6 fellows. 7 weeks. 57.05306 N, -135.33 W.
The Sitka Fellows Program brings together some of the most exciting, promising talent across all fields and disciplines to spend a summer residency at the Sheldon Jackson Campus in Sitka, Alaska. We look for visionaries of all stripes: frame-busting, independent thinkers who wish to immerse themselves in their work alongside smart, enthusiastic young people from radically different backgrounds.
Entering its third year as a program this summer, the Sitka Fellows Program incubates the talents of the intellectually, artistically, and socially entrepreneurial. It was borne of the belief that highly promising young talent has few opportunities to remove themselves from the commotions of daily life and focus, fully and intentionally, on innovative and ambitious ideas.
Assembling diverse, perceptive minds in one place cultivates a creative energy not easily achieved in a more insular, disciplinary environment. (To wit, the 2012 session saw a computer game designer residing across the hall from an alternative comic book artist, who both made and shared their meals with an engineer-turned-sculptor – all of them living together as peers and collaborators.) Similar to programs like TED and the Santa Fe Institute, we believe that great ideas will shape our future, and that building a community to foster such cross-disciplinary dialogue and action is one of the best ways to transform theoretical ideas into significant forces of change and impact.
Backed by a commitment from the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and the Sheldon Jackson Campus, the Sitka Fellows Program will award six residency fellowships to the most promising emerging talent under the age of 30. Fellows will live for seven weeks on Sitka’s 133-year-old Sheldon Jackson Campus, a National Historic Landmark, and will be provided with studio and research space, meals, and a community environment in which they can interact with each other as well as with local Sitkans. In sum, residents will be free to dedicate themselves fully to their work.
Sarah Gibson is a writer and musician who lives in North Carolina, where for the past four years she has worked with non-profits on food and farmworker justice issues. Raised in a rural community in Vermont, Sarah has always been compelled by land and people, and how the relationship between the two expresses itself in traditional arts and story-telling. While pursuing her B.A in History at Brown University, she created a multi-media installation based on the interviews of former sharecroppers and migrant workers on her family's farm in Kentucky, recorded ancient folk songs in the Republic of Georgia, and learned from documentary filmmakers in central Appalachia. While in Sitka, Sarah will be working on a series of written and audio portraits of tradition-bearers: musicians, cooks, artists, and old-timers whose lifestyles and art connect them to their home and history. In this process Sarah hopes to interrogate assumptions of authenticity and tradition in rural communities, and to better understand how humans create meaning and myth about their place in the world. Much of Sarah's raw materials come from interviews, recordings, and archival materials she has collected in North Carolina.
Nate Barnett is a composer, singer, and music director from Rochester, NY. He has written for diverse ensembles such as the award-winning vocal band Roomful of Teeth and the Yale Glee Club Chamber Chorus, and is an active performer with numerous professional early music and church ensembles. Nate is especially drawn to worship music and its ability to draw together communities in song. Most recently, he directed a self-founded chamber choir in performance of his choral work, A Peace Prayer, settings of collected poems, prayers, and original texts. While in Sitka, Nate will be composing a sacred oratorio for choir and chamber orchestra that draws on spiritual, non-religious texts. He seeks to create new worship music accessible to everyone, engaging the audience in community singing outside of religion or race. Get ready to sing.
D.J. Thielke began writing as a theater student at the High School for the Performing Arts of Houston, Texas, before going on to study playwriting, screenwriting, and fiction at the University of Southern California. After a year living in London, Edinburgh, and New York, she then went on to receive an MFA in fiction from Vanderbilt University. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Arts&Letters, The Cincinnati Review, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Bat City Review, and Crazyhorse, among others, and she has worked for such nationally recognized magazines as The Paris Review and Narrative Magazine, as well as served as Editor-in-Chief for The Nashville Review. For the past few years, she has been at work on a story collection while teaching creative writing and collecting long job titles as the 2013-2014 James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, at the University of Wisconsin; the inaugural fall 2014 Stone Court Writer-in-Residence in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and will begin as the 2015-2016 Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Fiction at Colgate University in the fall.
