2022-2023

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship

In 1999, the Indy Arts Council, with generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc., established the Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship program. It was an innovative step to try to retain the city’s artistic talent, designed to nurture their creative exploration and rekindle their spirits.

Since then, the Arts Council has awarded close to $4.5 million in grants to over 500 professional artists and nonprofit arts administrators. They used the funding for travel, research, conferences, workshops, retreats, and other renewing experiences.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship

Explore your artistry. Refresh your creativity. Recharge your spirit.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship: 2022-2023 Recipients

The Indy Arts Council has awarded close to $4.5 million in grants to over 500 professional artists and nonprofit arts administrators through the Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship program. The recipients have used the funding for travel, research, conferences, workshops, retreats, and other renewing experiences.

Learn more about the grant

We are honored to introduce you to the 2022-2023 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship recipients. From rainbow hunting observation and expressive sound therapy to Indian busker street photography, they immersed themselves in inspiration and ventured into the unknown.

Arts Admin

2022-2023 Fellows

Shannon Forsell

Shannon, the CEO and artistic director of The Cabaret, spent time in Mexico and enjoyed nature and birdwatching.

Susannah Koerber

Susannah, chief curator and research officer at the Indiana State Museum, studied historic photographic processes and used her learnings to create artwork that offers new ways of thinking about place, memory, and history.

Eduardo Luna

Eduardo, the founder of Arte Mexicano en Indiana, created a small shelter in his backyard for personal meditation, arts creation, and relaxation.

Ronan Marra

For his Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship, Ronan Marra has been writing the first draft of his new play about gun violence and gun control, titled SAME TIME TOMORROW. For part of the process, Marra stayed at his best friend’s family property in Asheville, North Carolina. For a week, he wrote in an Airstream trailer located on the property that his friend had renovated into a small library.

“This process has renewed me in that it has been several years since I last wrote a play, which is really my main trade in theatre, even though I spend most of my time producing, directing and fundraising. It has also allowed me to explore more deeply my fear of and disgust with the American gun epidemic.”

As an arts administrator, Marra said it has been restorative to return to his playwriting roots and filter the last several years of reading, choosing, producing and directing plays through the lens of writing again. He used this time to explore trends and tendencies that he’s been seeing in new plays today and fusing them with what he’s always chosen to do. 

“As much as I put playwrights on a pedestal, this process re-confirmed my love of the form and difficulty of the task. My career and life have taken on a lot of new challenges in the past year, and I can’t speak enough about how having this opportunity has helped me through those challenges.”

Jordan Flores Schwartz

Jordan, the producing director at Fonseca Theatre, took time to improve her health and fitness through yoga and swimming. She also visited a good friend in the U.K. and reconnected with family in Texas.

Gregory Dale Smith

Gregory, senior conservation scientist at Newfields, spent time in Israel’s Galilee region, revisiting sites that he helped excavate 25 years ago. He also visited museums throughout the country.

Julia Whitehead

Julia, CEO and founder of the Kurt Vonnegut Library & Museum, interviewed Rabbis Sandy and Dennis Sasso to explore their history. She also traveled, hiked, and made a short film.

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Shannon Forsell

Shannon, the CEO and artistic director of The Cabaret, spent time in Mexico and enjoyed nature and birdwatching.

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she/her/hers

Susannah Koerber

Susannah, chief curator and research officer at the Indiana State Museum, studied historic photographic processes and used her learnings to create artwork that offers new ways of thinking about place, memory, and history.

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He/him/his

Eduardo Luna

Eduardo, the founder of Arte Mexicano en Indiana, created a small shelter in his backyard for personal meditation, arts creation, and relaxation.

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Ronan Marra

Ronan, the executive director of Storytelling Arts, took time to focus on his writing and wrote a new play about gun violence, the lack of gun control, and the gun lobby.

“This process has renewed me in that it has been several years since I last wrote a play, which is really my main trade in theatre, even though I spend most of my time producing, directing and fundraising. It has also allowed me to explore more deeply my fear of and disgust with the American gun epidemic.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Jordan Flores Schwartz

Jordan, the producing director at Fonseca Theatre, took time to improve her health and fitness through yoga and swimming. She also visited a good friend in the U.K. and reconnected with family in Texas.

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He/him/his

Gregory Dale Smith

Gregory, senior conservation scientist at Newfields, spent time in Israel’s Galilee region, revisiting sites that he helped excavate 25 years ago. He also visited museums throughout the country.

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Julia Whitehead

Julia, CEO and founder of the Kurt Vonnegut Library & Museum, interviewed Rabbis Sandy and Dennis Sasso to explore their history. She also traveled, hiked, and made a short film.

DANCE

2022-2023 FELLOWS

Pep-C

Pep-C went to an international break dancing competition in Korea and learned new techniques for her own dance practice. 

Sabra Logan

Sabra took a wellness journey to learn about plant-based foods that can address cancer prevention, and attended several retreats.

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Pep-C

Pep-C went to an international break dancing competition in Korea and learned new techniques for her own dance practice. 

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Sabra Logan

Sabra took a wellness journey to learn about plant-based foods that can address cancer prevention, and attended several retreats. 

LITERARY

2022-2023 FELLOWS

TOO BLACK

TOO BLACK visited a few world-class libraries in Ireland, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Boston. He connected with the people of Dublin while visiting the library at Trinity College. In Chicago, he explored the Poetry Foundation Library, an entire library full of books of poetry, where he wrote a poem inside the library as an homage to the craft. Here in Indiana, he visited libraries at DePauw, Ball State, and IU Indianapolis. At the Los Angeles Central Library, he found the architecture to be even more moving than the books. In Boston, he spent time inside their Central Library getting started on his first book, entitled Laundering Black Rage.

