We are delighted to introduce our 2020-2021 Fellows!
We are delighted to announce the new round of 20/20 Fellows – Amoke Kubat, Atlese Robinson, Ayolanda Evans, Chamindika Wanduragala, Chitra Vairavan, heather c. lou, Herb Johnson III, Joseph Allen, Ka "Oskar" Ly, and Maia Maiden.
See the announcement press release.
Amoke Kubat is a ”Northsider for life” who has been involved in empowering mothers and families since 1987. She is a Yoruba Priestess, teacher, artist and writer who partners with community artists, activists and organizations to bridge African/African American culture and historical contributions into transformative actions and social equitable practices for healing and building sustainable families and communities.
Amoke is the designer of YO MAMA! It is a “mothering” artistic practice. YO MAMA! is an art based support group called The Art of Mothering Workshops (where traditional women’s work is learned and art genres are explored) and provides custom designed ART Residencies for organizations that serve mothers. YO MAMA’s mission is to empower mothers by disrupting the devaluation of women’s invisible labor and showcasing their mastery of the art of mothering and the universal traditional women’s work that transforms into art making and economic security.
Amoke uses writing and art making to speak truth to power and to hold a position of wellness in an America sick with inequalities and inequities. Her writing includes published short stories, her memoir, a play and the Playbook for the play.
Atlese Robinson is a writer, performer, director, producer, and the founding artistic director of Ambiance Theatre Company. Hailing from Saint Paul, MN by way of Chicago, IL, Atlese grew up glued to the stories of her elders. As a result, Atlese’s writing style places an emphasis on the natural flow of speech as a means to preserve the integrity of oral history. Atlese’s writing style earned her a spot as a 2020-21 Many Voices Mentorship Finalist.
As a performer, Atlese thrives most in ensemble settings where synergetic connection is the power behind compelling theatre. Her previous credits include ensemble in The Dutchman (Penumbra Theatre Company), The Garden (Ambiance Theatre Company), co-star in Contact by Simone Brookes LeClaire, ensemble in Rebirth of Rabbit’s Foot (Mixed Blood Minneapolis), and Atlese is a 2020 Naked Stages Fellow. Atlese’s previous directing credits include Naked I : Self Defined (20% Theatre Company) , The Spectrum of Blackness (Ambiance Theatre Company), and Waiting in Vain (Ambiance Theatre Company). Atlese prides herself on serving as an usher to director at theatre companies around the Twin Cities as no job is too small for a leader.
Atlese’s ultimate mission with Ambiance Theatre Company is to support Black dramatic writers through script development, produce new works, and center the need for engaging Black audiences.
Ayolanda Evans, co-founder of Black Family Blueprint, is an interdisciplinary artist and social activator rooted in the concept of Sankofa, which means, “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”. She infuses storytelling with visual arts, jewelry making, creative writing, spoken word and performance, and other content creation. Her approach to the arts is reflective of both her intersectional identities as an African American woman and an ancestry that has been forgotten in the process of American enslavement. She creates content and wearable art pieces that evoke her interpretation of the beauty, resilience, and struggle of black life in America. Her unique jewelry construction and accessory design has been featured in the Rasta Wear Fashion Affair, FLOW Northside Arts Crawl, local music videos, and on bodies across the Twin Cities. Ayolanda’s work explores the question: how does it feel to be black, liberated, and authentic in America?
Ayolanda is the co-host of the “Kinfolk Connection” radio show on KMOJ HD “The Ice”, where she and her husband explore topics impacting black families. She holds a BA in Family Science and is a doula, family life educator, parent coach, and homeschool parent. She is a recent recipient of the Metropolitan Regional Art Council’s Next Step grant. Her dedication to enhancing African American family life, especially the lives of black children, has lead her to create “Hey, Black Child…” which is creative content designed to support the social-emotional development of black children. For Ayolanda, art is a vehicle for healing, education, and social change.
Chamindika Wanduragala is a Sri Lankan interdisciplinary artist, incorporating puppetry, visual art, sound design, stop motion animation, and is also a DJ (DJ Chamun).
Chamindika is the founder and Executive/Artistic Director of Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop, which supports Native, Black, POC in contemporary puppet theater. You can check out her work at www.chamindika.com
Photo credit: Sarah White
Chitra Vairavan is a contemporary dancer/choreographer and performance artist of Tamil/South Indian-American descent. She was born in Milwaukee, WI, and community-grown as an artist and cultural activist in Minneapolis, MN on occupied Dakota land.
Vairavan immerses herself in both Tamil culture and progressive brown politics in the U.S. Her embodied practice and experimental process is rooted in deep listening, spatial observation, freedoms, poetry, vulnerability and ancestral memory. Her dance and artistic work have been featured throughout the Twin Cities since 2004.
Vairavan’s focus is now on a BIPOC-centered creative liberation practice, in the form of her collective The Vibrants aka Womxn of Color Reimagining Ecosystems, and through her workshops and offerings. www.chitravairavan.com
Herb Johnson III
McKnight Fellow, Herb Johnson III Aka JDot Tight Eyez graduated from Perpich Center for the Performing Arts in 2010 and studied 3 years at the Lundstrum Center for Arts. Herb is now at the University of Minnesota as an Urban & Street dance instructor.