Here's how DJ describes her project in Sitka: "This summer will see me at an interesting transition in my current projects. Much of my fiction has been focused on the role of technology on identity in modern life – the way individuals are able to curate others' perception of them through intentional and subconscious manipulation of social media, and the potential for bullying in online anonymity – and I am currently finishing and editing a collection of stories that focuses on this theme. In working on one particular story in this collection, however – an account of a Texas oil rig worker transferring to the Scottish rigs in the North Sea – I discovered 1) the story I was working on went much longer than I initially thought, and 2) I knew way less about the oil industry than I would need to in order to write about it. While most of my creative energy this summer will be focused on finishing and revising the stories in my collection, I’ll be dedicating time to researching the oil business with particular attention to the ways in which it shapes and alters the local economies and societies of cities associated with rigs. In between the daunting task of finishing one project and beginning a new one, I also hope to carve out a little time to edit and prepare for publication a novel for young readers unrelated to anything I’ve mentioned above."
John-Henry Heckendorn grew up in the UK and later outside of Boston MA, and attended Whitman College in Walla Walla WA on a debate scholarship. John-Henry's major college achievements were playing in a funk/soul band and once winning a burrito-eating competition. Post college John-Henry came to Alaska for a 6 month stint as campaign manager for an Anchorage state house race, and hasn't managed to disentangle himself from the State in the 3 years since. He continues to work in Alaska politics and has also moonlighted as a deckhand in Bristol Bay. He likes eating food and playing basketball.
Alaska has one of the highest rates of non-partisan voter registration in the country, and Alaskans have demonstrated a historic eagerness to endorse collaborative, non-partisan options in the ballot box. However, successful non-partisan ideas all too often turn into one-hit wonders because they lack the political infrastructure to sustain their momentum. In Alaska’s 2014 General Election, the voters passed all 4 of the major initiatives on the ballot - a rare outcome in American politics where voters often find it easier to say "No" than "Yes". Building on those results, John-Henry is working with collaborators to expand the technical and strategic apparatus for non-partisan projects and good governance initiatives in Alaska.
Short-term goals include initiatives that would streamline and modernize voter registration in Alaska, or strengthen the neutrality of our State redistricting process. Ultimately the goal is to help shift Alaska’s place in the national context from the land of of Sarah Palin and reality tv politics, to that of a post-partisan political role model for the rest of the country and for Washington DC.
Ellie Schmidt is a multimedia artist interested in using feminist ideas to tackle ecological issues like climate change and scientific inquiry. She finds it hard to stick to just one medium, using anything from underwater photography and video mapping to ceramics and comic poetry. She was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, but she visited the East cost most summers and developed a deep attachment to the ocean and marine creatures. Ellie graduated from Carleton College in 2014, where she majored in studio arts but was also lucky enough to study marine ecology in Australia. In 2015, she worked as an Educational Associate of the Arts for Carleton. She also had her first solo show, and her first non-Carleton show, in Lanesboro, MN. In June 2015, Ellie worked to help a fledgling artist collective called La Panadería take flight in Riobamba, Ecuador. In the coming years Ellie hopes to refine her underwater photography practice, spend some time in beautiful places, and seek out interesting people.
Here's how Ellie describes her project: "My project is inspired by John Luther Adams' orchestral piece "Become Ocean." I'm interested in breaking down our perceived separation between humans and nature. I also want to get wet and explore the marine landscapes of southern Alaska that inspired Adams. I plan to film the colors, textures, and movement of the Alaskan oceans from underwater, and use that video to experiment with creating video mapping installations in and around Sitka. I would love to add to the community's dialogue of climate change through art."
Ramona Ring is a freelance illustrator based in Hamburg, Germany. Growing up in Nuremberg she soon discovered her passion for creating images, so she decided to take up studies in illustration and graphic design. After dropping out of college with a bachelor's degree she landed a major commission from ZEITmagazin and gained a foot in the door to a career in editorial illustration. Currently she's working freelance in the fields of editorial and book illustration, advertising and graphic novels. Besides that she’s finishing up her master studies at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg. Concerning her way of working she is in love with the combination of handmade drawings and the possibilities of digital editing.
Ramona describes her project in Sitka: "When I work on personal illustrations I always occupy myself intensively with childhood and its fears, problems and insecurities. I’ve always wanted to create a longer story out of that, concentrating specifically on the struggles of children having to grow up in dysfunctional families, in which depressions and addictions are issues and escapism one of the few ways the children are able picking to deal with everything. So during my time in Sitka I’m going to start an abstract fable in the form of a graphic novel about a child that has to find its way out of the delusions and confusions caused by its surroundings."
