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A national fellowship that supports disabled artists has a new class for 2022

Artist M. Eifler's Masking Machine.
An Xiao Mina
Cultural Counsel
Artist M. Eifler's Masking Machine.

When the Ford Foundation and the Mellon Foundation decided to create the first national fellowship devoted to supporting disabled artists in 2020, they wanted to expand understanding of disability justice, creativity and life. The first class of Disability Futures Fellows included filmmaker Tourmaline and choreographer Alice Sheppard.

Among the grantees this year receiving $50,000 in unrestricted funds include JJJJJerome Ellis, a composer in Norfolk, Va., who spells his name with multiple "J"s as part of his practice, to reflect his stuttering. Alexandria Wailes is an actor, dancer and Tony honoree who works with Deaf West Theatre. The work of poet and visual artist Naomi Ortiz brings together disability justice and climate action in Tucson, Ariz., where she lives.

They're among 20 disabled "creative practitioners" whose work enhances the cultural landscape, according to the Mellon and Ford foundations. The goal is to let artists explore how disability can unlock new forms of poetry, fashion and artificial intelligence, among other mediums. The Disability Futures fellowship is the only national, multidisciplinary award for disabled artists and creative practitioners, according to the foundations.

The unrestricted award focuses this year on disabled lineages, which is to say, tracing the links between elders and emerging artists across the country. The announcement of this class of fellows comes right at the end of Disability Pride Month, which commemorates the July 26, 1990, anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The Fellows of Disability Futures for 2022 include:

Alexandria Wailes (she/her) actor and theatremaker, New York

Alison O'Daniel (she/her), visual artist and filmmaker, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Antoine Hunter, Purple Fire Crow (Purple Fire Crow), choreographer and human advocate, Oakland, Calif.

Camisha L. Jones (she/her) poet, Herndon, Va.

Corbett Joan O'Toole (she/her) activist, historian

Dickie Hearts (he/him) actor, New York

JJJJJerome Ellis (any) composer and poet, Norfolk, Va.

The Rev. Joyce McDonald (she/her) artist, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Kenny Fries (he/him) writer, Kauneonga Lake, N.Y. and Berlin, Germany.

Khadijah Queen (she/her) writer.

M.Eifler (they/them) artist, San Francisco.

Naomi Ortiz (they/she) poet, writer, and visual artist, Tucson, Ariz.

Nasreen Alkhateeb (she/her) filmmaker, Los Angeles.

NEVE (they/them and he/she/him/her) terpsichorean artist, Seattle, Wash. (Duwamish and Coast Salish Islands).

QuestionATL (he/him) artist and music producer, East Point, Ga.

Sandie (Chun-sha) Yi (she/her) artist, Chicago.

Sandy Ho (she/her) community organizer, Boston.

Tee Franklin (she/her) artist and screenwriter, New Jersey.

Wendy Lu (she/her) journalist, New York.

Yo-Yo Lin (she/they) artist, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Corrected: July 27, 2022 at 10:00 PM MDT
This story now contains the correct pronouns for Naomi Ortiz. A previous version relied on a press release from the Ford and Mellon Foundations which included an incorrect pronoun.
Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.