Meet the 2017 NC Arts Council’s Artist Fellowship Recipients

Nineteen artists living and working in North Carolina are recipients of the 2017 – 2018 North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship Award in the categories of literature, musical composition and songwriting.

Artists receive a $10,000 fellowship to support creative development and the creation of new work. Recipients were selected by panels comprised of artists and arts professionals with expertise in each discipline.

This recognition to artists in our state is one of the ways the N.C. Arts Council supports diverse and innovative arts as a way to enhance the state’s brand and drive economic impact. The Artist Fellowship Program operates on a two-year rotating cycle by discipline. Visual, film, video and craft artists, along with choreographers, will be eligible to apply for the next deadline of Wednesday, Nov. 1.


Below is an alphabetical listing of profiles of the Artist Fellowship recipients:

Bryn Chancellor, Charlotte

“Among my abiding interests as a reader and a writer are stories about characters who tend to go unnoticed, both in the world and in literature: those who live in marginal places, who are overworked, whose daily lives are, on the surface, ordinary” says writer Bryn Chancellor. “Those are the voices I am most interested in putting on the page.” Her books include When Are You Coming Home?: Stories, which won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and Sycamore: A Novel, which received a pick of the week designation from Publisher’s Weekly. She received a 2015 Jentel Artist Residency, Banner, Wyoming; a 2014–15 Literary Arts Fellowship, Alabama State Council on the Arts; a 2004 David R. Sokolov Scholarship, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; and a 2004 Tennessee Williams Scholarship, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, among others.

Wes Collins, Chapel Hill

“The songwriting process fascinates me, messy as it can be,” said Wes Collins of Chapel Hill. “Songwriting and performing also puts me in the same room (or tent) with songwriters who move me.” Collins takes his listeners on journeys through landscapes of the everyday, marked by images that tell us to look more closely, to pay attention to the details that transform the ordinary into something memorable. His skill with the guitar makes the most of his imaginative arrangements and nuanced control of cadence and phrasing, underscoring the subtlety and bite of his lyrics. Calling his music “guitar-driven folk-pop with teeth,” he credits many other singer/songwriters in his musical tent as inspiration, including Neil Finn, Gillian Welch, Bruce Cockburn, and Patty Griffin. That said  Collins is well on his way to establishing his own voice as one we should value.

Elisabeth Lewis Corley, Pittsboro

“Like most poets, poetry for me remains a practice,” says writer Elisabeth Lewis Corley. “I work in more than one form, but it is poetry that is in some ways the most elemental and the most demanding. Work that emerges through that practice comes from the most central concerns, often arising from the unconscious. Without that element, I don’t trust it.” Corley’s work has appeared in Cold Mountain Review, New Haven Review,, BigCity Lit, Feminist Studies, Southern Poetry Review, and Carolina Quarterly. A great deal of her work in recent years has come out of wrestling with war, specifically her father’s experiences in Vietnam and the experiences of her family around his military service.

Mark Cox, Wilmington

“Poetry, for me—art, generally—is a reckoning with time,” says poet Mark Cox. “An understanding of the self within time and perhaps, ultimately, some reconciliation with it.” Cox’s volumes of poetry include Smoulder, Thirty-Seven Years from the Stone, Natural Causes, and Sorrow Bread: Poems 1984-2015. Readiness, a new book of prose poems, is slated for release in 2018. Cox has a 30-year publication history in prominent magazines, and has received a Whiting Writers Award and a Pushcart Prize, among others. “It goes without saying that rhythm, syntax and sound should be inseparable from meaning,” he says. “One seeks that elusive treasure—the poem that exists as a beautifully made object, but which seen, and heard, from the right angle becomes transparent—an emotional and psychological experience transcending its construction.”

Angela Davis-Gardner, Raleigh

“My subject is past trauma–either in a character's childhood or in an historical event (the bombing of Hiroshima)–and its crippling effect on the present,” says author Angela Davis-Gardner. “My aim is to portray characters' emotions in the most accurate words possible.” Her two most recent novels, Butterfly’s Child and Plum Wine, had their inception in her life-long interest in Japanese culture and Japanese-American relations. Her other novels include Forms of Shelter, which won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and Felice. In 1982, Davis-Gardner received the first fellowship award granted to a writer of fiction by the N.C. Arts Council; this marks her second award.

Marc Faris, Weaverville

“For the entirety of my professional career, I’ve been concerned with writing music that is in dialogue with a number of social and aesthetic communities,” says Weaverville composer Marc Faris, “and with contemporary composition as a crucial agent of change in the lives of all people.” His musical journey has extended these conversations in as many directions as possible, mapping out new territories to explore both for his performers and his listeners. Though his training is grounded in the Euro-American canon, Faris has drawn his inspiration from an eclectic variety of sources, from underground rock and experimental forms to regional musical traditions. Now based in Weaverville, he is drawn to the music of the mountains, including ballad-singing, fiddle tunes, and folk dance compositions, which, as he says, “embody the history, sensibility, and ‘placeness’ of … rural and mountain areas.” This is his third N.C. Arts Council fellowship.