Rachel Baxter is a recent graduate from The Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Printmaking (2014). Here she also exercised her zeal for teaching, particularly Introduction to Studio Art for Non-Majors as well as Introduction to Printmaking. In addition to this she was Co-Director of The Fuller Projects Gallery as well as President of IU’s Master of Fine Arts Organization where she found and cultivated a new passion of curating and collaborating with other artists. Baxter’s work has been internationally shown and typically resides in large-scale abstraction that calls on the visual language of nature. Through utilizing experimental techniques and unconventional materials and tools, Baxter seeks out reactions and situations that reflect the shifts and transformations that transpire continuously in our environment. Prior to Indiana she was born and raised in Connecticut and later moved to Albany, NY to receive her BFA from The College of Saint Rose (2011) and has recently returned to the capitol region to continue her artistic practice.
Of her project, Rachel writes:
My aim is to create a body of work using materials specific to, and reminiscent of, Sitka. Allowing my new location and the other residence to influence the direction of the pieces, this body of work will then become the subject of a second series. Through temporarily installing the work in various locations within the landscape, I hope to allow them to start blending into their surroundings. They will exist within the environment and be acted upon by natural forces. In doing so I see this as an opportunity to truly embrace these forces as well as a chance to reflect on the temporality and fragility of our surroundings. Through photographic documentation I will create this second body of work, which will coincide with the original pieces. It is my intention to display both the original abstract works along side their “portraits” within the landscape.
“During the Sitka Fellows program I was able to experiment with and shift my normal artistic practice, which resulted in much different work that I had been making previously. It granted me the time and space to feel free to follow different curiosities brought on by my new surroundings and a fantastic landscape. My work shifted from more studio based practice, to creating and working within the landscape. In doing so I accomplished a goal set for myself to break down my old habits in order to discover new potentials in my work.”
“I found Sitka to be filled with so many open, warm and willing people that wanted to help in any way they could.”
“I thought it was truly amazing how varied all of our backgrounds / disciplines were and how amazingly well we all hit it off. It truly felt like a family. I don’t know how it could be improved!”
Richard Aufrichtig is a multi-disciplinary artist who hails from the Hudson River Valley. His work focuses on the creation of intimate and transformative spaces and experiences. A lifelong artistic omnivore, he has slowly been making a name for himself in a number of artistic fields. As a musician, he has self-released over a dozen albums in the past ten years. His plays have been performed in full production at the Red Cloud Opera House and at New York University. His first book of poetry, Telegrams, will be released in June of 2014 by the Vancouver-based Tenderpress. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he holds a BFA in the creation of original and collaborative work for the stage. He currently serves as the ringleader and curator of the Williamsburg Community Circus.
Of his project, Richard writes:
I have begun working on a series of compositions inspired by the original Marseille Tarot, and the personal and spiritual transformations that they embody, that I intend to develop and perform in a series of multi-disciplinary evenings over the course of the next two years. I intend to use my time in Sitka to immerse myself in the improvisational sessions that birth these compositions, which include the creation of lyrical musical pieces, theatrical scenes, poems, as well as visual works.
“In my time as a resident at the Sitka Fellows Program, I wrote an entire album worth of songs, over 200 poems, the first act of a play, deepened my study of the tarot immensely, and was able to gain a far greater understanding of my artistic process in action than I ever had before.”
“Being so close to the natural environment and interacting with the people who call Sitka home continues to affect me personally.”
Bessie Young is an artist committed to documenting aging and the elderly. Currently completing an MFA in Photography at the University of Ulster, Belfast, as a Mitchell Scholar, Bessie has been interviewing Northern Irish women with dementia and making video pictures that aim to explore memory and encourage compassionate action towards the elderly. Since first gaining interest in the subject during a psychology seminar as an undergraduate at Amherst College, Bessie has gone on to photograph seniors and senior living facilities in Turkey, France, Japan, and the United States with the Kathryn W. Davis 100 Projects for Peace and the Henry Luce Scholars Program.
Of her project, she says: My project is a broad exploration of memory, both our visual experience of memory and, in turn, the visual representation of these remembered moments through still and moving image. I will utilize this time in Sitka to edit the photographs and video I am currently capturing in Northern Ireland, as well as to shoot new photography and video using the Alaskan landscape as the backdrop to my “video pictures.” I plan to engage with the elderly community in the area, in particular by visiting elder care facilities such as the Sitka Pioneer Home, in order to continue my relationships and video interviews with elders living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I see this work as a way to help others, particularly younger people, understand what the experience of having—and living with— dementia is like. I plan to do this by drawing parallels—visually and thematically— between the uncertain and ephemeral nature of memory even in healthy, young individuals and memory as experienced through the lens of dementia.