“I was renewed throughout this process because, for once, I was forced to focus on the moment instead of an upcoming project. Ironically, this led to the headspace to write my first nonfiction book. I was able to become a better writer beyond the construction of poems. Beyond writing, the freedom to travel to libraries, especially outside of the country, has a calming effect. Libraries are some of the best creations that human beings have ever produced. They’re more than just a storage for books, but a place to soak in the world around us.”

Averting from his original goal to write a poem at each library that could turn into a mini book, TOO BLACK ended up with a full nonfiction book based on a series of issues he wrote a few years ago. He said he didn’t go into this renewal process expecting to come out on the other side with a finished book, but sometimes stepping away from what we know is “normal” can create new, inspiring avenues. 

“The fellowship experience taught me the importance of taking breaks. Breaks are often viewed as a sign of weakness for artists. Once art is reduced to the next pursuit, the joy of making it begins to hollow out. Renewal means breaking out of the remissive cycle. Having the time to reflect inside libraries helped me become critical of how artists, such as myself, become wrapped up in desperation at times, and thereby lose the bigger picture. Thus, our renewal has to be a collective act that reaches beyond individual goals or achievements. Renewal can be a beautiful struggle to contend with one’s purpose on this earth, and how to express it through art. Renewal can be a means of keeping Black artists afloat both materially and creatively. Renewal can also be shedding the art industry that drowns so many of us.”

Ellie Garvey

Ellie traveled to Hawaii to research a children’s book. She based the storyline on experiential observation of children performing an ideal task: rainbow hunting.

Chantel Massey

Chantel Massey dedicated her fellowship to following in the footsteps of writer James Baldwin. She attended the 2023 James Baldwin conference through the organization La Maison Baldwin She traveled to Paris, Nice, and St. Paul de Vence, France for seven days with 20 other Black writers from all over the world. She took tours of places Baldwin frequented, and attended workshops and open mics. Massey was also able to visit the Picasso Museum, where she learned about Faith Ringold’s connection to Paris and James Baldwin.

“One way this fellowship impacted my artist career was that it really made me reimagine what it means to be a Black American woman poet. It made me ask, “What is protest?” It refreshed my relationship with poetry, and encouraged me to explore other art forms. It also refreshed my imagination as an art administrator.”

To Massey, renewal means refreshing your passion for your craft or just your love of creativity to continue to create. She said the most rewarding aspect of her experience was following the footsteps of James Baldwin in the South of France, and really thinking about what it meant to be an artist then for him, and comparing it to her experience as a Black woman artist in the 2020s.

“Meeting other Black writers from all over the world and learning from them was refreshing; learning that I am not alone in this journey. I truly feel like I am not the same person or artist after that experience.”

Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott found his creative renewal by doing the basic work like hitting the books, taking online courses, and buying a new Huion drawing tablet, but the real renewal came from an unexpected winter trip to Norway to visit his friend, the author and artist Håvard S. Johansen. For one week, Scott indulged in traditionally-prepared Norwegian food and spent time in conversations centered on literature, art, and the balance of being a working parent in a world where the competing needs of art and basic survival are often at odds. This week also included a day-trip to Oslo, where Scott visited the Munchmuseet, a 13-story museum dedicated to Edvard Munch’s life and art. 

“If you had told me that a week-long trip would profoundly reinvigorate my creative spirit—and especially if you had told me I’d spend that week in Norway in November, with snow already on the ground and the mercury threatening to shrink even further down the outdoor thermometer—I would have scoffed. But how could I have known the conversations I’d have, or the restorative care with which this family would treat me? How could I have known I would travel across the world to see (and be deeply moved by) the work of a little-known comics artist named Francisco de Goya?”

Now, Scott is writing a new prose project and revising one he thought he abandoned. His trip also inspired plans to co-write/co-create a series of graphic novellas with Håvard in the coming years. For the first time in a long time, Scott said he feels like he again has a career as an artist.

“In business circles, you’ll hear talk of companies purporting to care about ‘the whole employee,’ even as they use that word instead of ‘person,’ which dampens the emotional impact of their supposed commitment. But artists of all kinds need to tend to ‘the whole artist,’ as well, and more broadly to their creative spirits, not just the narrow lanes in which they may now find themselves. Learning to access the creative well within me once again has helped me in ways I can only now begin to articulate, and which I may not understand the full scope of for many years to come. But it’s clear that creativity of one kind, especially art for art’s sake, can enhance creativity related to one’s profession or life’s work. Drawing, even badly, can help a writer stay loose and open to new ideas and ways of thinking. The same can be said about playing music, something else I’ve started again after a years-long dormant period.”

Manòn Voice

Manòn wrote a collection of poems about the agriculture expertise, foodways, and practices of African Americans that have been damaged by colonialism.

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TOO BLACK

TOO BLACK toured prestigious libraries around the world to explore their architecture and dug through their archives to replenish his knowledge and creativity.

The fellowship experience taught me the importance of taking breaks. Breaks are often viewed as a sign of weakness for artists. Once art is reduced to the next pursuit, the joy of making it begins to hollow out. Renewal means breaking out of the remissive cycle. Having the time to reflect inside libraries helped me become critical of how artists, such as myself, become wrapped up in desperation at times, and thereby lose the bigger picture. Thus, our renewal has to be a collective act that reaches beyond individual goals or achievements. Renewal can be a beautiful struggle to contend with one’s purpose on this earth, and how to express it through art. Renewal can be a means of keeping Black artists afloat both materially and creatively. Renewal can also be shedding the art industry that drowns so many of us.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

Ellie Garvey

Ellie traveled to Hawaii to research a children’s book. She based the storyline on experiential observation of children performing an ideal task: rainbow hunting.

 

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She/her/hers

Chantel Massey

Chantel took a spiritual pilgrimage by following in the footsteps of American writer and activist James Baldwin. She also traveled to New York City and France.

