March 2, 2016

Princeton Arts Fellows for 2016-18 Announced

Composer Shawn Jaeger, filmmaker Afia Serena Nathaniel, and writer Rebekah Rutkoff

Composer Shawn Jaeger, filmmaker Afia Serena Nathaniel, and writer Rebekah Rutkoff have been named Princeton University Arts Fellows for 2016-18 and will begin two years of teaching and community collaboration in September.

The Princeton Arts Fellows program provides support for early-career artists who have demonstrated both extraordinary promise and a record of achievement in their fields with the opportunity to further their work while teaching within a liberal arts context.

Funded in part by the Mellon Foundation, Fellows are selected for a two-year residency to teach one course each semester or, in lieu of a course, to undertake an artistic assignment that deeply engages undergraduate students, such as directing a play, conducting a music ensemble, or choreographing a dance piece. Fellows are expected to be active members of the University’s intellectual and artistic community while in residence; in return, they are provided the resources and spaces necessary to their work.

Jaeger, Nathaniel, and Rutkoff were selected from a large, diverse, and multi-talented pool of over 700 applicants from dance, music, creative writing, theater and the visual arts. “The applicant pool was large, competitive, and enormously impressive across all fields, disciplines, and media,” said Stacy Wolf, Acting Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts and Director of Fellowships.  “The selection committee was amazed and inspired by the work of these artists, as well as by their ideas of ways to engage with Princeton’s arts community.” 

shawn-jaegerShawn Jaeger is a composer based in New York City. Described as “introspective, mournful […] evocative” by The New York Times, Jaeger’s music often draws inspiration from Appalachian folksong and hymnody. His works have been performed by Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, violinist Alexi Kenney, and Contemporaneous, at venues including Zankel Hall, Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Morgan Library, (Le) Poisson Rouge, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. He has received commissions from Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Bard College Conservatory of Music, the American Composers Forum/Jerome Fund for New Music (JFund), Roulette/Jerome Foundation, and the BMI Foundation/Concert Artists Guild (Carlos Surinach Commission).

His honors include the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists, Northwestern University’s M. William Karlins and William T. Faricy Awards, the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and two BMI Student Composer Awards.

Jaeger holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan. He has taught composition at Tufts University and the Bard College Conservatory of Music Preparatory Division.


Afia Serena NathanielAfia Serena Nathaniel is a computer-scientist-turned-filmmaker who pushes the boundaries of narrative cinema. Nathaniel’s debut feature film DUKHTAR (Daughter) premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2014 and was Pakistan’s Official Submission for Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards®. The film has played to critical acclaim in over 20 countries and became the Critics’ Pick in New York and the People Magazine’s Pick, winning several other awards. Nathaniel has been featured in Variety, The New York Times, Indiewire, NPR, Huffington Post and Screen Daily. Variety noted, “Nathaniel proves her mettle in a national industry where distaff directors are rare” with Indiewire labeling DUKHTAR as “groundbreaking” and the Los Angeles Times calling it a “gorgeous, suspenseful cinematic achievement.”

Nathaniel is the recipient of the Adrienne Shelly award for Directors and was nominated for a 2013 Gotham award. She is a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, World Studio Foundation Fellow, American Association of University Women International Fellow, James Wolfensohn Fellow (Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund), recipient of a Hollywood Foreign Press Association grant and an Ezra Litwak Award for Distinction in Screenwriting.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Afia now lives in New York City. She has taught screenwriting at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.


Rebekah RutkoffRebekah Rutkoff is a Brooklyn-based writer whose work spans fiction, creative non-fiction, and scholarship. She is the author of The Irresponsible Magician: Essays and Fictions (Semiotext(e), 2015), a collection of critical and performative texts on contemporary visual media, and the editor of a book of essays by and about the American avant-garde filmmaker Robert Beavers forthcoming from the Austrian Film Museum/Columbia University Press. As a member in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, she is currently working on Cinematic Incubation, a book project about a site-specific, pilgrimage-based work of cinema in Arcadia, Greece and the historical associations between cinema and cure.

Rutkoff has a Ph.D. in English from the City University of New York Graduate Center and is the recipient of grants from the Onassis Foundation and The Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program.

“We’re delighted to welcome Shawn, Afia, and Rebekah to Princeton for the next two years,” noted Wolf.  “They’re cutting edge artists and excellent teachers who will challenge the faculty, the students, and the larger Princeton community.  We expect to be transformed by their presence and are pleased to be able to support their work.”


The next round of Fellowship applications will begin in July with a mid-September deadline. Guidelines will be posted on the Lewis Center website at For questions about the Fellowship program write to

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