“It is so generous the investment you have put into this program and, therefore, also into each of us and I promise that the effects of this seven weeks will be felt in my life, art, and career for years to come. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Sam Alden, a cartoonist from Portland, Oregon, was fresh out of Whitman College when he joined the 2012 class of Sitka Fellows. In college, he devoted much of his time to developing, writing, and illustrating Eighth Grade, a comic book novel about a group of friends and the drama of unrequited love and sexual awakening that takes place in the final months before middle school’s end. Sam originally workshopped Eighth Grade with cartoonist Craig Thompson at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida, and while in Sitka, he completed the novel’s fourth chapter (of a planned six). More recently, Sam has exhibited at the Bilbolbul comics festival in Bologna, his shorter work having recently been published in Italian by Delebile Edizioni. He is also in discussion with publishers about Eighth Grade and is applying for his next residency, in Angoulême, France.
Adam Horowitz is a self-described “projectician”—a creative collaborator on interdisciplinary projects across the globe. Currently based in Brooklyn, his love of storytelling and collaborative performance has taken him from Poland to Peru and beyond. During his Fulbright Scholarship in Colombia, he worked with teens to turn troubled personal histories into products of creative expression. He is a founding member of The Future Project, a national initiative to foster creative social change in public schools, and was recently a Community Manager at Ashoka. As a 2012 Sitka Fellow, Adam explored ways of scaling innovation in the arts and cultural sector. The result is his current effort: the United States Department of Culture. Part think-tank, part grassroots campaign (all in the guise of a federal agency), Adam’ new project aims to spark conversation and support the development of infrastructure for creative pursuits.
Andrew Lee, the resident entrepreneur of the 2012 Sitka Fellows Program, is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College and has been named a Udall Scholar, a Truman Scholar, and a Rhodes Scholar Finalist. Andrew’s career in web startups began in college, when he created FantasyCongress.com, and continued as he developed JamLegend and, while Senior Product Manager at Zynga, the extremely popular FarmVille. In 2012, Andrew also began working with the Small Business Administration, consulting on the Obama Administration’s initiative to support and accelerate the growth of American startups. In Sitka, Andrew explored the kinds of ecosystems that lend themselves to successful startups, developed his own startup concepts, and examined the unexpected similarities between artists and entrepreneurs. Andrew continues to work with the SBA to develop national priorities for high-growth startups.
Solomon Endlich is a passionate physicist who, through his research, has journeyed from the beginning of the universe to the swirl in a toilet bowl. Born and raised in Northern California, he exchanged the sun and his surfboard for a PhD in theoretical physics at Columbia University as a National Science Foundation Fellow. Now, as a research scientist in Switzerland at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, he is using the modern mathematical tool set of quantum field theory (which is the natural language of particle physics) on a broad set of physical systems. When not exploring the world mathematically, he does so in person. Highlights include hiking up volcanoes, skiing across glaciers, climbing sheer cliff faces, swimming with hammerhead sharks, and fishing for wild steelhead.
Of his project, Solomon writes:
We live in an unprecedented time in human history. Aided by advances in technology, we are on the verge of discovering earth-like planets. While in Sitka, I hope to develop theoretical techniques that will enable an economical description of planets and other astrophysical bodies. This will not only assist astronomers by improving their ability to extract results from difficult observations, but will also play a crucial role in future simulations of planetary systems. With this new numerical and observational data we will probe the orbital architecture and subtle dynamics of the countless new planetary systems we have already, and will soon, discover. The knowledge gained will illuminate not only what is out there, but also provide us clues to our own solar system's fiery past.
“In the form of concrete work I complete all the necessary calculations that form the basis of a new theory of the gravitational dynamics of compact objects. In physical terms, I probably completed roughly 40-50 pages of calculations (after editing).”
“Best thing I could have done. Don't doubt that for a second. Probably the most productive, the most interesting, and the most fulfilling. I had an incredible time and have fallen deeply in love with Sitka (who doesn't?).”