Patrice Gopo, Charlotte

“We live in a time when many in society seek to confront issues of racial injustice and acknowledge the presence of global hierarchies,” says writer Patrice Gopo. “Writing personal essays becomes a way for me to engage in these discussions and consider the way movement, migration, and injustice impact identity formation.” A black Jamaican American who grew up in a predominantly white environment, Gopo gathers reflections and images from her life, and looks for intersection points of the personal with the larger culture in which she exists. Her essays have appeared in a number of publications, including online in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Lindsey Ryan Horne, Charlotte

Charlotte’s Lindsey Horne picked the right vocation. “I’ve written songs for as long as I can remember,” she says. Whether writing her own songs, or composing work for an educational or commercial client, she draws on a stream of melody running through her mind, working and reworking the lyrics until she gets it right. Her own work often takes the form of piano-driven ballads. “I pay very close attention to crafting lyrics, usually simultaneously reflecting solitude in nature, and matters of the heart,” Horne says. The songs are often spare, shaped by a vocal melody backed by limited instrumentation, creating space where the lyrics can play. While some of these choices are borne of necessity, she has made a virtue out of scarcity with songs that are both haunting and memorable. 

Allison Hutchcraft, Charlotte

“My work looks outward to the natural world, particularly to animals and the expansive spaces of meadows and oceans, as well as inward to the landscape of the mind,” says poet Allison Hutchcraft. “Anchoring my poems is a desire to see beyond surfaces—to encounter the thing itself, as well as its creative possibilities.” Hutchcraft’s poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, The Cincinnati Review, Barrow Street, the Beloit Poetry Journal, American Letters & Commentary, West Branch, and other journals. She has been awarded scholarships from the Tin House Writers Workshop, Key West Literary Seminar, and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and received a 2016 Regional Artist Project Grant from the Arts & Science Council for the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Alison Mauldin, Charlotte

“Since childhood, I've been drawn to creative pursuits,” says screenwriter Alison Mauldin, “but writing stories is the one constant in my life.” Mauldin has been a writer and producer of short films and promotional videos for organizations including Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, and has also performed the roles of make-up artist and costume designer for films and plays. She spent several years as a teaching artist for StageWorks Theatre/Creative Kids in Charlotte, but it was only recently that she decided to get serious about screenwriting. She was a fellow at the 2016 Sundance Screenwriting Intensive in Charlotte for her screenplay, Youthless, and made it to the second round of the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition for Missy that same year.

Barry Gray, Burlington

“My music is deeply personal, sometimes too much so,” says Burlington songwriter Barry Gray. “It’s the only way I know how to write.” He takes his material from the events of his own life, recasting sometimes painful passages into melody and words that help him sort through his feelings. “Life hands me a moment, a struggle, or something that makes me take notice, and I try to capture it in a song, and I hope to do it well enough to connect with folks.” Like many musicians, Gray has paid the bills with a day job in another field, earning money as an upholsterer. Since 1995, he has played with the acoustic rock band Graymatter, and often contributed to other artists’ work as a vocalist or arranger. “My biggest love in music is the harmony,” he says. “I hear most of the beauty in the harmonies, in voices coming together to carry, support, and shape the emotions of the song. That’s where I live.”

Rebecca Gummere, Sugar Grove

Rebecca Gummere calls herself  a “professional wonderer” to describe her calling as a writer of creative nonfiction. “When I was 12, I discovered the short stories of Ray Bradbury and the sonnets of William Shakespeare. It was as if someone had pulled back a veil on a secret world,” she says. “Hundreds of books, authors, and decades later, I still feel that sense of astonishment at the beauty and power of language to illuminate the human story with all its big questions and small sacred events.” Gummere’s essay, “Cooper's Heart,” on dealing with the loss of her infant son, was published in O, The Oprah Magazine, and will be included in the forthcoming anthology, O’s Little Guide to the Big Questions, to be published January, 2018. Her stories, “The Transit of Venus” and “The Departure,” were each nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Travis Mulhauser, Durham

“My fiction tends to center on startling events in small towns where poverty, addiction and isolation are at the root of most conflicts,” says writer Travis Mulhauser. After writing Greetings from Cutler County: a novella and stories, his novel, Sweetgirl was named an Indie Next Pick, was one of Ploughshares Best Books of the New Year, was longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Award, and was #2 on Harper’s List of Best Debuts of Spring. It has since been published/translated in the UK, France, Netherlands, Germany, and Brazil. Mulhauser names Ron Rash, Lewis Nordan, Michael Parker, and Kaye Gibbons as his biggest influences. “I write,” he says, “simply because I feel the day has been wasted if I do not!”

