residence at the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra. 


Jon Irabagon (he/him/his)
Music Improvisation Fellowship Finalist
Park Ridge, IL

Photo credit to Stephanie Matthews

Jon Irabagon is a native of Chicago and is influenced by the big-toned, brawny Chicago school of tenor saxophone as much as by the great AACM ensembles and aesthetic. The winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Saxophone Competition and 2013 New York City Jazz Record's Musician of the Year, Irabagon now tours the world with a strong emphasis on individuality, innovation and imagination. “Saxophonist Jon Irabagon is a subverter of the jazz form,” declares Martin Longley in Irabagon's feature in The New York City Jazz Record. “He’s a revolutionary who’s secretly messing with the changes. He might be dismantling the music’s mechanics from the inside, but from the outside he can frequently persuade a crowd that he’s an old-school practitioner. There are few players who can so deftly stride from postbop to free improvisation, avant country to doom metal and then wander from chaotic collage-spraying to sleek-blowing fluency.” Irabagon's collaborators include Barry Altschul, Dave Douglas, Mary Halvorson, Matt Mitchell, Rudy Royston and Uri Caine, and he has been awarded commissions from the Stone at National Sawdust, the 2019 Zagreb Music Biennale celebration, two French-American Cultural Exchange grants and a Shifting Foundation grant, resulting in an upcoming electro-acoustic large ensemble album.


Christopher Kempf (he/him)
Poetry Fellowship Recipient
Champaign, IL

Christopher Kempf is the author, most recently, of the poetry collection What Though the Field Be Lost (LSU, 2021) and the scholarly book Craft Class: The Writing Workshop in American Culture (Johns Hopkins, 2022).  Recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, he teaches in the MFA program at the University of Illinois.


Erin Kilmurray (she/they)
Choreography Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Photo credit: Candice Majors

Erin Kilmurray is a Chicago-based dance artist creating genre-straddling, femme-powered performance work that demands aliveness and collectivity  in the studio, on stage, and with audiences. She facilitates an ensemble dance and community practice that explores the liberations of women, queer folks, the underground and the underdog that demonstrates the possibilities of generating a Movement with our movement. Erin is the creator and director of The Fly Honey Show, a performance project called a “Chicago institution” (Chicago Reader) that empowers and challenges feminisms, sexuality, and personal expression through variety performance forms. She is recognized as 50 People Who Really Perform for Chicago (2023; Newcity), a Chicago Dancemakers Lab Artist (2020), and was one of three artists commissioned for the inaugural Chicago Performs program at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Additionally, her work has been shown at Lollapalooza, Thalia Hall, Metro, danceBox-Kobe (Japan), among others, and she has created performances for countless independent artists, parties, music videos, festivals, concerts, house shows, nightclubs, and theatrical productions.  She is on faculty at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. 


Nick Mazzarella (he/him/his)
Music Improvisation Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Photo credit: Svein Erik Fylkesnes

Alto saxophonist and composer Nick Mazzarella’s work has been described as "continuing the approach taken by like-minded trailblazing altoists Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Oliver Lake, and Gary Bartz [by] seeking to embody the history of [jazz] music while pushing it forward into new realms” (All About Jazz). He has been a consistent presence in Chicago's music scene since the early 2000s, and has made an aesthetically unique contribution to the city’s rich culture of jazz and improvised music as both a performer and a presenter. His numerous trio projects and eponymous quintet have served as the primary vehicles for his endeavors as an improviser, composer, and bandleader, while as a collaborator or sideman he has performed and recorded with such artists as Joshua Abrams, Geof Bradfield, Hamid Drake, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Dana Hall, Rob Mazurek, Makaya McCraven, Avreeayl Ra, Mike Reed, Tomeka Reid, Clark Sommers, and Ken Vandermark. To date Mazzarella has appeared on over forty albums, including a dozen as a leader. Recordings of his original music have been released by Nessa, Astral Spirits, Clean Feed, International Anthem, and Out of Your Head, and he has performed throughout the United States and Europe, as well as in Africa and the Middle East.


Kristi McGuire
Literature Fellowship Finalist
Chicago, IL

Kristi McGuire is an artist-writer, educator, and labor organizer. They have collaborated, editorially or otherwise, with a spectrum of artists, activists, poets, and scholars, for works published by Walther König Verlag, MDW, Dominica, Sternberg Press, Semiotext(e), ICA Philadelphia, Artists’ Platform & Projects, the University of Chicago Press, and Publication Studio, and are coeditor of Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing through the Discipline (Routledge, 2012). They teach at SAIC, where they’ve received two Karen and Jim Frank Awards for Excellence in Faculty Teaching, as well as the Faculty of the Year Award. They were previously Critical Studies and Humanities Fellow at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Art Writers Grant awardee, for their essay platform FALSE FLAGS.