*traveling all over USA and Europe mostly working away on physics projects from planets to quantum fluids
*applied for science jobs and have been hired as a postdoctoral scientist in theoretical physics at Stanford University! I have done my European tour and get to come home (starting September)
*did my first multi-pitch rock climb in Switzerland! (nothing like hanging out on a cliff for a couple hours)
Pete Moran holds both a BSc in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell and an MFA in Sculpture from the Yale School of Art. As an engineer, Pete led a team of Cornell students to develop a self-driving SUV for the Department of Defense, and as an installation artist, Pete has shown his work in group and solo exhibitions in Boston, New Haven, New York, and Berlin. During the course of the Fellowship, Pete came to realize that the Sheldon Jackson Campus would benefit from a space dedicated to the display of art, in whatever form it takes, and with the help of local Sitkans, he converted an old laundry building into a raw gallery and event space. After sharing his own work in a gallery of his own creation, Pete knew he had succeeded in building a space for the contemplation and dialogue that art entreats. Since leaving Alaska, Pete has continued his photography work, applying what he learned in Sitka to images of contemporary Denmark.
Amanda Murphyao, who splits her time between Ottawa and Chicago, hopes to be the first person alive to hold three degrees in Canadian Studies. She is currently pursuing her PhD in that subject at Carleton University. Amanda’s dissertation—which was also the subject of her work at Sitka—focuses on Alaska and Nunavut (Canada’s largest territory, established in 1999) and explores how maps act as political cartoons, affecting marginal areas and the formation of nation-state identity. Through the Sitka Fellows Program, Amanda was able to conduct original research in both Sitka and Juneau, reading, writing, and engaging in conversation to further her dissertation work. An avid writer and editor, Amanda also used her time to pen several book reviews related to her area of study. Since the program’s conclusion, she has successfully submitted her dissertation proposal, and she continues to research, read, write, and teach.
Ross Perlin, writer and linguist, is the author of 2011’s Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. He has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post, holds degrees in East Asian Studies and Classics from Stanford, and is fluent in both Yiddish and Mandarin. During his time as a Fellow, Ross worked on the initial stages of a book project centered on the Third World within the United States, grappling with questions about decaying public institutions and the new geography of hardship. In Sitka, Ross gained new perspective on American development and the nature of the frontier, and back in New York, he has been researching the same issues with an evolving focus. Ross also continues to work as a linguist and writer, with recent articles on Chinese culture, Jewish language, and public infrastructure.
Feature and opinion articles for newspapers and magazines, documentation of endangered languages in New York and elsewhere, ongoing research into inequality, privilege, and public institutions...
Bene Rohlmann is an illustrator born in Münster, Germany. He has loved drawing ever since he was able to hold a pen and - except for his wish to become a paleontologist for quite some time, while he was still a little boy - he always knew that he wanted to earn a living from making art. So he got his diploma in illustration and moved to Berlin a few years ago, where he found his new home and where he has worked full time as an illustrator. He has worked for clients such as The New York Times, Mercedes Benz, Converse, The Stranger, and Financial Times Deutschland, among others. To hold the balance between working for customers and creating personal works, he submits his works to art zines and anthologies and has also showed them in many exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States. And as long as he is able to make a living from all that, he is the happiest guy in the world!
Of his project, Bene writes:
I am nostalgic, a collector of many things and I have a weakness for vintage toys. I often use references, quotes and homages in my works. I like to remix, vintage with modern and my own ideas with others, to create new ideas and make them my own. I want to use all this as a basis to produce pieces of art for a solo exhibition, that I will be having later this year in Munich. I have had solo exhibitions before, but never with a real concept. This time I want it to have one. The basis will be toys of many kinds: old paper and tin toys, action figures, plastic weapons, LEGO…all the things that I have spent countless hours of my childhood with and those who existed long before my time. I will give them my own twist by adding my view of the world and my sense of humor and sarcasm. I want to produce drawings, prints, paintings and objects. My exhibition should be a kind of playground and I am planning to produce a little publication along with it, that contains all the works of the show. It is supposed to become something like a toy catalogue with pictures to look at, but also paper toys to cut out and play with.
