Division of the Arts Announces 2021 Creative Arts Award Recipients

Three-dimensional rendering of a shelving concept against a navy blue background
Unique iterative shelving concept for the Kohler Art Library by Anders Nienstaedt, recipient of a Graduate Student Creative Arts Award

A two-year long photographic essay project by Darcy Padilla (Art Department) examining the profound economic and social disparities experienced by Americans caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. A contemporary art exhibition by Roberto Torres Mata (Art Department) at the Chazen Museum of Art spotlighting the complex issues of migration from both human and animal perspectives. A premiere of a new choral work by Lawren Brianna Ware (Mead Witter School of Music) on the life and death of Elijah McClain (1996-2019), who fell victim to police brutality. The creation of a functional shelving system by Anders Nienstaedt (Art Department) to showcase curated library collections, while serving as beautiful and interactive public art in the Kohler Art Library.

These are just some of the people and their projects who were recently awarded funding through the University of Wisconsin–Madison Creative Arts Awards.

Each year, the Division of the Arts provides significant research support to faculty, staff, and students in the arts. Seven awards are available including one offered bi-annually. The 2021 Creative Arts Awards selection committee was comprised of Susan Zaeske (chair), Division of the Arts; Jennifer Angus, Design Studies; Anna Campbell, Gender and Women’s Studies; Anthony Di Sanza, Mead Witter School of Music; David Furumoto, Theatre and Drama; Florence Hsia, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE); and Leslie Smith III, Art Department.

The grants are divided into three categories: Faculty Arts Research, Staff and Faculty Arts Outreach, and Student Arts Research and Achievement.

“While the pandemic and national reckoning stress our health, economy, and wellbeing, the human drive to engage in creative expression perseveres. This was clearly demonstrated by the high caliber submissions to the 2021 Creative Arts Awards competition,” stated Susan Zaeske, Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities, College of Letters & Science and Interim Director of the Division of the Arts. “Each honoree demonstrated in a unique way the power of the arts to respond to these unprecedented times through song, film, dance, theater, architecture, photography, and other forms of art. We are honored to recognize and support each of the honorees within their specific discipline and look forward to their on-going contributions to artistic knowledge, excellence, and research at UW­–Madison and the world. While we regret that this year we are unable to celebrate the recipients in person, we encourage faculty, staff, students, and the community to join us in a virtual award ceremony on May 4, 2021.”

For Ava Shadmani, a Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) student in violin performance, the award will “support my research project, ‘Unheard Voices of Iran,’ to foster, through music, an understanding of two cultures seemingly impossibly divided, East to West, Ancient to Modern.” She will use the David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Graduate Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts to record five new folk-inspired compositions by Iranian composers and present them to new audiences.

While some awards support future projects, others are given based on an individual’s contributions to their field. Jen Plants, for example, a faculty associate in the English Department, received a Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts for her work in theater and performance as a means to address social, racial and economic injustice. “Plants is a prolific and powerful force in the study and practice of performance as a means for social awareness and change at UW. Her commitment to racial and economic equity is present throughout her work—in the topics it covers and the audiences it reaches,” notes her nominee, Michael Peterson, Professor of Art and Director of Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies.

While the pandemic has rendered it impossible to gather in person to attend artistic performances, the Edna Wiechers Arts in Wisconsin Award recipient Aaron Granat (videographer, cinematographer, and instructor in the Department of Communication Arts) will use his award to catalyze his vision to build a virtual platform from which artists may share their work to appreciators around the state. Leveraging the capacity of an online platform to share content limitlessly, Aaron plans to stream a regular series of multi-media virtual performances in music, dance, video arts, architecture, sculpture, and other mediums to the community that has lost the traditional opportunity to experience the arts.

With support from the Anonymous Fund, the Division of the Arts established a new Graduate Student Creative Arts Award. For graduate students whose public productions, exhibits, or performances were halted due to COVID-19, the award is particularly timely. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of our performance opportunities that would normally fund our recordings have been canceled. This Graduate Students Creative Arts Award will allow us the opportunity to record and release this music and to allow Golpe Tierra to grow professionally and deliver our message of social change,” says award recipient Nick Moran who is pursuing his graduate degree in Double Bass Performance.

Lithograph with yellow, light pink, and green hues and images of an arid landscape, a pair of eyes, and a bird
“Bird Migration/Migracion de Aves” by Roberto Torres Mata, MFA student and recipient of a Graduate Student Award in the Creative Arts

“The Graduate Student Creative Arts Award is a vehicle to propel my graduate work further in practice and in future endeavors. I will be able to maximize the investment in my practice and accomplish my goals beyond the project needs that will lead to greater impacts in the community,” says Roberto Torres Mata, whose exhibition about migration, In the Routes We Take, is slated for display at the Chazen Museum of Art in summer 2021.

Quanda Johnson, a PhD candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, was also one of the six recipients of the Graduate Student Creative Arts Award. She stated that she is excited to “lift scholarship and give voice to an area of research in the field of Interdisciplinary Performance that is often unconsidered and underserved.” On how the impact of the award will benefit her career, she expressed that the award will “have broad impacts with Interdisciplinary Performance as the vehicle on activism and social justice.” In Trauerspiel: Subject into Nonbeing, Johnson will explore four performative vignettes on the violence against Black bodies, psyches, and the resulting generational trauma using projection art, spoken word, dance, visual art, and poetic reading.

The awardees will be honored during a virtual reception on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.

Below is the full list of 2021 Creative Arts Award recipients. View full recipient bios online.

Creative Arts Award

  • Darcy Padilla, Associate Professor, Art Department

Emily Mead Baldwin Award in the Creative Arts

  • Daniel Grabois, Associate Professor of Horn, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Mark Hetzler, Professor of Trombone, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Michael Peterson, Professor, Art Department; Director, Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies

Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts

  • Jen Plants, Faculty Associate, English Department
  • Ben Reiser, Wisconsin Film Festival Director of Operations, Department of Communication Arts

Edna Wiechers Arts in Wisconsin Award

  • Aaron Granat, Associate Lecturer, Department of Communication Arts

David and Edith Sinaiko Frank Graduate Fellowship for a Woman in the Arts

  • Ava Shadmani, Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) candidate, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Lawren Brianna Ware, DMA student, Mead Witter School of Music

Lyman S.V. Judson and Ellen Mackechnie Judson Student Award in the Creative Arts

  • Sarah Brailey, DMA candidate, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Timothy Yip, DMA candidate, Mead Witter School of Music    

Graduate Student Creative Arts Awards

  • Quanda Johnson, Ph.D. candidate, Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies
  • Nick Moran, Master of Music (MM) student, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Anders Nienstaedt, Master of Fine Arts (MFA) candidate, Art Department
  • Chris Rottmayer, DMA candidate, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Midori Samson, DMA candidate, Mead Witter School of Music
  • Roberto Torres Mata, MFA candidate, Art Department