Meida Teresa McNeal (she/her/hers)
New Performance Forms Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Photo credit: Anjali Pinto

Meida Teresa McNeal is Artistic and Managing Director of Honey Pot Performance. She received her PhD in Performance Studies (Northwestern) and her MFA in Choreography & Dance History (Ohio State). Awards include Field Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago, 3Arts Award in Dance, Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist, and the Links’ Hall Co-Missions Fellowship. An Independent Artist and Scholar at the intersection of performance studies, dance, and critical ethnography, Meida also teaches at University of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. Meida also works with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events' Executive Administration team as the Senior Manager of Arts & Community Impact Investments building and implementing artist recovery programs and creative placemaking grantmaking initiatives. Prior to this role, Meida worked with the Chicago Park District as Arts & Culture Manager supporting community arts partnerships, youth arts, cultural stewardship, and civic engagement initiatives. 


Simone Muench (she/her) 
Poetry Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL

Simone Muench is the recipient of an NEA Poetry Fellowship; the 2023 Lewis University Career Scholarship Award; and the Meier Foundation for the Arts Award that recognizes artists for innovation, achievements, and community contributions. She is the author of seven full-length books, including Lampblack & Ash (winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize for Poetry and a New York Times Editor’s Choice; Sarabande Books), Orange Crush (2010 Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Poetry; Sarabande Books), Wolf Centos (Sarabande Books), and The Under Hum, co-written with Jackie K. White, (Black Lawrence Press, forthcoming in 2024). She is the creator of the Hungry Brain Sunday Reading Series that she co-hosts with Kenyatta Rogers. She also serves as poetry editor for JackLeg Press, a senior poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly, and faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review. She received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago and directs the writing program at Lewis University where she teaches creative writing and film studies.


Nami Mun (she/her)
Chicago, IL
Photo credit: Firas Zreik

Nami Mun was raised in Seoul, South Korea and Bronx, New York. She is the author of the novel Miles from Nowhere, which received a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Public Library’s 21st Century Award, a Hopwood Award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers and the Asian American Literary Award. Some of Nami’s honors include fellowships and funding from University of Michigan, Northwestern University, MacDowell, Yaddo, Bread Loaf, Tin House and Headlands Center for the Arts. Miles from Nowhere went on to become a national bestseller. Nami’s work can be found in Granta, Tin House, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, The Yale Review, The Iowa Review, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, among others. She currently teaches creative writing at Loyola University Chicago. Previously, she has worked as an Avon Lady, a street vendor, a photojournalist, a waitress, an activities coordinator for a nursing home, and a criminal defense investigator.


Sahar Mustafah (she/her/hers)
Prose Fellowship Finalist
Orland Park, IL

Sahar Mustafah is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, an inheritance she explores in her fiction. Her first novel The Beauty of Your Face (W.W. Norton, 2020) was named a 2020 Notable Book and Editor’s Choice by New York Times Book Review, a Los Angeles Times United We Read selection, and one of Marie Claire Magazine’s 2020 Best Fiction by Women. It was long-listed for the Center for Fiction 2020 First Novel Prize, and was a finalist for the 2021 Book Awards. Her short story collection Code of the West was the winner of the 2016 Willow Books Fiction Award. Most recently, her short story “Tree of Life” won the 2023 Robert J. DeMott Prize, selected by Kirstin Valdez Quade, and she was awarded a 2023 Jack Hazard Fellowship from New Literary Project. Mustafah teaches at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and is Youth Programs Manager at StoryStudio Chicago. 


C. Kemal Nance (he/him/his)
Choreography Fellowship Recipient
Champaign, IL


C. Kemal Nance, PhD “Kibon,” is an Assistant Professor in the Dance and African American Studies Departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 2021, the progenitor of the Umfundalai African dance tradition, Kariamu Welsh, D. Arts, designated him the senior master teacher of the technique and bestowed him with the title, Oluko, a Yoruba derivation for “teacher.” As Oluko, Nance leads the National Association of American African Dance Teachers in providing comprehensive learning opportunities in African Diasporic dance forms and professional teaching certification in Umfundalai teaching to it growing constituencies. Nance’s academic and artistic work centralizes Black men’s gendered experiences in African Diasporan traditions. His own dance initiative, A Nance Dance Collective, produces choreographies about Black manhood. One of his recent accomplishments includes his dance film, Deez Nuts!: Black Bodies Dancing Defiance which has been featured in several film festivals across the country and abroad. Nance has also authored book chapters in Dance and the Quality of Life and African Dance in America Perpetual Motion and Hot Feet. He holds a BA in Sociology/Anthropology with the concentration of Black Studies from Swarthmore College, and an M. Ed. and PhD in Dance from Temple University.