“One way this fellowship impacted my artist career was that it really made me reimagine what it means to be a Black American woman poet. It made me ask, ‘What is protest?’ It refreshed my relationship with poetry, and encouraged me to explore other art forms. It also refreshed my imagination as an art administrator.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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He/him/his

Andrew Scott

Andrew attended conferences, festivals, and classes to further explore the craft of visual storytelling in comics.

“If you had told me that a week-long trip would profoundly reinvigorate my creative spirit—and especially if you had told me I’d spend that week in Norway in November, with snow already on the ground and the mercury threatening to shrink even further down the outdoor thermometer—I would have scoffed. But how could I have known the conversations I’d have, or the restorative care with which this family would treat me? How could I have known I would travel across the world to see (and be deeply moved by) the work of a little-known comics artist named Francisco de Goya?”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

Manòn Voice

Manòn wrote a collection of poems about the agriculture expertise, foodways, and practices of African Americans that have been damaged by colonialism.

MUSIC

2022-2023 FELLOWS

Sherry Hong

Sherry studied the evolution of the art and craft of violin-making, and looked at how modern instruments can connect music and the performing arts.

Oreo Jones

Oreo Jones took to Nepal in September 2023 for his Creative Renewal Fellowship. Traveling to Kathmandu, Jones immersed himself in myriad cultural landmarks such as the Swayambhunath Monkey Temple and the profound Hindu cremation ceremonies at The Pashupatinath Temple. He hiked a 6-day trek in the Annapurna region of the mountains, meeting local families along the way. He stumbled upon the Teej Festival in Patan, which celebrates the union of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. He then traveled to Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This section of the trip offered Jones a haven of artistic expression–connecting with muralists and garment artists and getting to witness a Gamelan show. He then traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, learning about Cambodia’s tumultuous history by visiting a genocide museum. The trip introduced Jones to new sounds, cultures, artistic expression, and a sense of required solitude. 

“The journey challenged me outside my comfort zone, reinforcing the value of listening and embracing diverse perspectives. Gratitude became a constant companion, as my life underwent a transformation shaped by the landscapes, people, and experiences I encountered. Beyond personal artistic growth, my Creative Renewal instilled a renewed sense of responsibility towards my community. The exposure to diverse global practices prompted a reevaluation of my role in shaping the artistic landscape of Indianapolis. Armed with newfound insights, I returned with a commitment to contribute meaningfully to the local arts scene.”

Engaging in the fellowship project profoundly influenced Jones’ trajectory as a musician. Recognizing the paramount importance of travel for artistic enrichment, he embarked on a journey that extended beyond the conventional boundaries of Hip-Hop. Immersed in diverse cultures, he embraced a holistic approach to artistic development, drawing inspiration from the nuances of sound, visual art, literature, and historical narratives. The Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship prompted a departure from the comfort of routine, compelling Jones to confront discomfort and transcend the familiar. This intentional disruption proved instrumental in deepening his connection with how he approaches creating music. Attuned to his surroundings, he delved into the practice of recording sounds and field recordings. The fellowship underscored the importance of focusing on the present, extracting inspiration from his environment, and finding beauty in what is right in front of him.

“Reflecting on the past year, I had been moving at an unrelenting pace, navigating the demands of touring to SXSW, curating the Chreece hip hop fest, and balancing studio work. The constant motion took a toll on my spirit, leaving me in need of a profound recharge. My Creative Renewal acted as a finish line—a symbolic marker that signaled a pause, a space for complete rejuvenation. It was a deliberate choice to unplug from the demands of a high-speed life, to immerse myself in silence and the embrace of the natural world.”

Clare Longendyke

Clare traveled to Bali to participate in an intensive study and performance of traditional Balinese music.

Sedalia Marie

Sedalia attended an expressive sound therapy retreat in San Diego. She also traveled to Detroit and New York City.

Teresa Reynolds

The first thing Teresa Reynolds did for her Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship was take a DNA test. Her father was adopted, so it was something important for her to discover in learning about her family history. Before this program, she said she never had the courage to go for it. She found that her lineage reflects the story of the Transatlantic slave trade. British, Portuguese and Spanish were heavily represented, as well as Western Africa. 

“My project was all about exploring my ancestral roots, and developing my technical music skills with the ultimate goal of creating new music inspired by what I discover. I knew that to go on this journey, I would need to start with more concrete knowledge of my genetic makeup, therefore DNA testing was a must. I was surprised by what I found. It didn’t designate Puerto Rican as an individual distinction, so my results left me with more questions than answers.”

Reynolds’ research took her to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. There, she also explored the National Museum of American History, which has an extensive current exhibit on Latinx history and culture in the US. In June of 2023, Reynolds spent three and a half weeks in Puerto Rico with her mother and daughter, connecting with family there. She then spent a week in Old San Juan exploring its history, and took a Bomba dance class from one of the most well-known and respected Bomba dancers and teachers. The last part of Reynolds’ renewal was taking a Music Production Fundamentals for Singers/Songwriters class from Berklee School of Music online.

“The Music Production Fundamentals class has empowered me with the ability to make my own music, something I didn’t have the skill set to do before. That alone was worth the investment in my artistry, and something that I will be able to call on for the rest of my life. Secondly, I have a deeper well of self-understanding that I’m now able to draw from. The impact of this grant has been literally life changing. Renewal now means opportunity, exploration, self-discovery, and empowerment.”

Eric Salazar

Eric traveled to La Ciudad de México to learn about Norteño music from Mexican folk musicians. He also experienced Día de Muertos in the city that his late grandfather grew up in.