Lizzy Star, a graduate of Yale University with a degree in English, is a writer of fiction and poetry, with work featured in The Yale Literary Magazine, the IGIGI/Berkeley Poetry Project, and the Bowwow Series of New Poetry at the Bowery Poetry Club. After working in arts nonprofits and children’s publishing, Lizzy was able to use her time as a Sitka Fellow to single-mindedly focus on her fiction, and she spent the summer writing nearly one hundred pages of her short novel, Aspersions Everywhere. The novel follows a young woman who discovers that her favorite male author, a reclusive and misogynistic grump, has been secretly writing romance novels under a female pen name. Since leaving Sitka, Lizzy has continued to work on Aspersions Everywhere, and she will be spending the upcoming months farming and writing on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Cathryn Klusmeier is a creative nonfiction writer who grew up in the hills of Arkansas. This May, Cathryn graduated from Whitman College summa cum laude with a combined Environmental Studies and Humanities Major. Her honors thesis, Arr-Kan-Saw, is a 120-page nonfiction piece about the pervasive power of place as told through the lens of an Arkansas childhood. In her writing, Cathryn tries to bring attention to the ways in which the environment literally encapsulates and permeates the self. Cathryn has received two consecutive Perry Grants to work on an academic book project with writer and professor Don Snow, tentatively titled Sustaining Place: The Persistence of the Local in an Era of Globalization. Cathryn also works as a documentary film editor, and is currently editing a climate change documentary called Beaver Believers. When not immersed in story, Cathryn teaches Yoga in the community, tutors college students in writing, designs blueprints for her tiny house project, and spends the rest of her time outside. She is a long distance runner, cyclist, and hiker of out-of-the-way places.
Of her project, Cathryn writes:
I am a seventh generation Arkansan. I was born, bred, and raised on dirt roads and lots of chicken and for my project I intend to finish my creative nonfiction book about place. Against the backdrop of my family’s collective move across the country from Arkansas to Seattle, I’ve woven together a selected family history connecting my own, more recent childhood stories of growing up in Arkansas with stories from my parents and their parents so as to illustrate a sense of circular recapitulation and that so often takes place in Southern storytelling. Despite physically moving away from the South four years ago, I’ve found that I never really left. It is as if the distance I’ve put between Arkansas and myself these past few years has solidified this very real tether that constantly pulls me back into this Southern mire. And while this project is heavily grounded in personal narration, this is not necessarily only a personal story. My aim is that through the articulation of my own story, I might shed some light into larger questions like: Can you ever really leave a place? And should you want to?
“I was most productive in the hours when I got up early in the morning before everyone else and was able to get to work fast. Many things really came together for me at the end of the fellowship--that last week was huge. Problems that I had been wrestling with for weeks suddenly started to resolve themselves, and new writing came from places I was not expecting.”
Camila Thorndike is a graduate of Whitman College with a BA in Environmental Humanities. A Udall Scholar and a passionate climate change activist, Camila dedicated her time after college to organizing around land-use planning and policy in the greater Tucson area. She came to the Sitka Fellows Program intending to accelerate the global movement for conservation and clean energy by developing an experiential education program in Chile, modeled in part upon her experience with Whitman College’s Semester in the West program. The connections and conversations Camila shared in Sitka inspired a new direction for her project, and she is now working as Director of Engagement for COAL: The Musical, a theatrical production and collaborative movement that tells the story of climate change.
MJ Robinson is a multidisciplinary artist primarily interested in writing pictures and drawing stories. MJ is a fresh graduate of Oberlin College, where they hold a BA in Studio Art and Creative Writing. During the past few years, MJ has worked as a freelance illustrator, cartoonist, musician, and arts educator and has held other odd jobs in publishing, book repair, printmaking, and ceramics.
Of their project, MJ writes:
“A boy waits for a storm to end, unknowing that a bigger storm is brewing in his subconscious. As a Sitka Fellow, I plan to venture out into that storm - and to emerge from it with the bulk of a graphic novel in my hands. The story I am drawing takes place in a neighborhood in Florida during and after a hurricane. It follows a thirteen-year-old boy named J, who, when faced with minor emotional traumas, shame and confusion about his sexuality, and responsibilities he doesn’t have the experience or resources to deal with, begins to confuse dreams with reality. It is a story about loneliness; it is a story about friendship. It is a about the quiet pains of growing up and surviving in worlds that are determined to hold you back.”
“I learned a bit about my art-making practice and a lot about the power of being kind, outgoing, and open to all sorts of people in my immediate and extended communities. It leads to adventure!”
“After my time in Alaska, I moved to Providence, RI, where I am now working as an educator and freelance illustrator. In addition to (slowly!) continuing work on my graphic novel, I recently published a new zine, performed comics readings locally, showed comics and prints at conventions in Boston and Cleveland, and gave a talk about creative practices with fellow Providence cartoonist Cathy G. Johnson at Oberlin College.”
