The Los Angeles-based organization Define American has announced the five artists selected for the fourth cohort of its annual fellowship, an award that supports immigrant emerging artists working in narrative art forms regardless of immigration status. Each artist receives a $5,000 stipend and access to career development opportunities such as workshops and networking events.
While “most other grant, fellowship, and residency opportunities require citizenship or legal resident status,” Bethany Wearden, an associate director at Define American, told Hyperallergic, the fellowship seeks to “highlight the need for artist support that is open to all.”
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Founded in 2019 and funded in part by the Kresge Foundation, the fellowship was conceived by journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at the age of 12. In 2011, Vargas established Define American to “humanize conversations on immigration,” creating opportunities for immigrants to share their stories through media campaigns.
“The Define American Creative Fellowship is one of the few US artistic fellowship opportunities that welcomes any applicant regardless of immigration status, including undocumented creatives,” Vargas said in a statement. “We’re proud to showcase such a broad range of personal and artistic backgrounds, representing perspectives that are not always highlighted by the mainstream art and film worlds.”
The five artists selected for this year’s cohort are Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, a filmmaker from Barbados whose work focuses on stories from Miami and the Caribbean; Ju Hong, a podcaster from Oakland who is currently creating and releasing new episodes of ImmigrAsians; Nicole Solis-Sison, who co-produced a film on the first undocumented lawyer to argue a case before the Supreme Court; Tracy Chahwan, a cartoonist and illustrator from Lebanon who has published a graphic novel set in Beirut; and Yehimi Cambrón, an artist from Mexico who has made large murals of immigrants in Atlanta.
“Too often immigrant artists are barred from accessing [resources] that establish us as artists,” Charlotte Abotsi, a 2021 alumna of the program, said in a statement. “The Define American Fellowship eliminates these barriers, letting all emerging artists, regardless of status and stature, to explore their unique experiences through their personal lens.”
Wearden noted that the Define American fellowship exists alongside several others open to undocumented artists founded around the same time, such as Undocupoets, The Disruptors Fellowship, and the Undocumented Filmmakers Collective.