Celebrating 30 years of arts grants

Mar. 13, 2014 @ 09:57 PM

Percussionist Beverly Botsford and kora player Will Ridenour performed an opening duet on their instruments at the 30th Emerging Artists Awards Ceremony Thursday. Their performance was symbolic of what the Emerging Artists grant program tries to do.

Both musicians are past recipients of the award, and they and other past recipients came to Thursday’s event to honor the program’s milestone anniversary.

Botsford, who later introduced a performance by dancers and past recipients Rinku Bhattacharya Das and Ramya S. Kapadia, said of the awards: “This is the kind of community that the Durham Arts Council supports” by providing grants to individual artists that touch other artists and the community.

The ceremony also is part of the Durham Arts Council’s 60th anniversary. The Emerging Artists Program began in 1984 to help individual artists who are established in their field finance projects to advance their careers. It was envisioned by Mary D.B.T. Semans and James Semans, and Ella Fountain Pratt (for whom the grants are now named). “This was a vanguard program for North Carolina,” said Sherry DeVries, executive director of the Durham Arts Council. “It has been replicated across the state, and we’re very proud it started in Durham.”

At Thursday’s ceremony, two people were honored for their longtime service to the Emerging Arts Program. Painter Nancy Tuttle May, chair of the Emerging Artists Committee, received an award for service to the program. May has been with the program since its beginnings. Margaret DeMott, artist services director for the Durham Arts Council, also received recognition “for tirelessly championing the Emerging Artists Program.” DeMott has been with the arts council for 31 years.

Sculptor Darren Kendrick Powers received the first Francis Vega Emerging Artists Award. The award was created in memory of Francis Vega, who was co-founder of Vega Metals and who died in 2013. The award honors that legacy. Donations in memory of Vega funded the award.

In giving the award, Cynthia Vega, Francis Vega’s wife, said Francis “would be just as happy for you as he was 21 years ago when he received an Emerging Artists grant.” DeVries called Vega “a great mentor to other artists” who was always ready with “a Francis hug.”

Artists receiving the awards briefly spoke about how they plan to use the grants. Ann Corley Silverman plans to use the grant to expand her papermaking studio in Chatham County, and to give workshops in classes in the art. Photographer Nureena Faruqi plans to produce photography that “explores my relationship with the spaces I visit when I go to India to visit my extended family.”

Percussionist and kora player Teli Shabu said he planned to use the grant to complete a home studio and record an album. He played part of one of the compositions he plans to record on kora. 

The 16 recipients of grants for 2014 are Torry Bend, drama; Rachel Campbell, painting;

Ann Corley Silverman, craft, Laura Doggett, installation; Nureena Faruqi, photography;

Michael Lento, photography; Stephanie Levin, literature; George Mitchell, sculpture;

Jenifer Padilla, painting; Elizabeth Paley, craft; Darren Kendrick Powers, sculpture;

Benjamin Reid, sculpture; Teli Shabu, music; Madelyn Smoak, craft; John Westmoreland, music; Leah Wilks, dance.

For the 30th celebration, The Global Celebration Ensemble, a group made up of past grant recipients, performed. Among the ensemble members were percussionist Botsford, kora player Diali Cissokho, percussionist Ridenour and more.

Since its inception, the Emerging Artists Program has awarded 467 grants totaling $507,356.