He currently choreographs and performs solo and in groups 612 Crew, and Mixtape. Professional work includes iLuminate from America’s Got Talent, Choreographing G-Easy's Halftime show at Target Center in 2018, and Super Bowl 52 half-time show 2018 with Justin Timberlake.
heather c. lou
heather c. lou, m.ed. (she/her/hers) is an angry gemini earth dragon, multiracial, asian, queer, cisgender, disabled, survivor/surviving, depressed, and anxious womxn of color artist based in st. paul, minnesota. hcl works closely with her co-collaborator, Low Kling (also known as Pickle Witch and YoLow Zines) to plan and organize Support Local Hustle, an initiative that focuses on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color makers/artists/vendors in the Twin Cities. SLH’s goal is to create wider opportunities for BIPOC to share their skills and talents with each other, their community, and works to dismantle white supremacy and other forms of oppression, challenge late stage capitalism, and create alternative economic opportunities for creatives. SLH aims to create safer and more inclusive spaces, and the Springboard 20/20 Artist Fellowship will enhance hcl and Low’s efforts.
hcl’s mixed media pieces include watercolor, acrylic, printmaking, gold paint pen, oil pastel, digital/graphic design, radical love, & hope. each piece comments on the intersections of her racial, gender, ability, & sexual identities, as they continue to shift and develop in complexity each day. her art is a form of healing, transformation, and liberation, rooted in womxnism and gender equity through a racialized borderland lens. heather works in education as an administrator. in her spare time, heather loves ogling at and snuggling with sprout and loon (her dogs), gardening, birdwatching, eating pie, playing her ukulele, and spending time with her loving partner.
Joseph J. Allen has been creating and exhibiting his art for over 30 years. His photographs are in the collections of the Weisman Art Museum, the Minnesota Historical Society and the C. N. Gorman Museum, at UC Davis. He is a past recipient of a McKnight Photography fellowship, an alumnus of Intermedia Arts’ Creative Community Leadership Institute, a 2012 Blandin Reservation Leadership fellow and member of the Tiwahe Foundation’s Oyate Leadership Network.
Joseph serves on the board of directors of the Plains Arts Museum and is a former board member of the Region 2 Arts Council. He is currently director of the Gizhiigin Arts Incubator in Mahnomen, MN—a project of the White Earth Nation’s economic development division. Gizhiigin supports Indigenous artists by providing services and resources to advance their artistic and entrepreneurial goals.
Born in Eagle Butte, SD, Joseph is a citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate. He also a descendant of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation where he lives in the Sugarbush Township. The 20/20 Artist Fellowship will provide time to focus on his own artistic practice and allow Joseph to strengthen his organizing skills and develop tools to empower Indigenous artists to work cooperatively toward common goals.
Ka “Oskar” Ly
Ka “Oskar” Ly is a Queer Hmoob (Hmong) French American artist and cultural producer. As an immigrant and child of refugees, Ly is driven by exploring previously unimaginable possibilities to forge cultural innovations and community futures.
They have worked at the intersection of art, organizing, and political advocacy spanning across various social movements to produce the platforms for their communities to thrive. Using fashion art, they have mobilized broader queer Asian American Pacific Islander cultural futures to think beyond marriage equality. They launched the Little Mekong Night Markets successfully incubating micro-entrepreneurs and supporting artists in economic development.
Ly went on to facilitate efforts that grounded MRAC’s collective commitment to racial equity, which included policies and approaches improving access for IBPOC grant reviewers. Ly founded ArtCrop, a project combining community-supported art and farming that has since grown into a public art and design collective. With the support of the 20/20 fellowship, Ly will expand ArtCrop into an artist-owned agency to foster more opportunities for IBPOC artists.
Scientist by day, dancer by night, Maia Maiden aka Rah Fyah has been a leader in the dance community for over 20 years. A South Minneapolis native, her work as a dancer and choreographer in Hip Hop led her to create Maia Maiden Productions, a Twin Cities based arts presenter.
Established in 2009, award-winning ROOTED: Hip Hop Choreographers’ Evening and Sistah Solo|Being Brothas have laid the framework for the organization's significant contribution to the arts community. Maiden’s curation is focused on uplifting and recognizing artists aligned with the organization’s mission to provide an equitable and engaging platform for Hip Hop, people of color (BIPOC), women and youth through performing arts.
She has served on numerous fellowship /grant panels and has been recognized with many honors including Minnesota Sage Dance Award for Outstanding Performance, McKnight International Choreographers Residency Partner, Ordway Sally Award for Initiative, Upswell Fellow, American Express Next Generation Fellow, Star Tribune Fall Arts Changemakers Honoree for Dance and City Pages' People Issue Honoree: Meet the Unsung Heroes of the Twin Cities.
Thanks & Acknowledgements
The 20/20 Artist Fellowship is supported by contributions from the Bush Foundation and the Surdna Foundation.
This year the review process for the 20/20 Fellowship had to be revised twice during the open application phase as COVID-19, the murder of George Floyd by MPD, and ensuing uprisings happened simultaneously, triggering widespread and immediate neighborhood response efforts led by BIPOC and Native community members.
Due to this unprecedented and challenging set of circumstances, and with input from community members, staff, and past and present fellows, Springboard increased the number of fellows, extended the deadline and made changes to the review process to respond to the evolving needs of the community and to make the program as simple and supportive as possible.
Springboard for the Arts moved to internally complete the first round of reviews and advance 50 finalists from the initial pool of 147. In July, a third-party peer review panel of 6 BIPOC artists, all of whom are past and present fellows – Jose Alvillar, Leila Awadallah, Felicia Perry, Tish Jones, Leslie Barlow, and Kaamil A. Haider – convened to review those 50 applications and select the final 10 Artist Fellows for the upcoming 2020-2021 cycle. Thanks to all applicants and the jury!