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Open Society Foundations Announce 2020 Soros Arts Fellows

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced the 2020 cohort of the Soros Arts Fellowship, including 10 artists, curators, cultural organizers, and researchers working at the intersection of migration, public space, and the arts. From Brazil, Botswana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Palestine, St. Croix, Syria, Tlingít Aaní, the United States, and their respective diasporas, the fellows selected each receive an $80,000 stipend to realize an ambitious project over the next 18 months.

“We are honored to support this extraordinary group of artists and cultural producers, whose work explores the realities of migration, diaspora, and indigeneity from a range of perspectives,” said Rashida Bumbray, director of the Open Society Culture and Art program. “The COVID-19 pandemic and the current global reckoning with systemic injustice magnifies inequities in our societies that marginalized communities have faced for generations. That’s why the work of our fellows is so urgent, as they work on the frontlines of culture to advance self-determined narratives and inspire collective change.”

Now in its third year, the Soros Arts Fellowship builds on the Culture and Art program’s focus on the aesthetic, political, and capacity needs of arts leaders, individual artists, and cultural activists. Beyond supporting specific projects, the fellowship advances the broader practice of socially engaged artists and cultural producers through opportunities for personalized professional development and mentorship.

Working in diverse forms and global contexts, fellows will pursue projects of their own design. These include: collaboration between performing artists and social activists to document an alternative history of Syrian migration; sustainable sculptures in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, an area of historic Maroon resistance now threatened by environmentally destructive policies; and performances exploring connections in Brazil between colonization, slavery, and the sugar cane trade and today’s struggles for racial justice.

The 2020 fellowship selection committee included Aïcha Diallo, researcher and cultural producer; Carmen Hermo, Brooklyn Museum; Leslie Hewitt, The Cooper Union; Carin Kuoni, Vera List Center for Art and Politics; Bertan Selim, Prince Claus Fund; Culture and Art staff Rashida Bumbray, Tatiana Mouarbes, Lauren Agosta, Yukiko Yamagata, and Veronika Châtelain; and colleagues from the Open Society Foundations and other philanthropies.

2020 Soros Arts Fellows

Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (Brooklyn, New York, United States / Ramallah, Palestine) will examine how people bear witness to and narrate experiences of violence, loss, displacement, and forced migration through song and dance.

Abdullah Alkafri (Beirut, Lebanon) will work with artists and social actors to amplify unheard Syrian stories and champion new narratives about migration and the creativity of Syrians in exodus.

Deborah Anzinger (Kingston, Jamaica) will create community sculptures where personal histories, cultivation, and ecological records are shared within Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, a site of historic resistance and fugitivity.

Nicholas Galanin (Sitka, Alaska, United States) will explore the relationship between migration and land from an Indigenous perspective, while considering the environmental, social, and political consequences of climate change and its effect on human/non-human migration.

Rachèle Magloire (Ouest, Haiti) will organize Haitian and Dominican artists in exploring the border area, cultural commonalities between the two nations, and the shared—yet often competing—visions for the island held by its inhabitants.

Paloma McGregor (New York, New York/St. Croix, United States) will develop a series of public performances, interventions, and engagements in spaces deemed “abandoned,” or in danger of cultural erasure, in Christiansted, St. Croix.

Meleko Mokgosi (New York, New York, United States) will create a series of artworks and a digital archive that engage histories of Pan-Africanism in popular southern African photo novels and advocate for a reconceptualization of Black consciousness, as a necessary instrument to fight institutionalized racism and build trans-continental alliances.

Olu Oguibe (Vernon, Connecticut, United States) will address themes of flight and refuge, and recognize activists, sanctuary communities, public officials, and citizens for their hospitality towards strangers and refugees.

Tiago Sant’Ana (Salvador-Bahia, Brazil) will explore the sugar cane trade and its intersection with forced migration and colonial violence in Brazil, drawing links between historical sugar production and inequalities today.

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