July 31, 2014

Three Lewis Center Students Win Alex Adam ’07 Award

John Somers Fairchild ’15, Yessica Martinez ’15, and Tula B. Strong ’15 have been selected by the Lewis Center for the Arts as the 2014 recipients of the Alex Adam ’07 Award. Established in memory of Alexander Jay Adam ’07 and made possible by a generous gift from his family, the award provides support to Princeton undergraduates who will spend a summer pursuing a project that will result in the creation of new artistic work.

Princeton University freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are eligible to apply for this prestigious award, which annually provides $7,000 each to three students. The award can be used to support a variety of artistic activities, as long as they culminate in the creation or production of an original work.

Photo by Thomas Gonzalez Roberts

Photo by Thomas Gonzalez Roberts

John Somers Fairchild is majoring in economics and working toward certificates in the Program in South Asian Studies and the Program in Theater at the Lewis Center. He has recently taken classes in both Russian and Greek theater, exploring these specific cultural theater traditions. He has also performed in Lewis Center productions of Der Bourgeois BigWig, The Tempest, and Great Expectations, and is on the managing board of Theatre Intime, a student theater company. He is also a member of BAC: Dance and HighSteppers, two student dance groups.

Fairchild will spend this summer studying Polynesian culture and performance tradition through the native kapa haka dance of the Maori people of New Zealand. This dance practice, traditionally performed on the battlefield, is now a ubiquitous part of the Maori culture, used in countless ways to welcome, congratulate, or offer messages of mourning or respect. Fairchild is interested in exploring how the performative ideas behind this practice might be adapted and studied at Princeton. His research will culminate will in a choreographed piece that uses the Maori dance tradition to tell a distinctly American story.

Photo courtesy Martinez

Photo courtesy Martinez

Yessica Martinez majors in Comparative Literature and is pursuing a certificate in the Program in Creative Writing at the Lewis Center. Across various disciplines, she has explored the intersection of bodies and spaces, human interaction with architecture, the manner by which various visual artists and writers deal with the physical world, the fluid boundaries of our existences, and how exile within and outside of the boundaries functions as an experience and as a trauma. Particularly relevant to this project has been her work with Creative Writing faculty member and poet Michael Dickman on the creation of long-form poems.

Martinez plans to use her award to undertake a pilgrimage from her home in Queens, New York, to the fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, specifically the sections located in the border towns of El Paso and Brownsville, Texas. Martinez came to the United States illegally when she was a child, and this has long been a complicated aspect of her identity and experience. Having recently received a special dispensation status for undocumented students, she is now able to move freely, for the first time in her life, without fear of deportation, and wants to take this opportunity to travel back toward the border that has been so relevant to her life. This journey will result in the creation of a series of poems related to borders and the process of immigration. As president of the Princeton DREAM Team, she also hopes to create an exhibit around this experience and work. This student group, part of Princeton’s PACE Center for Civic Engagement, works to address issues surrounding immigration.


Photo by Jaclyn Sweet

Tula B. Strong also majors in Comparative Literature and is pursuing a certificate in the Program in Dance at the Lewis Center. She takes a multi-disciplinary approach to dance, seeking to find the intersections between her work as a scholar, her choreography, and her identity as a first-generation student. With the help provided by the Adam Award, she hopes to expand both her abilities and her scope as a choreographer, looking toward further work in the field of performance studies after Princeton.

Strong will spend her summer engaging with artists who work with movement and stories, conducting research on Afro-Diasporic history and personal narratives, increasing her movement vocabulary, and teaching Hawaiian hula dance. This will result in the creation of her thesis for the Program in Dance, an extended piece of choreography which will place cultural narratives and movement into conversation. To achieve these varied and connected goals, Strong will be spending the summer traveling to attend various dance conferences, performances, classes, and doing research on and with like-minded scholars and artists.

While a student at Princeton, Alex Adam pursued artistic interests in creative writing and theater. Joyce Carol Oates, his creative writing professor, praised his work as “sharp-edged, unexpectedly corrosive and very funny.” He was also an actor, and performed with the Princeton Shakespeare Company, Theatre Intime, and the Program in Theater. “Friends, classmates and faculty remember Adam as a kind and gentle spirit, with a genuine interest in others,” recalls Michael Cadden, Chair of the Lewis Center. “These awards lovingly created in his memory enable other students to take artistic risks and, if they’re lucky, to move to the next level of achievement.”

The Lewis Center administers three other funds for the support of summer studies and artistic opportunities. Twenty-eight additional students received grants ranging from $250 to $7,000 for a total of $52,700 in funding through the Mary Quaintance ’84 Fund for the Creative Arts Award, the Peter B. Lewis Summer Fund, and the Mellor Fund for Undergraduate Research.

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