Pew Fellowships In The Arts Celebrates Artists Working In Many Media

Pew Fellowships In The Arts Celebrates Artists Working In Many Media

The Pew Fellowships in the Arts presents its 2005 fellowships to 13 local artists working in the areas of Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Media Arts, and Works on Paper.

The 12 $50,000 fellowships (one fellowship is shared by two artists) give artists time to focus on their work—to explore, to experiment, and to develop their art more fully. This year's recipients, selected from among nearly 400 artists, are:

Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater

Beth Kephart

Astrid Bowlby

Jay Kirk

Pablo Colapinto

Shawn McBride

Gerald Cyrus, Jr.

Filmon Mebrahtu

Cheryl Hess

Joshua Mosley

M. Ho
Zoe Stauss

The 2005 fellowships mark the 14th year of the Pew Fellowships in the Arts and bring the total to 187 artists who have been honored with the distinction of receiving the highly competitive fellowships. To date, a total of $9.2 million has gone to support some of the region's most gifted artists. These fellowships are the largest such grants in the country for which artists can apply. The Pew Fellowships in the Arts is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by The University of the Arts.

“The Trusts has long felt that artists should be able to dedicate themselves to artistic exploration and production, especially on creative frontiers that the marketplace is not likely to support. These fellowships come with ‘no strings attached,' and give artists the freedom to plunge into larger or more complex projects, work with new media or collaborate with other artists,” said Marian Godfrey, director of civic life initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

This year's fellowship recipients range in age from 27 to 57 and reflect the richness and diversity of artistic practice in our region.

The collaborative filmmaking team of Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater has been making social documentaries focusing on women's lives for over 15 years. Writer Beth Kephart is the author of five books, including A Slant of Sun, which was nominated for a National Book Award. Zoe Strauss is a photographer of the social landscape who produces large-scale public projects including her annual May 1st exhibition under I-95. Filmon Mebrahtu gave up a successful career managing GTE's wireless internet network to make films that tell the stories of African immigrants' lives in Philadelphia. M. Ho's most recent collages are pages from The New York Times Nation at War section, in which the text is covered by colorful rectangles and floral imagery, in sharp juxtaposition to the often jarring content of the photographs.

“As in past years, our review process was extremely competitive, and the overall quality of the applications was very high,” noted Melissa Franklin, director of the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, “Our panelists labored with great seriousness and care to make the very difficult choices demanded by such a selection process.”

The fellowships are for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two years. They support artists at any stage of career development, from early to mature, and working in a wide variety of aesthetics and traditions. Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis and selections are made through a two-phase peer-review process involving preliminary and final selection panels. For the recipients, this honor reflects both their distinction within the discipline-specific pool and the collective judgment of the final, interdisciplinary panel. This year's interdisciplinary panel included:

  • Richard Armstrong (chair), Henry J. Heinz II Director, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh , Pa. ; 
  • Claire Aguilar, director of programming, Independent Television Service, San Francisco , Calif. ; 
  • James Elaine, artist, curator, Hammer Projects, UCLA Hammer Museum , University of California , Los Angeles ; 
  • Chrissie Iles, curator of Film and Video, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 
  • Fiona McCrae, publisher and director, Graywolf Press, Saint Paul , Minn. ; 
  • Hamza Walker, curator, director of education, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Ill.; and 
  • Shawn Wong, writer, professor of English, and director of the University Honors Program, University of Washington , Seattle.

Serving on the fiction and creative nonfiction panel were: Elizabeth McCracken, writer, Paris, France; Mary Morris, writer, professor of creative writing, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, N.Y.; and Shawn Wong, writer, professor of English, and director of the University Honors Program, University of Washington, Seattle. Serving on the media arts panel were: Claire Aguilar, director of programming, Independent Television Service, San Francisco , Calif. ; Peggy Ahwesh, filmmaker, associate professor of Film and Electronic Arts, Bard College , Annandale-on-Hudson , N.Y. ; and Richard Herskowitz, director, Virginia Film Festival, Charlottesville . Serving on the works on paper panel were: Darsie Alexander, curator of prints, drawings & photographs, Baltimore Museum of Art, Md.; James Elaine, artist, curator, Hammer Projects, UCLA Hammer Museum, University of California, Los Angeles; and Christine Kim, associate curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

Panel biographies are available on the web site at

Established by The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1991, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts awards grants of $50,000 to Philadelphia-area artists. The Pew Fellowships is one of several artistic development initiatives created and funded by the Trusts that encourage creative growth, foster artistic excellence, and enhance the cultural life of our region. Other programs exist primarily to support cultural organizations in the areas of dance, theater, music, and the visual arts, as well as historic preservation and history.