Zoe Ballering is a fiction writer who hails from the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in Portland, Zoe immersed herself in the arts and letters—a passion which she continued to follow at Whitman College, where she graduated summa cum laude and completed a 100- page novella, The Milk Revolutions, for her honors thesis. Zoe’s writing has been published in The Oregonian, Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, and Quarterlife, Whitman’s literary magazine. When Zoe isn’t writing, she’s never far from words: she has explored indigenous stories in Ecuador, volunteered as an America Reads intern, tutored college students in writing, and worked as a bilingual educator in a Walla Walla, Washington elementary school.
Of her project, she says: I will be working on a long-term writing project that deals with the three generations of the Reque family that precede Eveline Reque, an imaginary fifth bomber in the 1970 anti-war bombing of an army research center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. The bombing killed a man in another part of the building—a physicist whose work had no connection to the Vietnam War—and my writing explores the infinitude of circumstance and reason that can lead to the taking of a life. At their best, novels act to focus empathy. It’s easy, after all, to feel alongside another person when you have a view into that person's mind. My project is to place another hurdle: to show, in the context of a close-knit Norwegian Lutheran family, how details, impressions, and fragments of experience across generations can allow us to empathize with a familiar figure in the modern world—a terrorist.
“In a greater sense, I confirmed that writing--something that I've never had a chance to pursue full-time--is what I want to continue doing. And it was so helpful to be continually immersed in my project. Outside of Sitka l feel like writing is equivalent to spotty radio reception. I'll have days when I'm totally tuned in and days of total static and failure. I had days of failure here, but instead of feeling like it was a break in the creative chain, I felt like it was part of a larger creative process.”
“Seriously, this has been wonderful.”
Sarah DeLappe is a playwright of great promise and enthusiasm. A lifelong participant in theater, Sarah found herself drawn definitively to playwriting under the instruction and approbation of Pulitzer Prizewinner Paula Vogel. Her body of work speaks to a stylistic fluency and narrative confidence seldom found in such early efforts. Sarah has also been the Artistic Director for Yale’s experimental theater company, has collaborated with James Franco, and has performed as a clown for children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa. She is currently the Literary Resident at Playwrights Horizons, an off-Broadway theater in New York City, where she continues to hone her analytic skills as a playwright.
Of her project, she says: Winter. A radio station at the End of the World. Squint through the seventeen words for snow and you'll see them—a hodgepodge of wide-eyed volunteers, Alaskan natives, and grizzly homesteaders sounding their voices across the tundra and the frozen sea. So begins the play that I intend to write in Sitka. Theirs is a story of pilgrims, rabid wildlife, manifest destiny, and above all, words. Today words stretch across vastness. But in that valiant struggle to connect, to actually make contact, lies the human urge for intimacy. That, to me, is the beginnings of a play.
“Over 400 pages of writing, one finished rough draft of a full-length play, one finished short play, and one delicious tome-length mess of a play, many more pages of ideas for further projects across multiple mediums (novel, screenplay, sitcom, etc.), the reinvigoration of my writing muscle.”
“ In terms of professional development, I could not have chosen a more perfect way to spend the summer. And I will be recommending this to everyone I know. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this.”
-Member of Clubbed Thumb Emerging Writers Group
-developed, workshopped, and performed PARABOLA (written at Sitka Fellows Program) with theaters all over New York
Christian Ervin studies technology, develops software to streamline architecture design, and makes interactive objects of his own invention—recent examples include Multi-Sensory Byte Displays and a Computer Vision helmet. A creative technologist with a special interest in the cultural implications of his field and its close relatives, Christian recently graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he completed thesis work on the legacy of pre-war military research in contemporary interactive systems, and how they dictate our social and political agency. He is also a musician, having spent many years performing in the critically acclaimed band Le Loup.
Of his project, he says: During my time as a Sitka Fellow, I plan on developing a series of tutorials on interaction design, from prototyping interactive devices to developing novel web-based user experiences. I hope to engage with Sitkans on how these multi-sensory, embodied communication technologies might affect life in more remote communities.
“Perhaps most importantly, I also worked amongst a cohort of some of the most inspiring and talented individuals I have ever come across. I learned so much from their unique approaches to their work, their thoughtfulness and openness to my ideas and each other’s.”