Jared M. Thompson

Jared Thompson recharged in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Staying in a small pink double with his husband across the street from an 80 acre farm where chickens, ducks, goats, horses, and cattle grazed peacefully, and where outdoor enthusiasts from around the country would frequent as a “pitstop” on their cross-country journey, Thompson enjoyed a much-needed getaway from the buzz of daily life. After eight years of not being able to go on a vacation of any kind, the Creative Renewal Fellowship allowed him to embrace daily living without modern amenities and be in tune with nature and neighbors. 

“On any given day, a family or a group of individuals would pitch their tents for a day or two before continuing their backpacking or camping exploration of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We would walk the farm and forage for wild berries, herbs, and mushrooms and get to know the campers that would settle on the property. We traded stories about our backgrounds or careers, and our knowledge of cooking and utilizing the natural foods that surrounded us. Each day we would all cook at least one meal together made from what we had gathered and cooked and ate in a communal environment that I’ve rarely experienced here at home.”

For Thompson, the most rewarding or rejuvenating aspect of the trip was meeting complete strangers and fellowshipping with them through music, storytelling, and food. It was a reminder that regardless of age, race, sexual identity, etc., people have much more in common and appreciate the simple things in life. From learning about beekeeping and eating honey directly out of the hive, to hikes in the mountains with his husband at sunset, to eating roadside BBQ in the middle of nowhere, North Carolina was an experience that he is eager to have again.

“The fellowship allowed me time away from the environment I felt tethered to for so long. A change of scenery and change of objectives is what I had been needing for years. Sometimes that best way to begin the process of artistic creation is providing oneself with the opportunity and permission to NOT create. Initially I thought I would write a series of tunes for my band that had some kind of nature inspired element, but I found myself forcing that idea to materialize. It wasn’t until I reflected further on the time and the people I spent time with during this fellowship that my ideas for creation began to surface in a much more organic way. Instead of concentrating on composing music, I began to evaluate how my interactions with people influence my creativity.”

The UnCut Diamond

The UnCut Diamond’s renewal process included taking six months away from Indianapolis to explore her identity as an African American artist and recharge her creativity in order to complete her second book. She visited family in Texas and traveled to the Dominican Republic, Louisiana, Arizona, New York, and Hawaii. Her travels included experiencing local art, culture, and claiming herself as an artist.

“The creative renewal fellowship couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. This experience has assisted me in reclaiming my creativity and inspired me to stand proudly on my title as a creative. I’ve been renewed in my boldness to lead creative exhibitions that change lives, communities, and cultures. I cannot express the unleashing, unapologetic and ever-growing pride to be an artist that has found its home back in my heart.”

The UnCut Diamond finished her Fellowship on the beaches of Hawaii in April. All of her travels will be used as inspiration and content for her second book, Defiant Faith. She explored Juneteenth exhibits in Galveston and took a “Freedom Tour” walk that she had to leave early due to the overwhelming emotions evoked by the nostalgia of each stop along the tour. In New York she saw The Lion King, her first Broadway show. In Louisiana she celebrated Mardi Gras, and in Arizona she got new ideas for collaboration based on the strong Midwest presence there. In the Dominican Republic she experienced a local jazz festival. The book is set to release in August this year. 

“I applied thinking of all the things I wanted to do to recharge my artistry. The reality is my renewal came from stopping everything, being in the moment, and recognizing who I was. Renewal is going back to the ‘why’ you do it. It is revisiting the passion that drives the anger in the stroke, the tone in the spoken word, the rhythm in the content, the facial expression when delivering the line, the position of your feet when landing the jump.”

Sharon Weyser

For her Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship, Sharon Weyser traveled to Vienna, Austria to immerse herself in the musicianship of Vienna horns. She attended live performances by the horn sections of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna State Opera, purchased her very own Vienna horn, and took lessons on the instrument with professional players Marcus Schmedinger and Melissa Danas. Owning a Vienna horn has renewed Weyser by giving her a new musical source that provides fresh inspiration and artistic fulfillment. The Vienna horn is exclusively played and taught in Vienna. Taking lessons on it from professionals who only play this instrument was extremely beneficial for Weyser–helping her stay true to the instrument’s rich history and traditions. 

“As a musician and horn player, I feel the fellowship has impacted me by exposing me to a rich tradition of horn playing not found in the US. My fellowship allowed me to realize my dream of owning and learning to play the Vienna horn. The technical and musical insights I have gleaned and can continue to explore will enrich my horn playing for years to come. A new musical door has been opened and I have stepped into a world of horn playing I would not have been exposed to otherwise.”

Having made these connections, Weyser will be able to continue working virtually with the teachers she met. While in Vienna, she was able to hire a professional photographer to do a photo shoot with her new Vienna horn in front of the Vienna State Opera house and other historical sites around the city. It was the perfect way to capture these magical moments and commemorate her time in Vienna and the journey as part of the Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship program. 

“Renewal, to me, is a way to energize my experience as a musician in a way that reignites my passion and excitement for playing the horn. I have been able to connect with what being a musician and horn player really means to me. This journey has reaffirmed why I am a musician. The process has been a reminder that my dreams can come true, and I can create musically meaningful experiences for myself outside of my day-to-day rehearsals and performances.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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Sherry Hong

Sherry studied the evolution of the art and craft of violin-making, and looked at how modern instruments can connect music and the performing arts.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

He/him/his

Oreo Jones

Oreo explored the capital city of Kathmandu (Cat-man-doo) in Nepal and took a trek around the southern Himalayas. He met up with local musicians and artists and studied the sounds of their culture.

