Faculty artists gain valuable support for their work

Closeup of Io Palmer’s ceramic work, Gated Community.
Detail from Io Palmer’s ceramic work Gated Community, 2022

A large ceramic wall installation; new music by female and Native American composers; multimedia artworks exploring identity, memory, and home—all are among WSU faculty-led projects supported by recent awards from the Washington state-based Artist Trust program.

Faculty members Sarah Barnett and Io Palmer in fine arts, and Jacqueline Wilson in music, are among 16 artists statewide to each receive an unrestricted $10,000 Artist Trust Fellowship award for 2023 in recognition of their artistic excellence and dedication to their practice.

In addition, faculty members Dennis DeHart and Mana Mehrabian in fine arts, and Chris Dickey in music, are among 65 artists statewide who each received an unrestricted $1,500, project-based award through the trust’s Grants for Artists’ Progress (GAP) program.

The nonprofit organization’s merit-based fellowship awards are conferred annually to practicing professional artists in any discipline who reside in Washington and demonstrate exceptional talent and ability.

GAP awards are based on artist excellence; clarity of the project and vision; potential impact of the award on the artist’s life; and the artist’s geographic location in Washington state.

Barnett, who earned a master of fine arts degree from WSU in 2022, often addresses in her work themes of mortality, self-preservation, isolation, and the human body’s complex relationships to technology. She contributed recently to several public mural projects organized by a Pullman-based arts advocacy group.

“As a recent graduate student, this award is incredibly helpful in supporting the continuation of my studio practice,” Barnett said. “I intend to use the Artist Trust Fellowship to develop my professional career, including creating and exhibiting my next body of work, and to upgrade some of my tools and supplies. I am incredibly grateful for this support.”

Palmer, who teaches in and coordinates the Ceramics/3D Foundations area, plans to use her new fellowship funds to create a large, multi-part, wall installation of ceramic art pieces. She received an Artist Trust Fellowship award in 2021 as well.

Her latest series, Gated Community, 2022, is patterned on and inspired by window boxes. Hundreds of hand-formed ceramic marks are wired together, creating tangled bouquets that question the way people decorate and develop their interior surroundings. 

“Since I am not paid during the summer months, a majority of my 2023 Fellowship award will pay for materials and my labor as I make and assemble new ceramic work,” she said.

Wilson (Yakama) is a bassoonist, active performer, and avid supporter of new music, particularly for bassoon. She embraces diversity in her performances and elevates music that features underrepresented perspectives and lived experiences, with a special focus on collaborating with Indigenous composers.

Her debut album, Works for the Bassoon by Native American Composers, was released in 2022 on WSU Recordings.

“My Artist Trust award will go toward commissioning a new concerto for bassoon from Navajo composer Connor Chee as well as a performance tour of tribal schools and communities in Washington state,” Wilson said.

DeHart is a photographic artist whose interdisciplinary projects are informed by the connections, conflicts, and intersections of the natural and cultural worlds.

He plans to use his GAP award to cover project-related costs, such as supplies and shipping, and to participate in a summer workshop to further develop work and materials he generated during his 2021 fellowship with the WSU Center for Arts and Humanities.

Mehrabian is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores the role images play in our communication and visual consciousness, and reflects on ideas of perception, identity, memory, home, and the body. 

The GAP award has supported the development and completion of my new series of work,” Mehrabian said. Her exhibition, FROM: TO: | :فرستنده: گیرنده,, can be viewed through June 3 at Portland Community College’s Paragon Arts Gallery in Portland, Oregon. 

Dickey (they/them) is an internationally recognized tuba performer and award-winning educator whose four solo albums have garnered critical accolades from the brass community.

Aside from performing, Dickey is a strong advocate for students, a liberal arts education, and commissioning new music, especially tuba music composed by women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. They believe recitals and recordings are educational tools and potential agents of social change.

“My Artist Trust Award will fund an exciting new commission by Nicole Chamberlain: a seven- to eight-minute composition for tuba and piano to be featured on upcoming recitals, tours, and recording projects,” Dickey said.

Artist Trust works to support and elevate artists as “community leaders who keep Washington State vibrant.” Over half of the awards distributed for 2022-23 went to artists working in rural areas.

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