40 Years of Fellowships

In 1975, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts awarded its first group of Artist Fellowships. Since June 2015, the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) has been celebrating the 40 year milestone of these publicly funded grants by sharing the stories of some of the incredible artists supported for excellence, during that time. Read a Brief History of the Artist Fellowships.

Forty+ years of public support of artists is something for Massachusetts to be proud of, not only for the impressive list of Artist Fellows funded during those years, but also for what it says about us, as a Commonwealth: we value artists.

Yary Livan, interviewed for 40 Years of Fellowships

On the 40th anniversary of Artist Fellowships in MA, MCC wanted to explore what can happen when a community values artists. The centerpiece of the project are videos featuring some of the incredible artists who have won state fellowships since 1975. Visit MCC’s YouTube Channel to watch all of the videos, including:

  • A lost son, a decades-long journey: Alexandra Anthony‘s doc film Lost in the Bewilderness is the very stuff of Greek myth.
  • Their initial collaboration was “first perfect match of many” for Diane Arvanites & Tommy Neblett, aka Prometheus Dance.
  • A skateboarding accident led painter Sean Greene to confront mortality: “If you’re going to do this, do it now.”
  • Sculptor Niho Kozuru gives her family history in ceramics a fascinating turn, creating dazzling & colorful sculptural forms.
  • For Cambodian master potter National Heritage Fellow Yary Livan, training in ceramics put his life in danger – but it also saved him.
  • “Massachusetts saw a future for me in the Commonwealth.” Huntington Theatre Playwright-in-Residence Melinda Lopez, on the impact of her ’03 state grant.
  • On a crowded bus of refugees in Lebanon, photographer Rania Matar had a realization: “Everyone here has a story.”
  • Lisa Nilsson works slowly using an ancient paper-rolling technique to create hyper-detailed works. But when her art went viral online, her career made a swift change.
  • In 1990, Carl Phillips was Falmouth Latin teacher, writing on the side. Winning a state fellowship “pretty much changed everything.”
  • Lewis Spratlan won a state fellowship in 1975, the grant’s 1st year, and began composing an opera that would eventually win a Pulitzer Prize. Life is a dream sometimes, indeed…

If you are a past awardee and would like to share your story with the MCC, or if you have any questions or comments about 40 Years of Fellowships, please contact us. Yay, artists!


Why fund artists? See why in this gallery featuring the work and personal stories of some of the artists Massachusetts has supported since 1975.

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