Atlanta-based nonprofit South Arts has announced the winner of its annual Southern Prize: Hannah Chalew, a New Orleans-based artist whose work focuses on the implications of climate change. Sarah Elizabeth Cornejo, who is based in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a co-founder of BASEMENT, an artist-run space in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is a finalist.
South Arts supports artists and organizations across nine states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee — and artists based in this region are eligible each year to apply for the award. The winner and finalist are selected in a two-tiered process: A cohort of nine fellows, each representing a constituent state, are initially chosen by a national jury, from which a second jury chooses two outstanding artists to spotlight. The fellowship is open to artists working across various disciplines, with the exception of artists working exclusively in film, video, and media art. This year’s fellows, in addition to Chalew and Cornejo, are Jenny Fine, GeoVanna Gonzalez, Antonio Darden, Crystal Gregory, Gloria Gipson Suggs, Marcus Dunn, and Brittany M. Watkins.
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The Southern Prize is in its sixth year, and all fellows receive $5,000, with the finalist and winner granted an additional $10,000 and $25,000 respectively. Chalew and Cornejo will also participate in residencies at the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences as part of their prize. Yesterday, September 1, all fellows convened at the Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University in Georgia to celebrate in an awards ceremony, and their work will be shown in a group exhibition that will remain on view through December. South Arts’s annual prize is part of its mission to direct more funding to artists and organizations in the American South, which suffers from systemic artistic disinvestment.
In Chalew’s artist statement, she describes her work as an exploration of “what it means to live in an era of global warming with an uncertain future, and specifically what that means in Southern Louisiana.” It interrogates “what historical legacies … got us here to help imagine new possibilities for a livable future.”
“My works draw viewers into an experience that bridges past and present with visions of the future ecosystems that might emerge from our culture’s detritus if we fail to change course,” Chalew adds.
Chalew’s past works include a hybrid nomadic solar cart that generates solar power to sustain plant life, an ink drawing made with recycled materials that shed light on colonial exploitation, and an indoor garden installation. Her work is collected by the City of New Orleans and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Cornejo’s sculptural practice focuses on hybridity and the composite nature of human existence as it coexists with animals, inanimate objects, and waste.