Two Detroit emerging artists are richer by $5,000 each courtesy of the Kresge Foundation, which launched a new award Thursday in honor of the late artist and College for Creative Studies professor Gilda Snowden.
The first-ever Gilda Awards go to experimental poet Maia Asshaq and multimedia artist Sacramento Knoxx.
Born in Iraq, Asshaq, 28, is both a poet and co-founder of the bookstore and publishing house DittoDitto in Detroit’s Corktown.
Knoxx, whose real name is Christopher Yepez, is a 30-year-old multimedia artist from southwest Detroit whose creative endeavors range from music production to filmmaking.
Snowden died suddenly in September at age 60. She taught at the college for more than 30 years and developed a reputation as an unusually attentive mentor to young artists of all stripes.
College President Richard L. Rogers called Snowden “an incredibly involved and caring teacher and mentor.” The term Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson liked is “simply irreplaceable.”
Royal Oak artist Mary Fortuna met Snowden in the early 1990s after Fortuna graduated from Wayne State University.
“When I was a mere sprout emerging on my own,” she said, “Gilda was endlessly supportive, present and encouraging.
“Gilda’s left a great legacy, and I’m so happy to hear about these awards. That kind of recognition when you’re young can do so much to boost your confidence and help you go out on a limb as an artist.”
The Gilda Awards will run for only two years. This year’s honorees represent the literary and visual arts. The 2016 awards will go to artists working in film or theater, as well as dance or music.
The Gildas are the third set of grants Kresge makes to support the local artistic community. The Kresge Artist Fellows program was launched in 2009. Each fellow gets $25,000 with no strings attached and a year’s worth of professional counseling.
Snowden was in the inaugural class of 18 fellows, along with Heidelberg Project founder Tyree Guyton and Cass Corridor great Gordon Newton.
In addition, Kresge names an annual Eminent Artist, who wins an unrestricted stipend of $50,000.