In 2017, Cleveland Arts Prize and the Cleveland Foundation recognized a regional void in nurturing and supporting the next generation of artistic excellence. As a solution, the Verge Fellowship was developed to amplify the voices of these often unheard artists forging bold paths throughout Cleveland’s art scene. The Fellowship provides a $2,000 stipend to five artists who represent Cleveland’s diversity in the arts across multiple disciplines: Literary Arts, Visual Arts, Dance & Theatre, Music and Design.
“Support for young, diverse artists is a critical gap in Cleveland’s creative infrastructure,” said Lillian Kuri, Cleveland Foundation’s Vice President, Strategic Grantmaking, Arts & Urban Design Initiatives. “We are proud to partner with Cleveland Arts Prize to develop the Verge Fellowship so that more creative professionals have the ability to stay and build an artistic practice right here in Cleveland.”
The 2018 inaugural Verge Fellowship winners were recognized on Oct. 21 at the 58th Annual Cleveland Arts Prize Awards held at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Congratulations to these artists on the verge of greatness:
Stephen Bivens (Visual Art): Photography shot exclusively with film is a rarity these days, but Bivens chooses it over digital to produce clean crisp images with no Photoshop editing. Interested in the essence of life, people, events and architecture, he loves to capture the raw emotion and genuine expression of the moment.
Stephanie Fields (Literature): Fields’ work as a writer, editor, and educator emerged from a rich tradition of oral storytelling in her family that instilled a love of literature within her at a young age. She is currently working on a short story collection that blends magic realism and African American folklore to paint portraits of women whose circumstances often leave them without agency over their own voice.
Amanda King (Visual Art): A conceptual artist and activist, King is best known as the founder and creative director of Shooting without Bullets, a youth expressive arts program that provides a framework for teens to process complex social issues. She takes pride in creating authentic work that tells people’s stories, especially those of young black women like herself.
Damien McClendon (Literature): The Youngstown native is interested in the relationship between poetry and social justice work. His writing is rooted in the belief that poetry has the power to inspire change within a community.
Kayla Thomas (Dance): The eighteen-year-old aspiring dancer, teacher and choreographer promotes diversity in the ballet industry and supports a belief that regardless of background we can all speak a common language through the fine arts. Thomas currently studies dance at Fordham University, after which she plans to return to Cleveland to provide the community with more opportunities for creativity through the fine arts.