Open Society Foundations Announce 2019 Soros Arts Fellows

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced the 2019 cohort of the Soros Arts Fellowship, including 11 artists, curators, researchers, and filmmakers working at the intersection of migration, public space, and the arts. From the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Lebanon, Morocco, the United States, Zimbabwe, and their respective diasporas, the individuals and collaboratives selected each receive an $80,000 stipend to realize an ambitious project over the next 18 months.

“We are proud to support visionary artists and cultural producers exploring the aesthetic and political realities of migration from personal, familial, historical, and conceptual perspectives,” said Rashida Bumbray, senior program manager of Open Society’s Arts Exchange. “Across the globe, the political environment is increasingly characterized by polarizing and reductive notions about people who migrate. That’s why this work to broaden understandings of migration, share self-determined narratives, stimulate critical discourse, and create momentum for change is so urgent.”

Working in diverse artistic forms and global contexts, the fellows will pursue projects of their own design, including a theatrical version of the film The Infiltratorsto raise awareness around for-profit detention centers, the politics of deportation, and strategies of resistance developed by undocumented immigrants in the United States; a series of healing workshops, mental health resources, and performance classes for young immigrant communities dealing with traumas of migration; and an installation along Lebanon’s northern border with Syria that will broach essential questions of love, refuge, and survival.  

Now in its second year, the Soros Arts Fellowship builds on the Open Society Foundations and its founder George Soros’s long-term commitment to arts and culture in closing societies. 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 with Ruby Lerner, founder of Creative Capital. This cohort joins 2018’s inaugural group of eight fellows, whose work focuses on diverse issues in the arena of public space. 

The 2019 fellowship selection committee included Lisa Dent, Powerhouse Workshop; Cynthia Eyakuze, consultant; Carmen Hermo; Brooklyn Museum; Jon-Sesrie Goff, The Flaherty; Quito Ziegler, School of Visual Arts; Arts Exchange staff Rashida Bumbray, Tatiana Mouarbes, and Lauren Agosta; and colleagues from the Open Society Foundations.

2019 Soros Arts Fellows

Amanda Abi Khalil (Beirut, Lebanon) will organize a curatorial project on the theme of hospitality and the complex histories of migrations—voluntary and forced—between the Arab world and Brazil.

Firelei Báez (New York, NY, United States) will create a series of paintings, sculptures, and architectural objects engaging with the story of Marie Louise Coidavid, the first Queen of Haiti, and her exile.

Tania El Khoury (Beirut, Lebanon) will create a site-specific interactive installation along Lebanon’s northern border with Syria (Akkar) that explores the militarization of natural borders, relationships across rivers, and the daily practices of border resistance.

Regina José Galindo (Guatemala City, Guatemala) will collaborate with deportees in Guatemala to create platforms that tell their stories, provide mental health resources, and create avenues for social and economic empowerment in the country.

Bouchra Khalili (Berlin, Germany) will work on a video installation that takes as its starting point a forgotten part of the struggle for equal rights for immigrants in France.

Guadalupe Maravilla (New York, NY, United States) will organize a series of healing workshops, mental health resources, and performance classes for young Central American and Latinx immigrants in New York to help heal traumas of migration.

Tinashe Mushakavanhu and Nontsikelelo Mutiti (Harare, Zimbabwe and Richmond, VA, United States) will explore African hair braiding practices as subject and as a metaphor for the braiding together of multiple streams of content through field work, archiving, design, and publishing.  

Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera (Pasadena, CA, United States) will produce and tour a theatrical version of their film The Infiltrators, a documentary thriller that tells the true story of a group of young immigrants who intentionally got themselves detained. 

Kaneza Schaal (Brooklyn, NY, United States) will stage a theatre production in Kigali, Rwanda, centered on stories of internal displacement and organize performance workshops throughout the country for youth living in housing for refugees and internally displaced people.