Three Oberlin faculty members receive Ohio Arts Council Excellence Awards
Alysia Ramos, assistant professor of dance; Alice Blumenfeld, visiting assistant professor of dance; and Robin Schaer, visiting assistant professor of creative writing, have each received $5,000 grants to help them continue to hone their crafts.
Ramos, Blumenfeld, and Schaer are among a total of 75 Individual Excellence Award-winning artists from across Ohio. The program recognizes individuals for a recent body of work that exemplifies their discipline, demonstrates creativity, and advances the artistic community at large. Applicants submit their work anonymously, and winners are chosen after an open-panel review process.
Ramos, a contemporary choreographer with a focus in hybrid and transnational styles rooted in movements from the African diaspora, was awarded for two collaborative projects. The first, “Forgone Territory,” was produced at the Cleveland Public Theatre and the result of collaboration with Oberlin students through the Oberlin Dance Project. The piece examines technology and its effects on personal lives, and experiments with immersive theater. The second work, a duet performed at Ohio Dance, was in collaboration with an artist from Ghana.
For Ramos, winning the Individual Excellence Award validated her professional work in the greater Cleveland area. “It was really exciting because I still feel new to working in the Ohio professional scene,” she said. Ramos’ next project is the Oberlin Dance Company spring show in the Irene and Alan Wurtzel Theater, and will explore immersive and sight-specific performance.
Blumenfeld specializes in flamenco and contemporary dance and was recognized for two recent bodies of work. One is an evening-length work for her company, Abrepaso Flamenco, that premiered in 2018 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Inspired by the major works of conservationist Rachel Carson, the piece plays with the translation of visual imagery into movement and music. Her second piece, “Labyrinths,” is inspired by a Jorge Luis Borges story that uses space and the body as a canvas for metaphors. For Blumenfeld, this work “captures the experience of coming to Flamenco as an American.”
Blumenfeld seeks inspiration for flamenco choreography from a variety of mediums, including poetry, photographs, and texts. “I love the process of drawing from all these different sources and seeing where it takes me and the new movement that’s developed,” she said, adding that “the award is not about me, but for flamenco.”
Schaer, who received the award in the poetry category, received recognition for a work sample of poems that all deal with the relationship between humans and the natural world. Her work explores this relationship in ways both big and small, as exemplified in her recent poems “Holdfast” and “The Long Now,” which were both featured on the work sample.
“I’m interested in climate change and the othering of people and nature, so those sorts of questions end up propelling the work,” said Schaer, who is currently working on a long poem about the color blue, and plans to explore various locations around the world in the piece.
For Schaer, winning the award held a deeper meaning. She plans to use the grant for research this summer, but also cited the importance of a state-funded grant specifically, where tax dollars support the arts in local communities. “That’s a mission that I support so deeply,” Schaer said. “The arts enrich all our lives so tremendously.”