Marcus Gruber grew up on a farm amidst forest and fields in the former German Democratic Republic, where “working” implies physical labor. But Marcus’s passion has always been drawing. Following a year in the army and a course of study in architecture and design at the University of Applied Sciences Dessau, he moved to Berlin, where he studied Illustration and developed a unique drawing style under Henning Wagenbreth at Berlin University of the Arts. An exciting artist with a truly unique drawing style, Marcus has exhibited his work in Dessau, Berlin, and Paris. A country boy in the city, a city boy in his hometown, Marcus uses his own experiences of alienation to explore the what it is to be an outsider.
Of his project, he says: I'm most interested in people who are living at the edge of society. For example, I did a comic and a photographic series about an old-school pimp I met once, and at the moment I'm working on a book about extreme German football fanatics. In preparation for my upcoming master’s thesis on the topic of "being an outsider," I plan to create the story of a man I met on the city train in Berlin, with totally wrinkled skin, dressed like it was winter on a brutal-hot summer day, holding in his hand a self-picked bouquet while everybody was staring at him like he was from another world. I’d also like to take this opportunity to develop a new way of drawing. At university, we are always encouraged to do coloration on the computer; I would like to take the chance to draw very colorfully, and completely analogue.
“Honestly i dont know what really could be better…”
Jarrett Moran is an editor and cultural critic who has achieved much in a field typically dominated by elder gatekeepers. As the editor-in-chief of Artlog, Jarrett led and developed a widely consulted resource with 70,000 unique readers a month. He has collaborated with landmark New York museums like the Whitney and the Guggenheim, moderated discussions with such notables as musician David Byrne and filmmaker Miranda July, and evaluated fiction submissions for the Paris Review. In the fall he will continue his study of the political economy and intellectual history of the art world through Columbia University’s Modern European Studies masters program.
Of his project, he says: I'll be making an essay film about art's role in political life, drawing on material from art history, recent politics, and contemporary art. Episodes include: the career of the artist and writer John Berger, the lives of classical Chinese bureaucrats and hermits, the 1993 Whitney Biennial, and the utopian projects of the nineteenth century art critic John Ruskin. I'm looking at a continuum between outspoken activism and contemplative withdrawal, both of which exert conflicting pressures on all the artists I'm including. The film is intended to contribute to the conversations about art and politics that I've been involved in over the past few years—for example, in the art of William Powhida, Andrea Fraser's recent essays, and curator Nato Thompson's Living as Form exhibition—but it also tries to reframe the debate away from a focus on the professional art world. Chris Marker's Sans Soleil, the archetypal essay film, is a major influence, along with John Berger's classic TV series Ways of Seeing. I'm primarily relying on footage from archival sources, the media, and the artists themselves, though I'll also incorporate some of my own photography and video.
“Had I not done the program, I would've continued working in New York while preparing for grad school. No comparison in terms of the creative growth and experimentation the Sitka Fellows Program allowed.”
Jarrett just completed an M.A. thesis at Columbia University on the art critic John Ruskin and his influence on British political economy in the 1880s and 1890s. He will begin working towards a Ph.D. in intellectual history in the fall.
Ben Seretan is a singer-songwriter of rare form. Equipped with a multilingual amalgam of three-finger banjo picking, flat picking, and an incredible sense of musical texture and space, Ben expresses immersive, deeply visceral sound poems. He has studied composition under Anthony Braxton and Alvin Lucier, participated in the Wassaic Artist Residency, and performed shows from North Carolina to Montreal. Having spent time living both in a town of 250 citizens and on a boat dedicated to oceanographic research, Ben will be making his way to Sitka from Brooklyn, where he has lived since 2011.
Of his project, he says: While in Sitka, I hope to expand and experiment with what I've taken to calling Long Music. Working definition: largely improvised, extremely repetitive music (organized sound) that goes beyond the typical temporal limitations of physical media and performance norms and creates something approximating a habitable auditory space, with an emphasis on sustained tones and meditation. My project will be refining that definition, both from a linguistic angle (it's a little awkwardly worded, no?) and in practice. I'll use this fellowship to spend large swaths of time creating these "habitable auditory spaces," specifically in preparation for a series of four-hour concerts I will be playing in the fall.
“I was most productive on nights following days where really great, surprising things happened -- like doing a long hike on a whim, or going swimming.”
“There is nothing better that I could have done with my time.”
Ben lives in New York City and continues to play music all over the place. He released a self-titled, double LP in October of 2014.