18 artists, writers, named Kresge Fellows

Michael H. Hodges
Detroit News Fine Arts Writer

A graphic novelist, painters, poets and a performance collective called the Tzarinas of the Plane number among the 2015 Kresge Artist Fellows announced Thursday.

This year's winners total 18, culled from 650 applicants, and are evenly divided between the literary and visual arts. Judges were selected by Kresge Arts in Detroit.

Each fellow gets $25,000 from the Kresge Foundation with no strings attached, plus a year of professional coaching in how to manage an arts career.

The group includes relative unknowns, as well as familiar names on the Detroit cultural scene such as longtime Detroit journalist and fiction writer Desiree Cooper, and Nancy Mitchnick, a painter who emerged from the 1970s Cass Corridor art movement.

The question confronting each fellow, of course, is what to do with the $25,000. For Oakland University writing professor and graphic storyteller Jeffrey S. Chapman, 41, it's still too soon to say.

"For now I'll just put it aside," he said. "To be honest, I don't know yet. It's a phenomenal amount of money." He laughs. "They say you can use it for anything. You can go buy shoes. So maybe I'll buy shoes."

Tiff Massey, a metalworker in Detroit, has very distinct plans for her windfall.

"I plan on using some of it to establish a classroom in my space," said the 33-year-old, "and to launch a jewelers' residency." The rest, Massey adds, will likely go toward acquiring more tools.

"I have my eye on a laser cutter," she said.

Sarah Rose Sharp, a "creative generalist" and writer who does arts criticism for Knight Arts in Detroit, says the fellowships help anchor the metro area's creative community.

"They're a great driver for creative people," said the 34-year-old who moved to Detroit from New York six years ago. "They signal that there are people out there paying attention."

She added, "One thing I've always appreciated about Kresge is that they demonstrate real sensitivity to what it means to be an artist — that it's not a career move, but a calling."

Sharp holds down four jobs to support her art-and-writing habit. "To have the freedom to be able to pursue that without juggling other things," she said, "is a huge gift."



Kresge Artist Fellows 2015

Literary Arts Fellows

Jeffrey S. Chapman, graphic novels, fiction

Desiree Cooper, flash fiction

Kahn Santori Davison, poetry

Walerian Domanski, short stories

Billy Mark, experimental freestyle poet

Airea D. Matthews, poetry

Sarah Rose Sharp, arts criticism

George Tysh, poetry

Lillien Waller, poetry

Visual Arts Fellows

Cuppetelli and Mendoza, new media art

M. Saffell Gardner, painting

Cynthia Greig, photography

Carole Harris, fiber art

Tzarinas of the Plane, performance art

Tiff Massey, metalwork, sculpture

Nancy M. Mitchnick, painting

Jonathan Rajewski, painting

Chris Schanck, sculpture