“The journey challenged me outside my comfort zone, reinforcing the value of listening and embracing diverse perspectives. Gratitude became a constant companion, as my life underwent a transformation shaped by the landscapes, people, and experiences I encountered. Beyond personal artistic growth, my Creative Renewal instilled a renewed sense of responsibility towards my community. The exposure to diverse global practices prompted a reevaluation of my role in shaping the artistic landscape of Indianapolis. Armed with newfound insights, I returned with a commitment to contribute meaningfully to the local arts scene.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Clare Longendyke

Clare traveled to Bali to participate in an intensive study and performance of traditional Balinese music.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Sedalia Marie

Sedalia attended an expressive sound therapy retreat in San Diego. She also traveled to Detroit and New York City.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Teresa Reynolds

Through DNA testing, Teresa explored the ethnic roots of her father, who was adopted, and those of his adoptive parents, tracing back to the slave trade. She also immersed herself in the music and culture of Puerto Rico, where her mother was born.

“The Music Production Fundamentals class has empowered me with the ability to make my own music, something I didn’t have the skill set to do before. That alone was worth the investment in my artistry, and something that I will be able to call on for the rest of my life. Secondly, I have a deeper well of self-understanding that I’m now able to draw from. The impact of this grant has been literally life changing. Renewal now means opportunity, exploration, self-discovery, and empowerment.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

He/him/his

Eric Salazar

Eric traveled to La Ciudad de México to learn about Norteño music from Mexican folk musicians. He also experienced Día de Muertos in the city that his late grandfather grew up in.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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He/him/his

Jared M. Thompson

Jared unplugged from his work in Indy and spent time at a communal farm just outside of Asheville, N.C.

“The fellowship allowed me time away from the environment I felt tethered to for so long. A change of scenery and change of objectives is what I had been needing for years. Sometimes that best way to begin the process of artistic creation is providing oneself with the opportunity and permission to NOT create. Initially I thought I would write a series of tunes for my band that had some kind of nature inspired element, but I found myself forcing that idea to materialize. It wasn’t until I reflected further on the time and the people I spent time with during this fellowship that my ideas for creation began to surface in a much more organic way. Instead of concentrating on composing music, I began to evaluate how my interactions with people influence my creativity.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

The Uncut Diamond

The Uncut Diamond visited places that connected her to her Afrocentric roots, including stops along the Civil Rights Trail. She wrote the sequel to her book, worked on her first EP, and explored her signature look.

“I applied thinking of all the things I wanted to do to recharge my artistry. The reality is my renewal came from stopping everything, being in the moment, and recognizing who I was. Renewal is going back to the ‘why’ you do it. It is revisiting the passion that drives the anger in the stroke, the tone in the spoken word, the rhythm in the content, the facial expression when delivering the line, the position of your feet when landing the jump.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

Sharon Weyser

Sharon traveled to Vienna, Austria, to work with the country’s premier Vienna horn maker and had her own horn made. She also took lessons with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Vienna State Opera.

“Renewal, to me, is a way to energize my experience as a musician in a way that reignites my passion and excitement for playing the horn. I have been able to connect with what being a musician and horn player really means to me. This journey has reaffirmed why I am a musician. The process has been a reminder that my dreams can come true, and I can create musically meaningful experiences for myself outside of my day-to-day rehearsals and performances.”

THEATER

2022-2023 FELLOWS

Lori Wolter Hudson

Lori Wolter Hudson applied to research and write about her great, great aunt, Gertrude Lythgoe, who was a rum runner during Prohibition. She traveled to Nassau, Bahamas in the fall of 2023 to see where she lived, researched her story through museums and archivists in Nassau, and took some time to reconnect to herself after leaving her job as artistic director of The New Harmony Project in July 2023.

“This project turned into an anchor for me; with so many unknowns about next steps and genuinely, painstakingly working to figure out what I actually WANTED to spend time doing, this fellowship felt like it legitimized my newfound creative endeavors. One specific night, I stumbled upon a historic, renowned restaurant and hotel. I was led to a sitting room, where a pianist and singer had the room captivated. Sitting with a glass of prosecco in a tufted wingback in the corner, I watched her give a master class in musicianship, crowd engagement, entertainment, and the joy of sharing her talent and gifts with a transfixed and transported audience. It was by far one of the most powerful artistic and inspirational moments she’s had in years.”

Getting this grant was a big part of the push Hudson needed to step away from arts administration work and get back to being an artist in her own right again. She said it was difficult to walk away from a full-time career built over decades and become a freelancer again, but it was definitely the right move. In 2023, she got her first play published.

“I’m equally daunted and optimistic about what’s ahead, but without this award I don’t think I would have felt I was deserving enough to take myself seriously in my new pursuits. I still don’t think of myself as a true “writer” yet, but I’m working on it. And that, combined with the life transition of leaving my work as an arts administrator, has meant I’ve undergone a major shift from the artist I applied as two years ago. I will always be grateful for this opportunity and view it as a catalyst for this new chapter of my life and career.”

Ben Rose

Ben spent several weekends at the historic Black lake cabin community of Fox Lake and attended the 2023 American Black Film Festival.

Chris Saunders

Chris immersed himself in the hills, horses, and history of the West by attending a 10- day working ranch experience in Montana.

Gwen Sunkel

Gwen Sunkel explored death and the “beautiful and weird” ways to honor those who have passed for her Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship. Over the course of a year, she visited over 25 cemeteries throughout the Midwest. She also attended the James Dean Days Festival in Fairmount, Indiana, where she took a memoir writing workshop with Ms. Pamela Debarge–the “original” groupie who traveled with numerous rock bands in the 70s and inspired the character Penny Lane in the movie Almost Famous. She took a week-long Bob Ross oil painting class at the Bob Ross Museum in Muncie, Indiana. Sunkel also traveled to New York City to see two theatrical productions that heavily discussed the themes of death and dying–Sleep No More and Hadestown

“My fellowship project impacted my art positively in several ways. As I traveled to cemeteries, festivals, and classes throughout the Midwest, I realized how much of a legacy we leave as artists. Our work impacts and influences others in ways we might not realize until after we have passed. A headstone shaped like a bench might inspire someone to spend a few more moments in nature. An actor whose life was cut short inspired an annual celebration that brings a community together. The techniques of a gifted painter and his message of radical acceptance are being passed down to new artists every year. Actors portraying stories of loss make us want to give 100 percent to our art form, so that we can help others feel as deeply as they have made us feel. Our art is not created in a silo–it impacts those closest to us and the world at large.”