Regina Perry-Carr (she/her/hers)
Choreography Fellowship Finalist
Maywood, IL

Regina Perry-Carr, Artistic Director of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago (MDT).  Perry-Carr is the 4th Artistic Director in the notable, historic fifty one  year old organization. A native of  Chicago, IL, Perry-Carr is credited with being  mother, dancer, choreographer, director, curator and producer. Perry-Carr has spent more than 30 years honing her  dance craft and 24 years of teaching experience in West African Dance. She  has grown to understand being a  lifelong student of this ancient and amazing art form called African Diasporic Dance is an honor. She thrives teaching and empowering others through movement and song. As the Artistic Director of Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, she passionately teaches about cultural transformation, understanding, and education of our rich African and African American dance traditions.


Colleen Plumb (she/her/hers)
Media Arts Fellowship Finalist
Chicago, IL

Colleen Plumb makes photographs, videos, and installations investigating contradictory relationships between humans and nonhuman animals in order to increase empathy and unity across species and within our own. Her work explores the way animals in captivity function as symbols of persistent colonial thinking, that a striving for human domination over nature has been normalized, and that consumption masks as curiosity.  Plumb's work is held in several permanent collections and has been widely exhibited, including Portland Art Museum, Milwaukee Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Blue Sky Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts in Portland, Oolite Arts in Miami, Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, 21c, McCormick Gallery, Roman Susan, Notebaert Nature Museum, and public video projections installed nationally and internationally. Her first book, Animals Are Outside Today (Radius, 2011) critically documents our ambivalent dispositions towards animals. Plumb's recent book, Thirty Times a Minute (Radius, 2020) examines the plight of captive elephants. Through partnering with nonprofit organizations advocating for nonhuman animals, Plumb seeks to shift dialog around what is humane. She is currently faculty at Columbia College Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  

Eden Robins (she/her/hers, usually)
Prose Fellowship Recipient
Chicago, IL
Photo credit: Jeff Kurysz

Eden Robins loves novels best, but they take forever so she also writes short stories and self-absorbed essays at places like CatapultUSA TodayLA Review of Books, Apex magazine, Shimmer, Kaleidotrope, and others. Her debut novel When Franny Stands Up was named a best book of 2022 by the Chicago Reader, a best queer book of 2022 by Autostraddle, and Best Book of the Month by Bustle and Buzzfeed. She co-hosts a science podcast called No Such Thing As Boring with an actual scientist and produces a live lit show in Chicago called Tuesday Funk. Previously, she sold sex toys, wrote jokes for Big Pharma, and once did a stand-up comedy set to an audience who didn't boo. She lives in Chicago, has been to the bottom of the ocean, and will never go to space. 


Özge Samanci (she/her/hers)
Media Arts Fellowship Recipient
Evanston, IL
Photo credit: Annette Hornischer

Özge Samanci, media artist and graphic novelist, is an associate professor in Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Her interactive installations have been exhibited internationally, including Siggraph Art Gallery, FILE festival, Currents New Media, The Tech Museum of Innovation, WRO Media Art Biennial, Athens International Festival of Digital Arts and New Media, Piksel Electronic Arts Festival, ISEA among others. Her autobiographical graphic novel Dare to Disappoint (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015) received international press attention and was positively reviewed in The New York Times, The Guardian, Slate along with many other media outlets. Dare to Disappoint has been translated into six languages. Her drawings appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Slate Magazine. In 2017, she received the Berlin Prize and she was the Holtzbrinck Visual Arts Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.


