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TCG Announces 2023 Willa Kim Costume Design Scholarship Recipients

Kaʻiukapu Baker, Claudia Brownlee, and Lia Wallfish were awarded this year’s scholarship at a reception last month.

NEW YORK CITY: Theatre Communications Group (TCG) has announced the recipients of the 2023 Willa Kim Costume Design Scholarship. Kaʻiukapu Baker, Claudia Brownlee, and Lia Wallfish will receive opportunities to supplement their fine arts training in hand-drawing and painting.

“With rapid advances in AI art generators, it’s more important than ever to invest in the centuries-old craft of painting and hand-drawing to support the irreplaceable role they play in the human artistry of costume design,” Teresa Eyring, TCG’s executive director, said in a statement. “Thanks to the estate of Willa Kim, this scholarship program will continue to empower early-career costume designers to fully develop their skills.”

The scholarship is administered by TCG and the estate of costume designer Willa Kim, and is awarded to designers who are enrolled in a university or professional training program. Recipients receive up to $7,500 to cover tuition costs, registration fees, supplies, and travel expenses. This year’s recipients were announced last month at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts as part of their exhibition The Wondrous Willa Kim: Costume Designs for Actors and Dancers.

Baker is a Native Hawaiian theatre artist from Kahaluʻu. Raised in the practice of Hana Keaka, she has performed with Ka Hālau Hana Keaka since 2004. A costume designer and performer, Baker is pursuing an MFA in Hawaiian Theatre at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where she performed in the nationally acclaimed production He Leo Aloha. She also performed in the premiere and New York tour of Haili‘ōpua Baker’s ‘Au‘a ‘Ia: Holding On. Baker is passionate about collaboration in the design process and nurturing relationships with fellow Kanaka Maoli artists.

Brownlee is a costume designer from the Washington, D.C., area who is pursuing an MFA at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. She has worked as a costume designer at NU-World Contemporary Danse Theatre and Pittsburgh Public Theater. Brownlee holds an associate’s degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a B.A. in theatre from the University of Maryland College Park, and is passionate about telling diverse stories that bridge cultural gaps and finding ecological design methods for costume designers.

Wallfish is an Israeli costume designer and painter based in Chicago. She holds a B.A. in theatre from the University of California Los Angeles and is pursuing an MFA at Northwestern University. Wallfish uses her art to challenge conventions she experienced growing up in Israel and is devoted to telling stories that inspire inclusion and healing.

The Willa Kim Costume Design Scholarship is named for the late Willa Kim, a designer of costumes for theatre, ballet, opera, and television. Kim was the recipient of Tony, Drama Desk, Obie, and Emmy Awards and received lifetime achievement awards from the Fashion Institute of Technology, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, and the Theatre Development Fund. She was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2007.

Theatre Communications Group is the national organization for theatre and leads for a just and thriving theatre ecology, and the publisher of American Theatre. Through its programs and services, TCG reaches over one million students, audience members, and theatre professionals each year.

Support American Theatre: a just and thriving theatre ecology begins with information for all. Please join us in this mission by joining TCG, which entitles you to copies of our quarterly print magazine and helps support a long legacy of quality nonprofit arts journalism.

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