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Douglas R. Ewart and Olivia Levins Holden.

McKnight Fellowships Go to Douglas R. Ewart, Olivia Levins Holden

Administered by Pillsbury House Theatre, the honor for community-engaged, mid-career Minnesota artists comes with a $25,000 stipend.

MINNEAPOLIS: Pillsbury House Theatre has announced the two recipients of the 2022 McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists, Douglas R. Ewart and Olivia Levins Holden. 

Aimed at identifying and supporting exceptional mid-career Minnesota artists, the McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists provides recipients with $25,000 stipends, public recognition, and meetings with local and national art professionals. The program also organizes a public discussion series and works with the fellows to support their professional development and new creative initiatives. The fellowships are funded by a grant from the McKnight Foundation and administered by Pillsbury House Theatre.

Douglas R. Ewart, a professor emeritus at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1946 and immigrated to Chicago in 1963, where he studied music theory at VanderCook College of Music, electronic music at Governors State University, and composition at the School of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Ewart’s extremely varied and highly interdisciplinary work encompasses music composition (including graphic and conceptual scores as well as conventionally notated works), painting and kinetic sound sculpture, and multi-instrumental performance on virtually the full range of saxophones, flutes, and woodwinds, including the flutes, pan-pipes, rainsticks, and percussion instruments of his own design and construction for which he is known worldwide. Ewart’s work as composer, instrument maker, and visual artist has long reflected his understanding of the importance of sustainable and natural materials, particularly bamboo, which serves not only as primary physical materials for many of his sculptures and instruments, but also crucial conceptual elements of some of his most important recordings, such as Bamboo Meditations at Banff (1993) and Bamboo Forest (1990). 

Olivia Levins Holden is a queer, mixed Boricua muralist, organizer, artist, and educator living on Dakota homeland, Bde Ota Othunwe, Mni Sota Makoce, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Holden’s work explores many ways that the arts can transform and support movements, tell stories, plant seeds, and combat toxic narratives. They center processes of community involvement and collective design, drawing from conversations and people’s history to create collaborative murals and public art, believing that the process is as essential as the final artwork. Since 2009, they have created and led the creation of 26 permanent murals in Minneapolis, California, and Puerto Rico, including Minneapolis murals Waves of Change/Oleadas de Cambio (2015), Defend, Nurture, Grown Phillips (2019), Wiidookodaadiwag/They Help Each Other (2019), and Ritmos y Raices de Resistencia (2021). With her artist collective, Studio Thalo, Holden creates live-painted mobile murals to reflect conversations and events. 

The 2022 McKnight fellows were selected from a group of 26 applicants by a panel of arts professionals of varying backgrounds whose careers intersect with community-engaged artistic practice in different ways. This year’s jurors were Carlton Turner, lead artist and director of Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, and Dave Kyu, artist and director of programs for the Asian Arts Initiative.

The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation established in 1953, aims to advance climate solutions in the Midwest, build an equitable and inclusive Minnesota, support the arts in Minnesota, and support neuroscience and international crop research.

Founded in 1992, Pillsbury House Theatre aims to promote individual and community well-being through arts-infused community services, award-winning professional theatre, and arts-based community development initiatives across diverse artistic disciplines and cultural production.

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