Three ‘Working Artists’ win grants from MOCA GA

A filmmaker, a photographer and a muralist are recipients of fellowships from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia through a program intended to support local artists, and to keep them, by the way, local.

Winners of grants from the “Working Artist Project” were announced Tuesday night at the Midtown museum, where alumni from previous fellowships gathered to congratulate their new colleagues.

Chosen for the grants were multimedia artist and filmmaker Jonathan Bouknight, fine art photographer Sheila Pree Bright and painter Sarah Emerson.

The project was created to support established artists from the 23-county metro area. For the next year, these three winners will each receive a monthly $1,250 stipend, a $3,000 salary for an assistant/apprentice and money for supplies.

More importantly, each of the winners will have a one-person show staged at the museum, and each will contribute a piece to the museum’s permanent collection.

Annette Cone-Skelton, director of MOCA GA, said the program was created to strengthen the network of local artists, and, through the apprenticeship element, to extend that network into the next generation. Additionally, the program seeks to help established artists resist the lure of Brooklyn and Los Angeles.

“I’ve seen too many wonderful artists leave for other states,” Cone-Skelton said. The strategy appears to be successful: 17 of the 18 previous recipients still call the Atlanta area home, she said, and most of them were on hand for Tuesday’s event.

The Working Artist Project is supported by a grant from the Charles Loridans Foundation.

About the winners:

  • Jonathan Bouknight, 34, creates an interdisciplinary mix of video, performance, sculpture and drawing. The Working Artist grant will allow him to complete a non-narrative film of “performative action.” The assistance from MOCA “is huge,” he said.
  • Sarah Emerson, 39, paints colorful landscapes peopled with exotic characters. Her works are often of colossal size. She’s painted murals for Living Walls and recently completed a 70-by-40-foot mural for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Fla.

She was excited to be able to show her work inside MOCA’s cavernous space. “I was making work for a big space, but I didn’t really have the space for it,” she said.

  • Sheila Pree Bright, “40-something,” is a fine art photographer who creates wall-sized portraits. In her most recent project, “1960 Who,” she has documented the contemporary faces of the men and women who were the young leaders of the Atlanta Student Movement of 1960.

She has been wheat-pasting those photos onto the sides of buildings in cooperation with public art programs. The new fellowship will give her a chance to “recontextualize” that work, and see it inside a gallery.

Each year, the winners of the project are chosen by an outside curator. This year’s judge was Siri Engberg, curator of visual arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Engberg said of the winners, “all three are at a point where they’ve accomplished interesting things, and created a voice … They knew what they wanted. They knew where they were going.”

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