Sunkel said she was especially impacted by the painting class at The Bob Ross Museum–learning a new technique for stress management, relaxation, and processing feelings. Being focused on humor in her comedy and stage performances, Sunkel said that she doesn’t usually have space to write about non-comedic topics. This fellowship allowed her to explore some of her darker, more melancholy feelings. Seeing Sleep No More, an interactive telling of Macbeth, showed Sunkel how powerful full sensory experiences can be for an audience. Seeing the Shakespearean tragedy told in such a unique way reminded her that there are countless ways to tell the same story, and the job of artists is to do just that.

“Renewal often brings to mind thoughts of a cycle repeating itself. It carries connotations of death and rebirth, an end and a beginning, or a return to a stasis point. My fellowship felt less like a perpetual cycle and more of an expansion of my artistic process. I’ve gained courage to talk about important topics in my comedy. I have a new vision on making mistakes, embracing them, and growing in the process. I have novel ideas about how to reach audiences through immersive elements that touch multiple senses. I saw how much joy can be present even in the face of death. I have always seen the humor in death, but now my vision of it has increased to include more and happier emotions. Renewal now means expansion.”

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Lori Wolter Hudson

Lori researched to prepare for writing a musical about her great aunt, Gertrude ‘Cleo’ Lythgoe. Known as “The Bahama Queen,” Gertrude was a rum runner during prohibition.

“I’m equally daunted and optimistic about what’s ahead, but without this award I don’t think I would have felt I was deserving enough to take myself seriously in my new pursuits. I still don’t think of myself as a true “writer” yet, but I’m working on it. And that, combined with the life transition of leaving my work as an arts administrator, has meant I’ve undergone a major shift from the artist I applied as two years ago. I will always be grateful for this opportunity and view it as a catalyst for this new chapter of my life and career.”

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Ben Rose

Ben spent several weekends at the historic Black lake cabin community of Fox Lake and attended the 2023 American Black Film Festival.

 

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Chris Saunders

Chris immersed himself in the hills, horses, and history of the West by attending a 10- day working ranch experience in Montana.

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Gwen Sunkel

Gwen traveled to observe how we mourn, honor, and celebrate the dead–from visiting over 25 cemeteries, to attending plays about the afterlife.

“Renewal often brings to mind thoughts of a cycle repeating itself. It carries connotations of death and rebirth, an end and a beginning, or a return to a stasis point. My fellowship felt less like a perpetual cycle and more of an expansion of my artistic process. I’ve gained courage to talk about important topics in my comedy. I have a new vision on making mistakes, embracing them, and growing in the process. I have novel ideas about how to reach audiences through immersive elements that touch multiple senses. I saw how much joy can be present even in the face of death. I have always seen the humor in death, but now my vision of it has increased to include more and happier emotions. Renewal now means expansion.”

VISUAL

2022-2023 FELLOWS

Jerry Lee Atwood

For his Creative Renewal Fellowship, Jerry Lee Atwood interviewed with chainstitch artists he had connected with many years ago. When he first started using a chainstitch embroidery machine, he was interested in how other artists were using theirs. These antique machines had been collecting dust in the basements and back rooms of embroidery shops due to having long been replaced by modern digital embroidery equipment. Atwood contacted these artists that he knew were dedicated to using these machines to understand even more about this artform.

“In interviewing other artists who have inspired and encouraged me along the way, it was very touching to hear that my work has also inspired them. I think artists need a community to remain engaged and inspired. It’s so easy to get lost in our own personal lives outside of art while maintaining a career as professional artists. When I first discovered the chainstitch embroidery machine, there was virtually no information online for how to use them or even what type of thread to use. It was through my connections with other people who were discovering these machines around the same time that I was able to learn how to use and maintain these relics and slowly grow a business. ”

His respondents were located in California, Louisiana, and Tennessee. He discussed with multiple chainstitch artists and business owners. Through talking with multiple chainstitch artists and business owners, they connected over their passion for these machines and the art created with them. They recognized how the community has grown from a couple dozen users to hundreds in the past decade. It’s all thanks to the online community that has cropped up to share information, techniques and parts.

“Art saves the lives of those who experience it and, without question, those who create it. I can’t imagine not having a career in the arts. It’s easy to forget why we make art and the passion and enthusiasm can become buried beneath the frustration and demands of our everyday lives. It’s invaluable to have an opportunity like the Creative Renewal Fellowship to remember what inspires and influences us as artists. For me, that has always included the community of makers.”

Josh Betsey

Josh Betsey’s renewal process was an effort to reconnect with the photographic mediums he had dabbled in and grown fond of over the years, while enjoying the freedom to explore his creative process. He visited Mexico City for 3 and a half weeks in 2023–experiencing culture, visiting museums, and learning the customs of Mexico. Using a fellow artist’s studio, he practiced screen printing, risograph printing, and collage, while developing new processes of readying images for use in those formats. 

“The fellowship process had a huge impact on my personal development. My need for a renewal came from a realization that the multi-step tightrope act that had become my multimedia process, left me in a rut where comfort took preference over the art making process. With two studio spaces 8 miles apart and the added chore of transporting materials between them, much of 2022 was haunted by unfinished projects, misplaced materials and fatigue. I knew I needed a major reset, and the Creative Renewal Fellowship came at just the right time.”

The coincidence of meeting an artist from Mexico City who had his same artistic influences was pure happenstance. After becoming fast friends and being invited to Mexico City, the act of preparing himself for an international trip forced Betsey to do three things: To be cognizant of all the tools I would bring, to be mindful of how long I was there, and to be practical about how quickly I could generate new work. It was the reality check I needed to look at my process objectively. On the trip, Betsey explored the Museo Rufino Tamayo, Museo del Juguete Antiguo México, and shopped for vintage magazines to collage with.

