The Arts Commission Seeks Local Artist Applicants for 2020 Merit Awards

Eye On Art  |  10/20/2020 11:00 am

The Arts Commission is pleased to announce the deadline of Monday, November 16 for the 2020 Merit Awards. This program recognizes outstanding individual local literary, performing and visual artists with financial awards. Find more information about this opportunity at 

Regionally renowned artists and cultural leaders have been invited to participate in a review process of the merit award applications. Their collective expertise ranges across the visual, performing, literary and multidisciplinary arts. This review panel will make recommendations for funding to the Arts Commission staff and board. The 2020 review panel includes Aaron Dworkin, Michelle Herman, and Nadiah Rivera Fellah.

Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts and appointed to the Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs, Aaron P. Dworkin served as dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), which is ranked among the top performing arts schools in the nation. He is currently a tenured full professor of arts leadership and entrepreneurship at SMTD as well as serving as a Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Aaron is a successful social entrepreneur having founded The Sphinx Organization, the leading arts organization with the mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. He is also host of the nationally-broadcast Arts Engines show in collaboration with Detroit Public Television. Aaron is a best-selling writer having authored The Entrepreneurial Artist: Lessons from Highly Successful Creatives published by Rowman & Littlefield, a science-fiction  novel, Ethos: Rise of Malcolm published by MorganJames, as well as his memoir titled Uncommon Rhythm: A Black, White, Jewish, Jehovah's Witness, Irish Catholic Adoptee's Journey to Leadership released through Aquarius Press, a poetry collection, They Said I Wasn’t Really Black, and a children’s book The 1st Adventure of Chilli Pepperz. Aaron is a prominent spoken-word performing artist represented by Cadenza Artists with a current national tour of his American Rhapsody with a national consortium of orchestras and premiered with the Minnesota Orchestra and Maestro Osmo Vänskä. Aaron is also an award-winning filmmaker having produced and directed three films including An American Prophecy, Deliberation and The Book of Aaron in addition to recording and producing two CDs, entitled Ebony Rhythm and Bar-Talk. He has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Damien Sneed, Anna Deveare Smith, Damian Woetzel, Lil Buck and others. His visual digital art project, Fractured History, has been exhibited at multiple galleries and museums to rave reviews. Aaron has been featured in People Magazine, on NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News, CNN, NPR and others. He has been the subject of articles in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, Washington Post and was named one of Newsweek’s “15 People Who Make America Great.” He is the recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society Honorary Membership, Harvard University’s Vosgerchian Teaching Award, National Governors Association 2005 Distinguished Service to State Government Award, among others. Aaron has served as a juror for the international Menuhin Competition, London Music Masters Competition, Stulberg International Violin Competition and the Sphinx Competition. He is a frequent keynote speaker and lecturer at numerous national and global arts, creativity and technology conferences and serves as a board or advisory member for numerous influential arts organizations including the National Council on the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Avery Fisher Artist Program, Independent Sector’s Advisory Group and others. Aaron has strong interests in politics, innovation, creativity, human pair bonding and issues of economic and social justice. He enjoys travel, movies, and the culinary arts. He is married to Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, a prominent international arts leader who serves as President and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization and has two awesome sons, Noah Still and Amani Jaise.

Michelle Herman is a novelist and essayist whose ninth book, the novel Close- Up, is due out in 2021. Her short fiction, articles, and essays have appeared in a wide range of publications, from American Scholar and Ploughshares to O, the Oprah Magazine and Redbook. She also writes a popular advice column for Slate and has taught fiction and nonfiction writing for many years at The Ohio State University, where she co-founded the MFA Program in Creative Writing and directs a graduate interdisciplinary program in the arts.

Nadiah Rivera Fellah joined the Cleveland Museum of Art in November 2019. Beginning in 2015, Fellah served in various capacities at the Newark Museum in New Jersey. Most recently at Newark, she curated the celebrated exhibition Wendy Red Star: A Scratch on the Earth and served as the primary author and editor for the accompanying catalogue. Fellah was also tasked with integrating several Latin American works into the American galleries prior to the museum’s expansion of that wing. In 2014 she organized Left Coast: California Political Art at the James Gallery at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Prior to these projects, Fellah held curatorial positions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College. Fellah received her BA in art history at Oberlin College. In 2019 she completed a PhD at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her dissertation focused on the role of photography in capturing stories of migration in the US-Mexico borderlands from the 1970s to the present and was supported in part by fellowships from the Inter- University Program for Latino Research, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Center for Creative Photography.

The Arts Commission Artist Merit awards program is generously sponsored by ProMedica, the Ohio Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.