The Nevada Arts Council recently awarded fellowships to 15 Nevada artists, including four from the Las Vegas Valley: Shana Tucker, Pasha Rafat, Antwan Davis and Matthew Couper.
Six artist fellowships of $5,000 were awarded, two each in literary arts, visual arts and performing arts. Nine fellowship honorable mention awards were given out, each worth $500. There were more than 100 applicants.
“We bring in panelists who are specialists, highly regarded in their field, who come from all over the country,” said Susan Boskoff, executive director of the council. “In the time I’ve been here, 21 years, I don’t think we’ve brought a panelist back here twice. …We’d love to be able to give out many more fellowships, but right now, we are limited by our budget.”
Four of the recipients are Las Vegas residents.
Tucker has been a cellist since 1994 and a Summerlin resident since 2011. She was awarded $5,000. Tucker is in the musical cast of Cirque du Soleil’s “Ka” at the MGM Grand. Her first CD, “Shine,” is original compositions and was released in 2011 as an independent project. It got a favorable response, which prompted an international distributor to opt to re-release it this fall. Meanwhile, she is working on another CD, so far unnamed, which also features her compositions.
“The amount of the grant is one of the more generous,” Tucker said, “so I think they realize it does take a significant amount of investment to continue to work on your art and be focused on that and not be distracted by things. … So, I really appreciate the commitment they’re making.”
Whitney resident Rafat also received $5,000. He has been a UNLV professor for more than 20 years. Born in Tehran, Iran, he is drawn to working with light, especially gaseous tubal light, such as neon. He creates light constructions and said Las Vegas, where sign companies are well-versed in creating neon lights, feeds his inspiration.
“Living here for a long time, that light and atmosphere becomes important,” he said. “I did my school, graduate and undergraduate in photography, so I did a lot of research … with light and atmosphere. So, it was logical to move away from something two dimensional to something three dimensional.”
Rafat’s work has been shown at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, the Ace Gallery in Los Angeles and in Germany, France, Spain, Sweden, Cyprus and Turkey. Some pieces are in permanent collections such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego and the Robert M. MacNamara Foundation.
Northwest resident Davis is a performance artist whose specialty is body percussion. That is, he uses his body as an instrument. His grant was for $500.
Davis is the co-founder of Molodi, a performance company. Molodi blends traditional percussive dance, physical theater, vocal percussion and poetry. He has performed with the “Stomp” North American tour and “Stomp Out Loud” at Planet Hollywood Resort, as well as dance company Step Afrika! He also participated in the 2011 and 2013 International Body Music festivals.
He said his mission is to teach a blend of “Stomp”-style body percussion and collegiate stepping to spark the imagination of his students.
He said the fellowship “is awesome. It allows me to breathe a little more and focus on my craft. It allows me to push forward in my art. … and I can teach more kids, and if somebody can’t afford to take a class, but they really have a drive, a passion for it, I can say, ‘It’s OK. I’ve got you.’ ”
Sunrise resident Couper, originally from New Zealand, has lived in Las Vegas since 2010. He was awarded a $500 grant. An exhibiting painter for 15 years, he has an exhibit titled “Horror Vacui” at the Winchester Cultural Center Gallery, 3130 McLeod Drive, that ends July 18. He’s also set to be at the Melbourne Art Fair/Paulnache in Melbourne, Australia, Aug. 13-17.
He prefers working in oil and incorporates aspects of Western art history, including Trecento, Quattrocento and the Baroque. He calls them “painterly investigations.” What intrigues him about art?
“The sheer vastness of art history and the multiplicity of ways things can be seen in art,” Couper said. “… It’s the vastness of what you can say (with art) that really affects me.”
Couper said Las Vegas was a great city in which to be an artist because one can feed off the “visual literacy” the city affords.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.