Rebecca Blunk Fund Recipients Reflect on the Recognition
"It made me feel that the work I have done as an artist has been seen and is important."
Since the inaugural awards in 2015, gifts made to the Rebecca Blunk Fund (RBF), celebrating NEFA's former executive director's 29 years of service and passion for the arts, have supported:
- birch bark artist Sierra Henries (Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck) of Maine
- traditional artist Elizabeth James Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) of Massachusetts
- dancer, director, and performer Sokeo Ros of Rhode Island
- dancer, choreographer, and spoken word artist Lida Winfield of Vermont.
With the third round of Rebecca Blunk Fund awards on the horizon, the recipients from the first two rounds of awards reflect on the recognition and share their current projects.
"It is a rare opportunity to receive funding and acknowledgment without having applied to something first. I have been a New England based artist for many years. It made me feel that the work I have done as an artist has been seen and is important. I was honored," said Lida Winfield.
Winfield, with collaborators Laurel Jenkins, Ellen Smith Ahern, Maree ReMalia, and Joseph Hall, was awarded a National Performance Network’s Creation Fund Grant for the new mixed-media dance/theater work, IMAGINARY, in partnership with New England presenters the Flynn Center for Performing Arts, Jacob’s Pillow, Middlebury College, and The Yard. IMAGINARY premieres at The Flynn Center in Burlington, VT, in February of 2018.
Sokeo Ros was recently awarded a New England Dance Fund grant to travel back to Cambodia, where he will continue his research of Khmer dance and explore combining traditional Khmer dance with hip-hop dance techniques such as popping and krump. Previously, Ros traveled to Cambodia to conduct interviews and research his family's compelling history of surviving the Khmer Rouge. It was also the first time that he got a chance to meet his grandparents. This journey inspired his work, From Refugee Camp to Project, and the return trip will inform his latest project, Cambodian Lullaby. Cambodian Lullaby is a cultural arts program that will send three young people from Providence, Rhode Island, to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they will learn to tell their own life stories through cultural exchange. The project will culminate in a public performance in Providence.
“This award was a wonderful surprise,” said Elizabeth James Perry. “It encouraged me to work on increasingly larger and more meaningful pieces, enabling me to be creative and remember the joy in living a life connected to my Aquinnah heritage on the Atlantic Ocean." This July, James Perry will participate in authentic craft demonstrations at the Lowell Folk Festival. Her handmade Northeastern Native American weavings and wampum shell jewelry can be viewed on her website.
Sierra Henries continues her birch bark practice and looks forward to the next Cultural Survival Bazaar, a series of cultural festivals that provide Indigenous artists, cooperatives, and their representatives from around the world the chance to sell their work directly to the American public, in Cambridge, MA, this July.
The Rebecca Blunk Fund at the New England Foundation for the Arts was established in memory of Rebecca Blunk (1953-2014). Honoring Rebecca’s desire that the fund support artistic creation, connection, and curation, the Fund awards two annual grants of $2,500 each to New England artists whose work demonstrates creative excellence and professional accomplishment. Awards are in the form of unrestricted funds intended to support artists’ professional development and creation of new work. NEFA welcomes donations to the fund on an ongoing basis; as with all donations to NEFA, donations to the Rebecca Blunk Fund are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Acknowledging Rebecca Blunk’s long service and expertise as part of the NEFA staff, artist nomination is made by NEFA program staff with comments by external advisors.