Dance, Creative Writing Faculty Members Receive Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards

March 14, 2022

Amanda Nagy

The reflecting pool outside of Warner Concert Hall.
Warner Concert Hall.
Photo credit: Yevhen Gulenko

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Chanda Feldman, Assistant Professor of Dance Holly Handman-Lopez, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Dance Talise Campbell are among 75 Ohio artists who each received $5,000 in grant funding from the Ohio Arts Council’s Individual Excellence Awards program in February.

Individual Excellence Awards are peer recognition of an artist’s body of work that exemplifies their specific discipline and advances the larger artistic community. These awards support artists' growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond.

During the fiscal year 2022 funding cycle, applications were accepted in the disciplines of choreography, criticism, fiction, music composition, nonfiction, playwriting, and poetry.

Individual Excellence Award funding is awarded through an anonymous, open panel review process focused on the basis of exceptional merit of an artist’s past body of work.

This is the first Ohio Arts Council award for Feldman, who was also selected for an artist residency at Loghaven Artist Residency this year. She is working on a full-length poetry collection.

“One of the genres I’m using in the book is ekphrasis—that is, writing that describes and engages works of art. In my case, that means poems that respond to visual art. I’m particularly focused on work by Black visual artists and photographers,” Feldman says. “I plan to use the grant for extended visits to collections and museums. There are so many wonderful treasures close by such as the Taft Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Paul Laurence Dunbar House, and the Cleveland Museum of Art.”

Feldman says she is grateful for the tangible support that makes it possible to take time away from other obligations to follow creative hunches and ideas. “It’s also gratifying to know that fellow artists are excited by my participation in the literary conversation.” 

Handman-Lopez was awarded her second Individual Excellence prize for work that was created and performed by Oberlin students early in the pandemic. 

“When everything closed down in 2020, I thought, ‘I’ll sit it out. I’ll wait until we can partner and tangle and breathe on each other.’ But then I thought of my students, not wanting them to lose an entire year of creating and performing,” she says. When an opportunity came along to teach a class on site-specific dance, it seemed like the perfect solution. In the Space Between Walking and Running is a site-specific piece set along Plum Creek in Oberlin, created in collaboration with Chanda Feldman and the dance and poetry students in the StudiOC cluster, Fieldwork: The Art of Place Through Poetry and Dance.

“We were exploring our relationship to water, the land, and historical events that have taken place at these sites. We chose the two parks because the monuments and memorials helped situate our history within a larger national historical context, and because of the creek that runs through them. The waterway called us with its peaceful flow and reminded us of the environmental crises we confront. This collaborative work of dancers, poets, and musicians acknowledges difficult history while highlighting hope for the future.”

She also collaborated with Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts Tom Lopez to add a dance component to a new composition for a film. 

“Tempus Ouroboros was created for an orchestra forced to rehearse in very unusual ways, in a variety of spaces so they could remain physically distant,” she explains. “This film was streamed, as live performances were still not possible. The piece plays with time, overlapping realities, retrogrades, and the splintering of paths, which presented some delightful challenges for me as the choreographer.”

The site-specific work was also made possible with support from a grant for StudiOC learning communities from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“That season, which I imagined would be so quiet, became a whirlwind of explorations and a time of shattering perceived limitations,” Handman-Lopez says. “Letting go of trying to control everything was eye-opening. I’m so grateful to have made this work, and to be honored for it is deeply heartening.”

Campbell was awarded for choreography work titled Mendiani (My sweet young child), stemming from the Malinke people of Guinea and Mali West Africa. The folkloric work is about a girl’s rite of passage. It was produced and presented at Playhouse Squares's Ohio Theater for Djapo Cultural Arts Institute's 9th annual Juneteenth Concert. 

Campbell is the executive founding artistic director and choreographer of Djapo Cultural Arts Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, where her mission is to preserve traditional music, art, dance, and history through her international travel and community engagement programs. She creates multi-disciplinary and socially engaging dance for theater, screen, stage and the public space. Her work is continuously focused around research, musicality, authenticity and the African-American experience. She comes from a family of artisans—including her great grandmother, acclaimed actress Minnie Gentry; and her cousin, actor and producer Terrence Howard.

At Oberlin, Campbell teaches courses in West African dance, folkloric foundations, dances of the diaspora, choreography in cultural traditions, and social justice in dance. This is her first Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. 

“This award also allows me to keep bringing folkloric works to the forefront while having financial support for further research,” she says.

Chanda Feldman

Chanda Feldman

  • Associate Professor of Creative Writing
View Chanda Feldman's biography
Woman leaning against dark wall wearing a dark blouse.

Holly Handman-Lopez

  • Assistant Professor of Dance
View Holly Handman-Lopez's biography

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