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2019 fellows Rosten Woo, John Malpede, Henriëtte Brouwers, Ras Cutlass, Monica Sheets, Daresha Kyi Bottom, L to R: Kevin Bott, Tara Rynders, Amara Tabor-Smith, Ellen Sebastian Chang, and Shaun Leonardo.

A Blade of Grass Names 2019 Fellows for Socially Engaged Art

A Blade of Grass, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit that supports socially engaged artists nationwide, has awarded its 2019 fellowships. Artists Kevin Bott, Ras Cutlass, Daresha Kyi, Shaun Leonardo, Tara Rynders, Monica Sheets, and the collectives House/Full of Blackwomen and John Malpede, Henriëtte Brouwers, and Rosten Woo will make up this year’s cohort.

The fellows were chosen from a record number of applications and will each receive a stipend of $20,000 to realize projects that explore issues ranging from criminal justice reform and mental wellness to workers’ rights and gentrification. The selection committee comprised Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, Khaliah Pitts, Herb Tam, and A Blade of Grass executive director Deborah Fisher.

“One of the things I’m really excited about is the way these artists are integrating art into the world in a way that is meaningful and useful,” Fisher told Artforum. “They are taking on particularly interesting projects at the places where they work, hospitals in Denver and city planning agencies in Los Angeles. . . . The presentation of these projects outside of museums and galleries represents a shift in the art world and how art can be viewed and valued.”

Cutlass, a sci-fi writer and artist who also works as a social worker, will draw directly from her professional experiences for the project “Deep Space Mind,” which will help Philadelphia communities gain a better understanding of mental wellness and how to obtain it through the DIY design of low or no-cost healing structures.

Through a new three-year partnership with the grantmaking initiative SPArt Fellows for Los Angeles, artists and activists Malpede, Brouwers, and Woo will advocate for “Skid Row Now & 2040,” a community-generated alternative development plan to house the low-income neighborhood’s residents, through their project “How to House 7,000 People in Skid Row and How to Fund It.”

Commenting on the partnership, Fisher said she “couldn’t be more thrilled.” “LA has a great social practice. I look forward to amplifying the city’s artists by building upon SPArt’s founder Alexandra Shabtai’s work over the years.”