Trace Ramsey, Durham

“I am drawn to experimental and lyrical memoirists such as Eula Biss and Maggie Nelson,” says writer Trace Ramsey. “But unlike them, I do not have a background in writing, so my style is unorthodox.” Ramsey says he writes in “lightly-tethered vignettes” that both stand alone and flow with a larger body of work. “The vignettes come from all periods in my life and appear in any order that makes sense to me,” he explains. “For example, I break the linear structure and reassemble the stories of my life to make my grandparents, parents, and children into intergenerational peers.” He has written two books, Good Luck Not Dying, and All I Want to Do is Live: A Collection of Creative Nonfiction, which earned the 2016 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize from the North Carolina Literary Review. He received the 2015 Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant in Literature from the Durham Arts Council.

Chris Rosser, Asheville

A student of renowned Hindustani musician Ali Akbar Khan, Asheville-based composer Chris Rosser has always been interested in the intersections where different musical traditions meet. As part of the trio Free Planet Radio, he and his fellow instrumentalists embraced “a shared vision … exploring the infinite and seamless relationships between musical cultures through the universal language of sound,” a goal that has taken them around the world in search of new sonic possibilities. In addition to performing and composing, he has produced and engineered over 150 CD projects for other artists in his Hollow Reed Arts studio as well as composing music for national commercial spots and TV shows, such as Animal Planet, TLC, Oprah Winfrey Network, PBS, and others. This is the second time he has been awarded an N.C. Arts Council fellowship.

Eric Smith, Carrboro

“My favorite poems are poems of permission—the poems that say “yes” to a new order of thinking, that affirm alternative ways of constructing or reflecting a world, that spark in me some sense that I am seeing what I’ve always known in an entirely new way,” says poet Eric Smith. His work has been published in the Indiana Review, The New Criterion, Southwest Review, and the Best New Poets 2010 anthology. He has received scholarships from Convivio and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and is a founding editor of the text-message poetry journal cellpoems. “I feel that my work is at a number of thresholds,” Smith says, “between experiments in both formal and free verse, between the comic tone of my earlier work and the more serious (but still playful) components of the newer work, between my family’s origins in rural Georgia and my own present removed from that place and its history.”

Julie Steinbacher, Raleigh

“Much of my work centers on relationships and identity—finding the self, losing the self, and accepting the self, peripheral to one’s romantic or familial ties,” says writer Julie Steinbacher. “Relationships are one of the most human topics, regardless of whether they involve people, post-human characters like androids or cyborgs, artificial intelligences, or non-human characters.” Steinbacher’s “The Pokémon Game” was a finalist for the 2016 James Hurst Prize for fiction. “Collectors” was a finalist in Beecher’s Magazine’s fiction contest, and “Chimeras” (originally published in Escape Pod, February 21, 2015) was recognized as a Notable Story in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016. “What does being in the body mean, and what could it mean in a future where bodies may be constructed, or may become obsolete?” Steinbacher asks. “How do we live as our fullest, truest selves when those identities may cost us our livelihood or even our lives?”

Lee Weisert, Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill composer Lee Weisert thinks expansively about the potential of sound and the concept of music itself. Through his sound installations, he re-imagines the traditional spatial limitations imposed by our usual consumption of musical presentation, whether in concert halls or the virtual cocoons of headphones, and breaks open the experience on a geographic scale. Weisert has created four sound installations since 2008 as part of the Portable Acoustic Modification Laboratory, a collaboration he formed with fellow composer Jonathon Kirk. But as technologically sophisticated as his environments are, he often draws on natural phenomena, like a flock of birds, for his inspiration, creating sonic experiences that swarm the senses and reveal the hidden musical structures and sources latent in the world around us.

Julie Zografos, Statesville

“I’m interested in voice and muteness; in the ways we process loss,” says screenwriter Julie Zografos. “I think as kids, we’ve all experienced the ground falling away suddenly. We’ve all felt that tiny flame inside us gutter, try to stay lit, while the world crashes around us.” Zografos’ feature length screenplay, Dark Quarry, is adapted from her poetry and tells the story of a defiant mute girl, and a boy, haunted by guilt after his brother’s death, struggling with loss, violence, and redemption in a North Carolina tobacco town in 1963. She received the Henry Hoyns Fellowship in poetry writing from the University of Virginia, where she studied and taught under U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. She’s also a Sundance Screenwriters Intensive Fellow, and received a B.F.A. in filmmaking from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. As an undergraduate, she wrote and directed What Remains, which received a Directors Guild of America Jury Award, and went on to be a finalist for the Student Academy Awards®.