Kresge Arts in Detroit announces 18 award winners


It’s one of the year’s most-anticipated events for Detroit’s creative community.

The Kresge Foundation announced the 2017 class of Kresge Artist Fellows Thursday, with 18 lucky writers and artists winning $25,000 apiece, no strings attached.

Also announced were the two emerging artists to win this year’s Gilda Awards, named for the late, much-beloved artist and College for Creative Studies professor.

This year’s Artist Fellows were drawn from both the literary and visual arts.

Among the former are Taylor Renee Aldridge, Benjamin Alfaro, Tommye Blount, Mike Burdick, Jean Alicia Elster, Allie Gross, Andrew Mehall, Drew Philp and Satori Shakoor.

Visual artists include Jeanne Bieri, Jennifer Harge, Matthew Angelo Harrison, Sydney G. James, Nicole Macdonald, Juan Martinez, Catie Newell, David Philpot and Robert Sestok.

Gilda Award winners were Leah V. for literary arts, and visual artist Austen Brantley.

Artist Macdonald, whose large-scale portraits of notable Detroiters fill up windows of three empty buildings, including one at Gratiot and Mack, said she’s looking forward to being able to fund projects that otherwise might have been out of reach.

“Funding is always an issue,” Macdonald said, “especially with large-scale work with site-specific installations.”

As for her reaction on getting the good news, she laughed and said, “I was totally happy. Who wouldn’t be, right?”

Elster, who writes young-adult fiction with stories drawn from her own family, said she’d about given up after applying unsuccessfully three times for the Kresge grants.

“This year I thought, ‘I can do this with my eyes closed,” she said. “And number four turned out to be the charm.”

Elster is currently working on “Blood Journey,” the third volume in a trilogy that started with “Who’s Jim Hines?” and was followed by “The Colored Car,” both published by Wayne State University Press.

What will she do with the money? “I tell you,” Elster said, “a big chunk of it will go to taxes.”

But she wants to research the life of her paternal grandfather, a jazz musician who originally hailed from Kentucky before moving to Detroit, as well as her grandmother from Alabama.

“This will let me do some travel, and meet with archivists and librarians,” Elster said. “So the money will be a big, big help in that respect.”

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy