Big Warm Hugs: Kresge Foundation Announces Its 2015 Class of Fellows

Last year, we published a post noting that the Kresge Foundation began accepting applications for its artist fellowship on December 1, 2014. Seems just like yesterday, doesn't it? Well, seven months later, the results are in. The foundation announced the winners—18 Detroit-area writers and visual artists who'll each enjoy a no-strings-attached payment of $25,000.

According to Kresge, the awards, which rank among the most lucrative in the country for individual artists, "reward artistic excellence, nurture Detroit's creative class and raise public awareness of the depth and breadth of artistic talent in Detroit." Since 2009, Kresge has awarded $3.5 million to 126 fellows and seven Eminent Artists living in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

We also published a related post titled "What Is Kresge Looking For In Future Artist Fellows?" By combing through material on Kresge's website and analyzing previous winners, we came to a very uncomplicated conclusion. All art is contextual, and Kresge was—and is—looking for artists who convey a sense of renewal and regeneration in the wake of Detroit's financial woes.

This sentiment was echoed by Rip Rapson, president of the foundation, who notes, "Artists challenge us. They move us to reflect on all dimensions of community life. They inspire us. As we look to a future beyond the city’s bankruptcy, artists provide an indispensable wellspring of insight and creativity from which our community can draw inspiration and hope."

And so we turn to this new batch of 18 winners. This year's class was selected from more than 650 applications by independent panels of experts comprised of national and local artists. This year's focus on literary and visual artists comes after last year's class of fellows working in film, theater, music and dance.

Artists range in age from their early 30s to over 70, and include relative newcomers like sculptor Tiff Massey and freestyle poet Billy Mark to veterans like painter Nancy Mitchnick and poet George Tysh, who published his first book 50 years ago. Tysh's new collection, The Slip, will be published later this year.

Tysh acts as a perfect Kresge Fellow archetype. He's been a part of the arts scene for half a century. As a teacher at Detroit College for Creative Studies, he works with the community. And his work pushes the envelope and explores nonnarrative forms—precisely the kind of stuff Kresge loves to support.

But the spirit of the Kresge Fellowship and its inextricable link to Detroit is best summed up by Tysh himself. He's most gratified not only by Kresge's willingness to embrace experimental forms of art, but also the way in which the foundation symbolizes—to quote the Detroit Free Press article—the "warm hug of community."

So we'd like to suggest a catchy tagline to the Troy, Michigan-based foundation. "The Kresge Foundation: Handing out $3.5 million in big warm hugs to 126 fellows since 2009."