For the past year, Oregon Humanities has worked in partnership with the Oregon Community Foundation, or OCF, on the Fields Artist Fellowship, a new initiative that offers unconditional and unrestricted support to emerging and midcareer Oregon-based artists. Over a two-year period, each fellow receives $100,000 both to advance their own artistic practice and to explore the state’s opportunity gap, which is reflected in the widening disparities in life outcomes for children of color and those born into poverty.
“Too often, artists are unable to explore important issues in their work because of the pressures of making a living,” says OCF Program Officer Jerry Tischleder. “With the Fields Artist Fellowship, our goal is to give artists time and space to dig deeper into the connections between art, economic barriers, and what it means to succeed.”
After a competitive process in which more than 150 artists applied for the fellowship, four artists representing four regions of the state were selected for this pilot initiative. These 2019–21 Fields Artist Fellows will focus on a variety of projects, including an original musical, documentary photography, hip-hop, and visual art. They are also committed to creating engagement and awareness in their communities about issues that are contributing to the opportunity gap around the state.
Lincoln City, Musician
A single mother and artist who believes “musical light shines the brightest in the darkest places of humanity,” Akins is organizing the Oregon Children’s Music Festival in Lincoln City. The festival will include a weeklong music camp for children and outdoor intergenerational concerts. Akins says the festival will be “a joyful experience that bridges urban and rural communities.” She will also use her fellowship to compose an original musical entitled The Girl with the Magic Skin, and to find opportunities to expand her musical skills.
Portland, Hip-Hop Artist
Currently an artist in residence at Alliance, an alternative program at Portland’s Benson High School that serves marginalized students, Crenshaw uses hip-hop to fight racial and economic injustice and empower young people to thrive in their creative fields. He says he will use the fellowship to sharpen his skills and “pay it forward by assisting students in creating projects that will get them paid work.”
Chiloquin, Visual Artist
A Klamath Modoc visual artist and activist, Ka’ila lives and works in her ancestral homelands near Chiloquin, in a town within the former Klamath Tribal Reservation lands. Her fellowship will allow her to pursue projects that are “part business incubation, part youth mentorship and education.” She plans to build a woodworking studio to make and sell her art, which is made from local, sustainably harvested timber materials. The studio will also offer drawing, painting, and printmaking classes to local tribal youth.
Born and raised in rural Wallowa County, Joe is an enrolled tribal member of the Caddo Nation and a descendant of the Delaware Nation. He has experienced the opportunity gap firsthand, having lived below the poverty level his entire life. A photographer and self-taught writer who has gained recognition as a freelance journalist, Whittle brings Indigenous representation, perspectives, and insights to media outlets such as the Guardian, Outside magazine, the New York Times, HuffPost, and National Geographic. With this fellowship, Whittle will apply his skills in investigative journalism to exploring the opportunity gap in northeastern Oregon. He also plans to create summer activities for kids affected by the opportunity gap, including photo and storytelling workshops and an outdoor skills and adventure school.
Fellow Mic Crenshaw says the fellowship has given him “a profound sense of validation.” He says that for the first time in more than twenty-five years, “I have been able to come up for air, look behind me and take stock in what I have accomplished, take a deep breath, pivot, and look toward the future with renewed enthusiasm, vision, and purpose.”
For more information on the Fields Artist Fellowship, which is supported by OCF’s Fred W. Fields Fund, click here.
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