Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts has announced the selection of five Mary Mackall Gwinn Hodder Fellows for the 2020-2021 academic year. This year’s recipients include choreographer Kim Brandt, composer/musician Amir ElSaffar, playwright Kimber Lee, visual artist Troy Michie, and writer Casey Plett.
In making the announcement, Tracy K. Smith, chair of the Lewis Center, said, “Time, resources, and encouragement can be hard to come by, but they are perhaps the chief drivers of progress in the arts. Of course, a healthy dose of genius doesn’t hurt. And so we are extremely delighted to offer these five young artists, all of whom have impressed and delighted the Committee with their brilliance and promise, the chance to devote a full year to what Mrs. Hodder described as ‘studious leisure—which is to say, doing exactly what their artistic practice compels them to do.”
Hodder Fellows may be writers, composers, choreographers, visual artists, performance artists, or other kinds of artists or humanists who have, as the program outlines, “much more than ordinary intellectual and literary gifts.” Artists from anywhere may apply in the early fall each year for the following academic year. Past Hodder Fellows have included novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, playwright and actor Danai Gurira, poet Natalie Diaz, choreographer Nora Chipaumire, playwright Lauren Yee, and composer and lyricist Michael Friedman.
Kim Brandt is a choreographer who has presented her work at MoMA/PS1, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Kitchen, SculptureCenter, Pioneer Works, The Shed, Issue Project Room, Artists Space, Klaus Von Nichtssagend Gallery, and AVA Gallery, among others. Her work has been supported by a New York Foundation for the Arts/New York State Council for the Arts Fellowship in Interdisciplinary Arts (2018), a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award (2017), Mertz Gilmore Foundation (2016-2018), a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant (2016), and a Brooklyn Arts Fund Grant (2016). She has received residencies at Chinati Foundation (2019), MoMA/PS1 (2017-2018), Djerassi (2018), Center for Performance Research (2018), Movement Research (2016-2018), Bogliasco Foundation (2016), and Issue Project Room (2015). Recent press includes reviews and interviews in ArtForum, The New York Times, Art in America, Performa Magazine, Bomb Magazine, and Girls Like Us. Brandt received her M.F.A. in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art and a B.A. from Hampshire College. During her fellowship year, Brandt will research and develop a new performance comprised of movement scores that explore physical, spatial and symbiotic relationship to place.
Amir ElSaffar is a composer, trumpeter, santur player, and vocalist. He has been described as “uniquely poised to reconcile jazz and Arabic music” by The Wire, and “one of the most promising figures in jazz today” by the Chicago Tribune. A recognized jazz trumpeter with a classical background, ElSaffar has created techniques to play microtones and ornaments idiomatic to Arabic music that are not typically heard on the trumpet. He is also one of the few musicians in his generation to master the centuries-old Iraqi maqam tradition, which he performs actively as a vocalist and santur (Iraqi hammered dulcimer) player. As a composer, ElSaffar has created a microtonal harmonic language that merges the Arabic maqam modal system with contemporary Western harmony. He has released seven critically-acclaimed albums and tours internationally with several ensembles, including his six-piece Two Rivers Ensemble, combining jazz with maqam, and 17-piece Rivers of Sound Orchestra. ElSaffar is a recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and United States Artists Fellowship. During his year as a Hodder Fellow, ElSaffar will work on his opera in Arabic, entitled Ruins of the Encampment.
Kimber Lee’s plays include to the yellow house, untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play (2019 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference), tokyo fish story (South Coast Rep, TheatreWorks/Silicon Valley, Old Globe), brownsville song (b-side for tray) (Humana Festival, LCT3, Long Wharf Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Seattle Rep, Moxie Theatre, and Shotgun Players), and different words for the same thing directed by Neel Keller (Center Theatre Group). She has developed work with Lark Play Development Center, The Ground Floor/Berkeley Rep, Page 73, Hedgebrook, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Great Plains Theatre Conference, ACT Theatre/Seattle, Premiere Stages, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Magic Theatre/Virgin Series. She has been a Lark Playwrights Workshop Fellow, Dramatists Guild Fellow, member of Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and is recipient of the Ruby Prize, PoNY Fellowship, Hartford Stage New Voices Fellowship, BAU Institute Arts Residency Award, The Kilroys List, and inaugural winner of the Bruntwood Prize International Award in 2019. She received her M.F.A. from University of Texas at Austin. During the fellowship year, Lee will work on a personal new play based on the structures of guided tours of historically or culturally significant locations.
Visual artist Troy Michie was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. He received his B.F.A. from the University of Texas at El Paso and his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Art. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Shed, the VCU Institute of Contemporary Art, the Metropolitan Arts Centre Belfast, the New Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. His first solo exhibition, “Fat Cat Came To Play,” was at Company Gallery, and his work is a part of the Whitney Museum of American Art collection. He is the recipient of an Art Matters grant and has participated in residencies at Recess Art, the Skowhegan School of Painting, the Fine Arts Work Center, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace program. As a Hodder Fellow, he will be working on continued research looking to self-fashioning and camouflage theory as a guide to describe the ways in which bodies can become alternately erased and fetishized, made invisible and hyper-visible.
Casey Plett is the author of Little Fish, A Safe Girl to Love, and the co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy from Transgender Writers. She is a winner of the Amazon First Novel Award, the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Awards – Barbara Gittings Literature Prize, and she is a two-time winner of the Lambda Literary Award. She has written for The New York Times, The Walrus, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Maclean’s, and Rookie, among other publications. She will be working on a new collection of short fiction during her fellowship year.
In addition to creating new work, Hodder Fellows may engage in lectures, readings, performances, exhibitions and other events at the Lewis Center for the Arts, most of which are free and open to the public.
To learn more about the Hodder Fellows, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the more than 100 public performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented each year, most of them free, visit arts.princeton.edu.