“My idea of renewal means something very different than it did when I first applied for the fellowship. I now know that renewal isn’t just more exposure to your area of study. It’s a transformation from old ways and habits and a new understanding for the reasons why a renewal was so important. Whether feeling stagnant in your process or tired of succeeding with an old formula that’s becoming stale, we all need to know that there is more for us than what we experience day in and day out. I feel privileged to have undergone this experience with a new understanding of myself, my art and my relation to the world.”

Carol Ann Carter

Carol participated in workshops and worked with a clay master to explore a deeper dive into clay as a creative material.

Richard Clark

Rich took his modern digital camera to India and studied the historic technique that busker street photographers have used since the mid-1800s.

Deonna Craig

Deonna explored some of the most ancient rock art in the world and immersed herself in the culture, history, and presence of petroglyphs.

Haykidd

Haykidd’s renewal project was simple—they wanted to share space with the past, as they envisioned a new version of the future. That’s exactly what they did. A month after receiving the Creative Renewal Fellowship, Haykidd faced the loss of their older sister to gun violence. 

“My renewal awoke a part of my spirit that went dormant after the loss of my sister. It showed me who I am and what I can do during a time when I felt numb and uninspired. The way that the universe knew I would need the Creative Renewal Fellowship is crazy. Losing my sister completely shook my world and sent me into the darkest depression of my life. Through my creative renewal process I was able to fall back in love with life.”

Traveling along the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” Haykidd interacted with artists from multiple cities, worked on an installation in Miami with a group of artists from Jackson, Mississippi, and studied artworks created by some of the most prolific african american modern and contemporary artists of the past 100 years—like Faith Ringgold, Elizabeth Catlett, Richard Mayhew, and Jacob Lawerence. Haykidd’s renewal provided them with the opportunity to be surrounded by art, love, and beauty all over the country after losing hope of those things existing in their life again.

“My fellowship has given me clarity and focus in both my art practice and administrative career. It has allowed me to see what is, was, and can be. Granting me a certain level of foresight, I was able to travel from city-to-city discovering a network of artists, art administrators, and arts-based nonprofits that are all working to help sustain and uplift the creative economy. The song ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ by Nina Simone plays on a loop as I reflect on my time during my Creative Renewal Fellowship.”

Through the fellowship, Haykidd was introduced to art spaces that provide safety, education and comprehensive programs to communities of color which greatly inspired them. They said that seeing that what they aspire to do has been done before, and seeing examples of what it could look like was priceless. Traveling through a historical route and engaging with local artists in each space gave Haykidd the courage to be themselves and go for their creative vision, which is providing the infrastructure for creatives of color to live and thrive in the arts.

“I’ve always felt like an anomaly–like I was alone in this dream of being an artist, like the way that I create was abnormal–until my renewal. It opened my eyes to the facts. There are people just like me doing the work in the shadows to provide the infrastructure necessary for the arts to thrive in Black and Brown communities. Renewal means new possibilities, new relationships, new futures. Renewal requires grief. It requires the end of something that you are comfortable with; it requires trust in the future. Renewal means, ‘We Go Forward With a Sanity and a Love,’ to quote Nikki Giovanni.”

Willard Johnson

Willard explored his childhood roots in Egypt and reconnected with the sights, sounds, and smells that first inspired him as an artist.

April Knauber

April reconnected with her heritage by traveling to the Philippines to explore her culture and environment and recharge her sense of identity.

Dani Oglesby

Dani Oglesby used her Creative Renewal Fellowship to to create and connect with women and artists through her #CurlyTLC sessions. She traveled to multiple states working on the hair of celebrities and models, as well as connecting with Black women for “salon talk,” which is more like group therapy. They’d talk about everything from their first salon experience, how they feel at the salon, and the smells they remembered as a kid.

“My process and journey completing this fellowship has taught me so much about myself as an artist. I discovered parts of me that I never knew existed.Through the entire process I felt as if I was finally in complete and total alignment with my goals. For black women, the salon and our hair is so important in many ways. This process confirmed and validated the path and life I chose as an artist.”

Oglesby tends to suffer from imposter’s syndrome, but she is grateful for the mind that she has, the hands that create, and the creativity to execute her art. The Creative Renewal Fellowship allowed her to create and speak about her craft and the purpose behind it with confidence and conviction.

“To me, Black hair is the most beautiful hair. The texture and curls are art in and of itself. Hearing the voices of black women and being able to tap into the culture and history behind hair makes my career path magical and impactful. Renewal to me means a reset with a peaceful and clear mind. Taking the steps necessary to see how your presence alone impacts the world around you. Renewal will look different for everyone… and that’s what makes this process and project beautiful.”

Yemisi Sanni

Yemisi traveled to West Africa to further develop her textile artistry and storytelling and explored the traditional processes that are still used in contemporary practices. She attended retreats and workshops, and met with curators and other textile artists.

Israel Solomon

The Creative Renewal Fellowship allowed Israel Solomon to take a much needed mental break from full-time artistry. He seeked, and gained, new inspiration. Taking a trip to New York City in September 2023, Solomon explored art, music, and culture that Manhattan has to offer. Notable landmarks from his journey include the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Guggenheim, EDEN Gallery, St. Paul’s Church, and Central Park.The Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship allowed Solomon to find renewed inspiration outside of his daily life for new opportunities. 

“One of those opportunities is coming soon, as I am in the process of completing a piece for my Conner Prairie artist residency that is directly inspired by the composition of a sculpture that I stumbled across at St. Paul’s in Manhattan during the final day of my trip. I believe that the inspiration will be seen in the work that I plan on producing for the remainder of this year.”