Biographies of Pew Fellows in the Arts 2005


Barbara Attie, 57, and Janet Goldwater, 54, media arts

Filmmakers Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater have been collaborating on creating social documentaries focusing on women's lives for the last fifteen years, bringing defining and sometimes controversial issues to the attention of a broader public. Their most recent award-winning films include Maggie Growls (2002), Landowska: Uncommon Visionary (1997) and I Witness: Shot Down in Pensacola (1998), all of which have been widely screened and widely praised. Attie received her B.A. from Sweet Briar College in Virginia and her M.F.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia. Janet Goldwater received her B.A. from New College in Sarasota, Florida, and her M.F.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia. The team has been honored with awards from the National Educational Film and Video Festival, the International Health and Medical Film Festival, Council on Foundations, and they have received a CINE Golden Eagle Award. Their work has been shown on both regional and national PBS, and at film festivals including the International Documentary Film festival in Amsterdam, Fifth International Video Week in Switzerland, Classique en Images, Musee du Louvre, Paris, and the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema.

Astrid Bowlby, 43, works on paper

Astrid Bowlby creates room-sized installations from thousands of hand-cut ink drawings on paper, resulting in an accumulation of marks that create fantasy topographies and landscapes. Bowlby received her B.F.A. from University of Southern Maine, Gorham, and her M.F.A. from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She has had solo exhibitions of her work at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, Elizabeth Harris Gallery in New York, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts in Wilmington, and Gallery Joe, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, both in Philadelphia. She has been honored with three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships, and both a Grant for Excellence and a Window of Opportunity Grant from the Leeway Foundation. Her work is included in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library, among others.

Pablo Colapinto, 27, media arts

Pablo Colapinto works in digital video and on the web. His website,, functions as an artist's notebook, where he collects his thoughts and ideas. Using the digital language of his generation, he creates videos that combine an interest in pre-revolutionary war Philadelphia with his own Argentinean heritage to create alluring and poetic vignettes. Colapinto received his B.A. from Harvard University. His work has been exhibited at Fleisher-Ollman Gallery and Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, both in Philadelphia, and screened at the Philadelphia Film Festival and Streaming Media Festival. He has taught at Temple University, and served as an instructor for “Community Visions, the Youth Documentary History Project,” at Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia. He has been in residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Smyrna Beach, Florida, and the Experimental Television Center in Owego, New York.

Gerald Cyrus, Jr., 48, works on paper

Gerald Cyrus, Jr. is a documentary photographer. Driven by a recognition of the lack of documentary photography focusing on black middle-class families, Cyrus began making pictures in the early 90s. Over the past fifteen years his commitment to black identity has not wavered as he has moved beyond his immediate community to chronicle places like Brazil and Camden, New Jersey. His work has earned him national recognition as an artist-chronicler. Cyrus's solo exhibitions include: The American Museum of Natural History (2000); San Bernardino Valley College (1999); University of California Extension Center, San Francisco (1996); En Foco Touring Gallery, New York, and Midtown Y Gallery, New York. He has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including: “Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers” at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York (2001); “Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers, 1840 to the Present” at the Smithsonian Museum Anacostia Center for African America History and Culture, Washington, DC. (2000); “Harlem” at the Leica Gallery, New York (2000); “Black New York Photographers of the 20th Century” at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York (1999), and “Keeping Track of the Joneses” at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1998). His grants and awards include the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in 1998 and Light Work Artist Residency in Syracuse, 1995. Cyrus received his B.S. from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and his M.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Cheryl Hess, 38, media arts

Cheryl Hess is a documentary filmmaker. Her most recent film, La Promesa (The Vow) was filmed in Cuba and is set against the backdrop of St. Lazarus Day (Dec. 17th). It tells the story of the pilgrimage of Fidel, who is in the process of fulfilling a five-year vow that he has made to St. Lazarus for the health of his young son. Hess received her B.A. from Barnard College of Columbia University, and her M.F.A. from Temple University in Philadelphia. Her work has been broadcast on WYBE, Philadelphia, and The Learning Channel, and screened at Bilbao Documentary and Shorts Festival in Spain, Cork Film Festival in Ireland, Silverdocs in Washington, D.C., Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Philadelphia Film Festival, and Muestra Documental in Bogota, Colombia, among others. She has received a Fulbright Grant to travel to Colombia, a Window of Opportunity grant from the Leeway Foundation, and a “Philadelphia Stories” Production Grant from WYBE. Her films have been awarded Best Documentary at the Big Muddy Film Festival, U.S. Super 8 and DV Festival, Philadelphia Festival of Indies, among others.

M. Ho, 35, works on paper

M. Ho is a visual artist whose interest is in transformation rather than depiction. Her most recent collages are pages from The New York Times Nation at War section, in which the text is covered by colorful rectangles and floral imagery, in sharp, deliberate, juxtaposition to the often jarring content of the photographs. Ho received her B.A. from Princeton University in New Jersey. She has also attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Her work has been part of group exhibitions at Arcadia University Gallery in Glenside, Pennsylvania, Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica California, The Main Line Art Center in Haverford, Pennsylvania, and Vox Populi, Temple Gallery, The Galleries at Moore College of Art & Design, and The Institute of Contemporary Art, all in Philadelphia. She has been honored with the Director's Prize from Arcadia University Gallery, an S.O.S. grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and a Somerville Arts Council Artist Fellowship.

