NEW YORK CITY: The Ford and Mellon Foundations have announced the 2022 class of Disability Futures Fellows, the national fellowship dedicated to supporting artists living with disabilities. The fellowship, administered by United States Artists, is aimed at increasing the visibility of disabled creatives across disciplines while supporting them with an unrestricted award of $50,000 per member. The 2022 class includes 20 creative members who were nominated for the fellowship, including 8 performing artists, poets, and theatre writers, including actor/theatremaker Alexandria Wailes, poet Camisha L. Jones, choreographer/humanity advocate Antoine Hunter, actor Dickie Hearts, composer/poet JJJJJerome Ellis, multidisciplinary writer Khadijah Queen, terpsichorean artist NEVE, and multimedia artist Yo-Yo Lin.
“Mellon is honored to support Disability Futures, a program that is very close to our hearts,” said Emil J. Kang, program director of arts and culture at the Mellon Foundation, in a statement. “Created out of conversation, collaboration, and care, Disability Futures offers a chance to honor and learn from generations of artists. It’s wonderful to announce that this community just grew larger.”
The program originally began as a year- long research initiative involving dozens of disabled artists and creative practitioners across the country in 2020. Since then, the program has grown to continue addressing field-wide problems in arts and culture, journalism, and documentary film, including: a dearth of disability visibility in the cultural sector, lack of professional development opportunities accessible to disabled practitioners, and the unique financial challenges facing disabled artists and creative professionals.
In addition to acting and dancing, Alexandria Wailes has spent many years advocating for Deaf and disability rights within the performing arts, and currently serves on the Dance/NYC disability task force as well as the creative advisory board of Perelman Performing Arts Center, and on the board of the National Theatre of the Deaf. She received a 2022 Chita Rivera for Outstanding Ensemble on Broadway for For Colored Girls; she also appeared in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening and Big River.
Camisha L. Jones is the author of Flare, a poetry chapbook published by Finishing Line Press in 2017 focused on her experiences with hearing loss and chronic pain. Her poems have been published in The New York Times, Poets.org, Button Poetry, The Deaf Poets Society, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Typo, The Quarry, and elsewhere. Jones is Franklin & Marshall College’s 2017 Lapine Poetry Fellow and one of the Loft Literary Center’s 2017 Spoken Word Immersion Fellows.
Antoine Hunter, a.k.a. Purple Fire Crow, is an African American, Indigenous, Deaf, and disabled choreographer, dancer, actor, instructor, speaker, producer, and Deaf advocate. He founded the Urban Jazz Dance Company in 2007 and the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival in 2013. Awards include the 2021 Dance Teacher Award, the 2019 National Dance/USA fellowship recognized by the mayor of Oakland, the 2018 inaugural Jeanette Lomujo Bremond Humanity Arts Award, and the 2017 Isadora Duncan Award (for the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival).
Dickie Hearts is a Deaf, gay, multiracial actor and three-time national film contest winner. In addition to his screen credits, his stage work inlcudes New York Deaf Theater’s Maple & Vine and IRT’s Stepchild, Please Untranslate Me, and Trash.
JJJJJerome Ellis is an animal, stutterer, and artist. He was raised by Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants in Tidewater, Virginia, where he prays, gardens, and resides among the egrets and asters. He dreams of building a sonic bath house.
Khadijah Queen is a multidisciplinary writer, professor, visual artist, and disabled veteran who has authored six books, most recently Anodyne. Her verse play Non-Sequitur, released by Litmus Press 2015, won the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women’s Performance Writing. The award included a full production at Theaterlab in New York City, directed by Fiona Templeton and performed by the Relationship theater company.
NEVE is a disabled, aesthetgender, multiracial, multidimensional dramatic terpsichorean femme artist. They are an Indigenous African living in Duwamish country and traveling wherever they have access/an invitation. (S)He is a 2020 Pina Bausch Fellow and a 2022 Arc Artist Fellow. They collaborate with fellow Seattle multidisciplinary artist Saira Barbaric as MouthWater.
Yo-Yo Lin is a Taiwanese-American interdisciplinary artist who explores the possibilities for self-knowledge in the context of emerging, embodied technologies who often uses animation, live performance, and lush sound design to create meditative “memoryscapes.” She was a 2019 artist-in-residence at Eyebeam and a 2020 Open Call recipient for the Shed, and she teaches at NYU Tisch ITP/IMA as the 2021 Red Burns fellow. She is the cofounder of ROTATIONS, a collaborative movement practice working towards deepening understanding of artistry, disability, and access.
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