Burnsville ballad singer Bobby McMillon receives prestigious arts fellowship

Press release from South Arts:

South Arts, the nonprofit regional arts service organization advancing Southern vitality through the arts, announces the recipients of two fellowship programs. Nine visual artists (one per state from AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, and TN) will each receive a $5,000 State Fellowship; additionally, they are now in competition for the $25,000 Southern Prize with a residency at The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences as well as the $10,000 Southern Prize Finalist awards. Another nine traditional artists and culture-bearers from Central Appalachian counties in KY, NC, and TN will each receive $9,000 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowships to continue their lifelong learning and practice.

The 2020 State Fellowship recipients are:

-Carlton Nell. Drawing. Opelika, Alabama.
-Alba Triana. Experimental. Miami, Florida.
-Fahamu Pecou. Painting. Decatur, Georgia.
-Letitia Quesenberry. Multidisciplinary. Louisville, Kentucky.
-Karen Ocker. Painting. New Orleans, Louisiana.
-Ashleigh Coleman. Photography. Jackson, Mississippi.
-Sherrill Roland. Multidisciplinary. Morrisville, North Carolina.
-Kristi Ryba. Painting. Charleston, South Carolina.
-Bill Steber. Photography. Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The 2020 Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship recipients are:

-Roger Cooper. Old-time music. Garrison, Kentucky.
-Charlene Long. Willow & honeysuckle basket making. Upton, Kentucky.
-Octavia Sexton. Storytelling. Orlando, Kentucky.
-Janet Calhoun. Pottery. Lenoir, North Carolina.
-Susan Leveille. Handweaving. Webster, North Carolina.
-Bobby McMillon. Ballad singing. Burnsville, North Carolina.
-Meredith Goins. Violin luthiery. Dunlap, Tennessee.
-Jordan Hughett. Ballad singing. Winfield, Tennessee.
-Mark Newberry. Chair-making. Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee.

“South Arts is immensely proud to support every one of these artists, craftspeople, and tradition-bearers,” says Susie Surkamer, executive director of South Arts. “Especially as our country enters the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, artists are among those most vulnerable to losing income. Yet their creativity, work, and stories are what carry us forward and will be integral to rebuilding our communities.”

Applications were open for both fellowship programs in the fall of 2019. The State Fellowships application pool was reviewed by a panel of experts including Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba of the New Orleans Museum of Art, Edward Hayes, Jr. of The McNay Art Museum, independent art historian and consultant David Houston, and Marilyn Zapf of the Center for Craft. The panel made their recommendations based on the artistic excellence of their work and inclusiveness of the diversity of the Southern region. The Folk & Traditional Art Master Artist Fellowship applications were reviewed by a panel including Native American potter and storyteller Beckee Garris, Zoe van Buren of the North Carolina Arts Council, Mark Brown of the Kentucky Arts Council, and Evangeline Mee of the Tennessee Arts Commission. The panel made their recommendations based on the artists’ history and mastery of their respective tradition as well as the proposed lifelong learning opportunity.

The nine State Fellowship recipients will be featured in an exhibition that is scheduled to open at the Bo Bartlett Center at Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in May 2020; due to the current closures of facilities, this date may be postponed. The announcement of which State Fellowship recipients will also be named as the Southern Prize winner and finalist will be announced at a ceremony surrounding the opening of this exhibition.

“I would like to thank each and every one of our donors and sponsors,” continues Surkamer. “Their support and investment in the arts, culture, and tradition of our region is vital even in the best of times, and their ongoing generosity is more important than ever before.”

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