Marcela Torres (they/them)
New Performance Forms
Chicago, IL


Marcela Torres is an artist, organizer, and educator that uses strength-building exercises and movement, to propose forms of reparations. They identify as a non-binary Mexican-American, a desert person originally born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their physical research builds on methods of transcendental rituals, racial struggles within the United States, and contemporary Latinx diaspora. Torres received a BA in Sculpture Intermedia and a BFA in Art History from the University of Utah, continuing their studies in MFA in Performance form School of the Art Institute Chicago. Torres has performed at, Performance Space New York (NY,NY), the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), The Momentary (Bentonville, AK), Fringe Festival (Detroit, MI), Experimental Actions (Houston, TX) and Time Based Arts (Portland, Oregon). Torres has exhibited work at Recess (Brooklyn, NY), Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago, IL) UW-Parkside University (Kenosha, WI) , Tropical Contemporary (Eugene, OR), Petzel Gallery (NYC, NY). Torres has been in residency at John Michael Kohler Arts Center (Kohler, WI), Franconia Sculpture Park (Schafer, MI), Recess (Brooklyn, NY), Latitude Chicago (Chicago,IL), Links Hall (Chicago,IL), Creative Exchange PICA (Portland,OR). They were a 2022 Chicago Dance Maker Forum Lab Artist.


David Vayo  (he/him/his)
Music Composition Fellowship Recipient
Bloomington, IL
Photo credit: Marie-Susanne Langille

David Vayo is the Sherff Professor of Composition and Theory, Emeritus at Illinois Wesleyan University; he taught composition, improvisation and contemporary music at IWU for three decades.  Vayo also taught at Connecticut College, and in Costa Rica at the National University and the National Symphony Orchestra Youth Program. Vayo has received awards and commissions from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, ASCAP, the Koussevitzky Music Foundations, the Saint Louis Symphony Society, and the University of Wisconsin. Five hundred performances and broadcasts of his compositions have taken place throughout the USA as well as in numerous countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe.  Among the distinctive features of Vayo’s catalog are ten pieces for traditional Asian instruments, six “musical poetry readings”, three pieces for live synthesizer, and works including such unusual instruments as extended-range glockenspiel, bass viola da gamba, hammered dulcimer, and ships’ horns. Vayo performs on piano, keyboard harmonica, synthesizer and voice.  Since 2022 he has presented intimate themed concerts at his home that draw on many musical styles. Vayo holds an A.Mus.D. in Composition from The University of Michigan; his M.Mus. and B.Mus. degrees are from Indiana University, where his undergraduate majors were Composition and Jazz Studies. 


S.L. (Sandi) Wisenberg (she/her/hers)
Chicago, IL
Photo Credit: Linc Cohen

S.L. (Sandi) Wisenberg was born in Texas and moved to the Chicago area almost as soon as she finished high school, believing she had arrived East for college. She has lived in Chicago for many years now. She is the author of four books of prose, The Sweetheart Is In; Holocaust Girls: History, Memory & Other Obsessions; The Adventures of Cancer Bitch; and The Wandering Womb: Essays in Search of Home. History and research play a big part in her writing, as well as the female body. She is working on a series of short stories that take place before and after the Holocaust. Wisenberg has received grants and awards from the Illinois Arts Council, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, National Endowment for the Humanities, and City of Chicago DCASE. She teaches privately and edits the literary journal Another Chicago Magazine. She was interviewed by NPR’s Scott Simon about her latest book. In 2024 The Adventures of Cancer Bitch will be reissued in a 15th  anniversary edition.

Amy Wurtz (she/her/hers)
Music Composition Fellowship Finalist
Chicago, IL


A fervent advocate for new music and the community that surrounds and supports it, Amy Wurtz is a staunch performer, composer, and curator of new music based in Chicago. Originally from California, Amy has lived and worked in the Bay Area, Southern California, throughout the Midwest, South America and Europe. In addition to composing and curation, she is in demand as a solo pianist, chamber and choral musician, teacher, and collaborative pianist. As a composer, Amy has won various prizes and commissions for her work, including the National Federation of Music Clubs, Illinois Arts Council Grant, and the American Music Project. Her works have been performed by Zeitgeist, the Chicago Composers’ Orchestra, and Access Contemporary Music. As past President of New Music Chicago, Amy has curated and produced the Impromptu Fest, with performances at the Chopin Theater and Guarneri Hall. Amy also curates the New Music at the Green Mill series each Spring, where local performers and audience members gather in this iconic Chicago venue to hear new and experimental music. With degrees from the University of Redlands and the University of Minnesota, Amy studied piano with Alexander Braginsky and Louanne Long and composition with Judith Lang Zaimont and Alexandra Pierce. Her study of piano has taken her twice to Argentina, where she spent a year of intensive study with Inés Gómez-Carrillo. Amy performs as a soloist and chamber musician and works as lead accompanist for the Sounds Good! and Good Memories choirs, which serve older adults and those with memory loss.

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