The Arts Commission Announces May 2019 Accelerator Grant Recipients

Eye On Art  |  07/09/2019 9:00 am

The Arts Commission is pleased to announce the first group of recipients of the 2019 Accelerator Grants. This program offers financial support with quick turn-around for local individual artists or artist collectives advancing creative projects and their careers. A committee comprised of members of the visual, performing and literary arts communities meets each grant cycle to review applications and make recommendations for funding to the Arts Commission staff and board. The remaining 2019 deadlines are July 22, August 26, and September 23. Full guidelines can be found at along with the application.

The May grantees are Matthew Cook, Mercé Culp, Erin Garber-PearsonWilliam Gruber, Natalie Lanese, Rebecca Szparagowski, and Paul Verdell.

Matthew Cook is an emerging hyperrealist painter, born in Toledo, Ohio. Best known for his highly detailed portraits and still-life paintings, he creates work that show his take on historical and traditional painting subjects and themes through a contemporary lens. Cook received his B.F.A. in Art Education (2013) and his M.F.A. in Painting (2017) from Bowling Green State University and has shown his work throughout the United States, most notably as a finalist in the Art Renewal Center’s 2019 International Salon. He will use Accelerator Grant funds for the the purchase of a table saw, miter saw, router and router table to create custom frames with design elements related to his paintings.

Mercé Culp is a 4-dimensional artist. Her work includes street art, dance, fashion, graphic design and mixed media. Urban Digitz is the body of work she consistently builds pushing all media into the world of fashion. Mercé has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 3D digital character modeling and alternative digital print from Bowling Green State University. She is currently pursuing several fashion-based exhibitions featuring a few of her 730+ original textile patterns to be displayed in summer 2020. Mercé’s major projects include an artist residency in Israel creating public sculptures, “We The Explorers” NASA launch of origins art installation inside a near-earth asteroid onboard OSIRIS-Rex, and an Artist Residency at Toledo School for The Arts, African-American Heritage Mural. She will use Accelerator Grant funding for the purchase of digital printed canvases and sewing costs to fabricate prototypes for an art-based fashion line.

Erin Garber-Pearson is a multimedia artist and performer. Her recent work uses movement both performative and mundane to find kinesthetic connection with her audience. Her research captures acrobatics, harness climbing on buildings, as well as bodies in urban spaces. The gimbal, which she has been awarded Accelerator Grant support for, is a self-stabilizing mechanism specifically made for live action shots, reducing camera shake so the footage looks professional, regardless of being handheld. As an interdisciplinary artist working mainly in performance, this is an invaluable tool for developing further work in unconventional points of view.

Billy Gruber is the operator behind Midwest liquid lightshow Synesthetic Oil Spill. Continuing a tradition of projection-based lighting most associated with the 60’s psychedelic music scene, Billy works with a wide array of performers to create an atmosphere of color that brings sound to audiences’ eyes. With help from The Arts Commission and their Accelerator Grant SOS lightshow will now have their very own projection screen, expanding the boundaries of where the project can help friends turn on, drop in, and freak out.

Exhibiting her work nationally and internationally, Natalie Lanese works primarily in painting, installation, and collage. Ms. Lanese has exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, the Akron Art Museum, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, MA and at SPACE Gallery in Portland, ME. She has installed permanent public artworks in Toledo, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, OH and in San Diego, CA. Lanese holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Xavier University, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Institute of Art. She is a recipient of the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award and the Arts Commission’s Merit Award. She lives and works in Toledo, OH. She will use Accelerator Grant funding for the fees associated with an artist residency in Iceland.

Rebecca Szparagowski started glassblowing at the Toledo Museum of Arts when she turned 14 and has continued creating with glass ever since. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bowling Green State University and her Master of Mine Arts from Southern Illinois State University. Rebecca will use the Accelerator Grant funding for a 3-d scanner to create templates for building three dimensional forms from fused glass sheets.

Paul Verdell received his BFA in 2-D studies from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green OH (2018) and now works in Toledo, Ohio. Paul’s work combines drawing and painting through the use of oil stick and paint. The work started with gestural oil crayon drawings of contemporary moments within black pop culture. Following in the steps of the painters before him, Paul began painting his subjects from life, friends, family, or people just met. The paintings are loose and emphasize the line through drawing within the paintings. He will use Accelerator Grant funding for the purchase of canvas, paint, and brushes for large scale paintings.

The Arts Commission Artist Services programming is generously supported by ProMedica, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council.