Beth Kephart, 45, fiction and creative nonfiction

Beth Kephart's most recent book, Ghosts in the Garden: Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self, is a result of her weekly visits to Chanticleer gardens over a two-year period. Ghosts in the Garden is a beautifully written, lyrical, graceful contemplation on the living of a purposeful life. Kepharts other books include A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage, Into the Tangle of Friendship, Still Love in Strange Places and Seeing Past Z: Nurturing the Imagination in a Fast-Forward World. She is the winner of numerous honors including 2000 National Endowment for the Arts Recipient, 1998 National Book Award Finalist, 1998 Salon Best Books of the Year, 1998 Leeway Grant Creative Nonfiction Award, 1997 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Top Grant for Fiction, and 1996 Bread Loaf Merit Scholarship for fiction. In addition, she has written for various magazines and newspapers, including Real Simple, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune,, Parenting and Redbook. Kephart received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has also attended the Spoleto Writing Conference in Italy, the Prague Writing Conference in the Czech Republic.

Jay Kirk, 34, fiction and creative nonfiction

Jay Kirk writes fiction and creative nonfiction. In a recent story for Harper's Magazine, titled “Aslan Resurrected”, Kirk chronicles a group of self-proclaimed “true believers” called the Eastern Puma Research Network as he attempts to discover if this extinct animal exists outside the imagination of the club and others like them. In addition to appearing in Harper's, his writing has been included in, Best American Crime Writing 2004, Chicago Reader, The New York Times Magazine, Philadelphia City Paper and on He has given readings at the Chestnut Hill Library, The Painted Bride Quarterly Benefit, Border's Books and Music, and at “Live at the Writers House: 2-1-5 Festival,” which was broadcast on WXPN, all in Philadelphia. He was an instructor at the Ninth Annual Writers Conference at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Jay Kirk received his B.F.A. from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.

Shawn McBride, 33, fiction and creative nonfiction

First-time author Shawn McBride's novel Green Grass Grace was nominated in 2003 for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award and was selected by Barnes and Noble for the Discover Great Writers Series. The book delivers a uniquely nostalgic, bitingly satirical package, capturing not only a time and a place but also the struggles of a young boy trying to hold his family together. McBride received his B.A. from DeSales University, in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. He has been a guest speaker and reader at local universities including The University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University, Saint Joseph's University, and DeSales University. He has been a radio guest on both WXPN and WHYY radio. McBride is a court officer at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. He is at work on his second novel.

Filmon Mebrahtu, 37, media arts

Filmon Mebrahtu gave up a successful career managing GTE's wireless Internet network to make films that tell the stories of African immigrants' lives in Philadelphia, and their experiences dealing with American culture. From 2002–2004 he participated in the Independent Television Service (ITVS) Mentorship Program working with award winning filmmaker Louis Massiah. Mebrahtu's most recent films include Stop Killing Taxi Drivers (2001) and Rencontrer (To Meet) (2004) and have been screened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Northwest Folklife Film Festival and Northwest Festival of African Cinema, both in Seattle, Philadelphia Film Festival's Festival of Independents, Prince Music Theatre, University of Pennsylvania's African Study Center, Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, and the Eritrean Film Festival in Washington, D.C. His work has also been broadcast on WHYY and WYBE television. Mebrahtu received his B.S. from South Dakota State University and his M.S. from Texas A&M University.

Joshua Mosley, 31, media arts

Joshua Mosley's video animations incorporate stop-motion, clay-animated puppets and rapidly cycling charcoal drawings or ink-wash environments. His work in digital animation integrates his interest in poetry, experimental film, sound, and music. Mosley's most recent films include A Vue (2004), Commute (2003) and Beyrouth (2002). Mosley received both his B.F.A. and his M.F.A. from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He also attended Christ Church College in Canterbury, England, and St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley in Missouri. He has had solo exhibitions of his films at the Donald Young Gallery in Chicago, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst in Basel, Switzerland, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. His films have been shown in group exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, United Kingdom, Paris, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia. He is a recipient of the 2003 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award Grant and the 2003 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship. Mosley is an Assistant Professor of Animation and Digital Media in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.

Zoe Strauss, 35, works on paper

Zoe Strauss is a photographer of the social landscape. She produces ambitious, large-scale public projects, notably her annual May 1st exhibition under I-95, in which hundreds of photographs of the surrounding community are marshaled to activate a two-block area. She just completed the fourth year of this ongoing ten-year project, which is free and open to the public. Strauss has had her work included in exhibitions at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Arcadia University Art Gallery, and the Indianapolis Installation Festival. She has served as a Leeway Foundation Advisory Committee member, and a teaching artist at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. She was the subject of a feature article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her work is included in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.