In exploring NYC, Solomon stumbled upon unexpected local galleries and celebrated 50 years of Hip-Hop at Blue Note, seeing Big Daddy Kane and Rakim perform with a live band. Inspiration set in from exploring the city and the art he saw there, both traditional and modern, like Monet cut-outs, Jacob Lawrence paintings, an Afro-futurism exhibit at MoMA, Edward Hopper paintings, Egyptian Architecture, and modern artists such as Kaws and Kobra. 

“The strongest impact that it made on me was that while seeing all of this beautiful and timeless work, only a small percentage of what I saw was made by Black people. This is a strong motivation for me to continue working as an artist to hopefully break some of those barriers. I believe that my mind was opened in so many ways during my trip, and the community of Indianapolis is going to see it within my work. For me, renewal means a recommitment to myself and my goals. I’m striving to have work in a museum such as the Whitney. These dreams may appear to be far-fetched and unrealistic, but I remind myself that at one point in my life I didn’t think it would be achievable to be perceived and respected as a professional artist within our community.”

LaShawnda Crowe Storm

LaShawnda studied with leaders, spiritual teachers, and mystics within West African spiritual traditions. She also expanded her textile skills.

Michele Wood

Michele traced her Indiana Avenue heritage and DNA to Africa, Jerusalem, Eastern Europe, Mississippi, and Georgia. She traveled to research and explore this heritage.

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Jerry Lee Atwood

Jerry visited the studios of other embroidery artists around the U.S., interviewed them and documented the visits.

“Art saves the lives of those who experience it and, without question, those who create it. I can’t imagine not having a career in the arts. It’s easy to forget why we make art and the passion and

enthusiasm can become buried beneath the frustration and demands of our everyday lives. It’s invaluable to have an opportunity like the Creative Renewal Fellowship to remember what inspires and influences us as artists. For me, that has always included the community of makers.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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He/him/his

Josh Betsey

Josh traveled to Mexico City to visit artist collectives. He participated in workshops about screen printing, collage, and other forms of image creation.

“My idea of renewal means something very different than it did when I first applied for the fellowship. I now know that renewal isn’t just more exposure to your area of study. It’s a transformation from old ways and habits and a new understanding for the reasons why a renewal was so important. Whether feeling stagnant in your process or tired of succeeding with an old formula that’s becoming stale, we all need to know that there is more for us than what we experience day in and day out. I feel privileged to have undergone this experience with a new understanding of myself, my art and my relation to the world.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Carol Ann Carter

Carol participated in workshops and worked with a clay master to explore a deeper dive into clay as a creative material.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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He/him/his

Richard Clark

Rich took his modern digital camera to India and studied the historic technique that busker street photographers have used since the mid-1800s.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Deonna Craig

Deonna explored some of the most ancient rock art in the world and immersed herself in the culture, history, and presence of petroglyphs.

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Haykidd

Haykidd visited Black art spaces along the “chittlin circuit” and learned what it takes to build a grassroots art community centered on Black and brown artists.

“My fellowship has given me clarity and focus in both my art practice and administrative career. It has allowed me to see what is, was, and can be. Granting me a certain level of foresight, I was able to travel from city-to-city discovering a network of artists, art administrators, and arts-based nonprofits that are all working to help sustain and uplift the creative economy. The song ‘To Be Young, Gifted and Black’ by Nina Simone plays on a loop as I reflect on my time during my Creative Renewal Fellowship.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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He/him/his

Willard Johnson

Willard explored his childhood roots in Egypt and reconnected with the sights, sounds, and smells that first inspired him as an artist.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

April Knauber

April reconnected with her heritage by traveling to the Philippines to explore her culture and environment and recharge her sense of identity.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
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She/her/hers

Dani Oglesby

Dani traveled to meet other hair artists and learn new ways of expression through hair art. She became certified in PsychoHairapy, an international movement promoting mental health through hairstyles.

“My process and journey completing this fellowship has taught me so much about myself as an artist. I discovered parts of me that I never knew existed.Through the entire process I felt as if I was finally in complete and total alignment with my goals. For black women, the salon and our hair is so important in many ways. This process confirmed and validated the path and life I chose as an artist.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

Yemisi Sanni

Yemisi traveled to West Africa to further develop her textile artistry and storytelling and explored the traditional processes that are still used in contemporary practices. She attended retreats and workshops, and met with curators and other textile artists.

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He/him/his

Israel Solomon

Israel visited New York City, where he explored museums, galleries, and arts communities to learn more about the larger arts world.

“The strongest impact that it made on me was that while seeing all of this beautiful and timeless work, only a small percentage of what I saw was made by Black people. This is a strong motivation for me to continue working as an artist to hopefully break some of those barriers. I believe that my mind was opened in so many ways during my trip, and the community of Indianapolis is going to see it within my work. For me, renewal means a recommitment to myself and my goals. I’m striving to have work in a museum such as the Whitney. These dreams may appear to be far-fetched and unrealistic, but I remind myself that at one point in my life I didn’t think it would be achievable to be perceived and respected as a professional artist within our community.”

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

LaShawnda Crowe Storm

LaShawnda studied with leaders, spiritual teachers, and mystics within West African spiritual traditions. She also expanded her textile skills.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship
01

She/her/hers

Michele Wood

Michele traced her Indiana Avenue heritage and DNA to Africa, Jerusalem, Eastern Europe, Mississippi, and Georgia. She traveled to research and explore this heritage.

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship

Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship Exhibition

The 2022-2023 Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship exhibition will take place June 7 – July 18, 2024 in Gallery 924 at the Indy Arts Council.

Learn More
Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship

Thank you to Lilly Endowment Inc.

The Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship is funded by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. We thank them for their vision and for their 25-year partnership on this groundbreaking program.