UCI Faculty and Alum Receive California Arts Council (CAC) Artist Fellowships

Arts Orange County (ArtsOC) recently announced the California Arts Council (CAC) grants which awarded $840,000 in Individual Artist Fellowships to 58 talented artists in Southern California. These distinguished grants are designed to recognize, uplift and honor California artists practicing diverse art forms, showcasing the pivotal role of artists in shaping the evolution of both traditional and contemporary cultures. Out of 779 artists who applied within the region, the CAC carefully selected the most deserving recipients for this recognition. Among the recipients are UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts faculty members Joseph S. Lewis III, professor of art; S. Ama Wray, professor of dance; and Department of Drama alumna Chantrell Lewis. 

The fellowship grants provide unrestricted funding to support individual artistic practices and foster creativity across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Artists from various backgrounds and communities, regardless of size and geography, have been rewarded for their remarkable contributions to the arts. The grants have been distributed across the following categories: Legacy Artist Fellows - $50,000; Established Artist Fellows - $10,000; and Emerging Artist Fellows - $5,000.

The selection process involved peer review panels consisting of artists, arts administrators, arts educators, and arts funders, all assembled from the participating regional counties. The application submission period opened in March 2023 and closed in April, during which applicants received free technical assistance. The review panels convened in mid-May 2023 to finalize their selections.

UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts Recipients:

Joseph S. Lewis III, Legacy Fellow - Joe Lewis is a versatile non-media-specific visual creator, community preservationist, and writer. His work delves into the intricate relationships between underserved communities, race and representation, social justice, and the existing State. 

“It is an honor for inclusion in such an illustrious group of artists – most of whom, as I have a strong emphasis on community engagement as a central focus of their creative practice,” said Lewis. “Congratulations all around!” 

Lewis plans to use the fellowship to assist in continuing and finishing several long-term national and international projects and publications.

S. Ama Wray, Established Artist Fellow - S. Ama Wray is a visionary artist renowned for creating the African-inspired dance and music performance model known as Embodiology®. Through her groundbreaking work, Wray collaborates with racially diverse groups of artists, catalyzing communities seeking renewal, cohesion, and self-efficacy, especially among those marginalized due to sex, race, age, and socio-economic background across California and the United States.

“I’m thrilled to receive this award in recognition of my contributions to the arts,” said Wray. “I feel that I’m at a very interesting point because many areas intersect within Embodiology, including well-being, community cohesion, pedagogy, multidisciplinary performance, and scientific inquiry. Exciting times!” 

Wray intends to utilize the fellowship to finish writing a new book on the mentioned topics. Additionally, she aspires to support other practitioners interested in teaching Embodiology, aiming for its wider dissemination and the development of its transformative impacts.

Chantrell Lewis, Emerging Artist Fellow - Chantrell Lewis (M.F.A. ’22) is a talented actor, published author, and award-winning writer. Additionally, she serves as a teaching artist for educational arts programs, enriching under-resourced communities in Riverside and Orange County. Lewis’ artistic endeavors focus on creating programs that increase accessibility to sustainable arts education, infusing joyous art that lives and heals for years to come.

“I am very honored to have been selected as an Emerging Artist 2023 Fellow,” said Lewis. “This funding supports me in continuing my work as an artist, and I am proud to live and work in a place where art is valued.”

Through its Individual Artist Fellowships, the California Arts Council persists in championing and celebrating the diverse tapestry of artistic expression flourishing within the state. The program also advocates for the lasting impact of art in transforming lives and communities across California.

ArtsOC, a nonprofit countywide arts council, served as the Administering Organization for regional awards, leading a consortium of five county arts councils that ensured extensive local outreach and representation. The county arts councils involved include North County Coalition for the Arts in Imperial County; Arts Orange County in Orange County; Riverside Arts Council in Riverside County; Arts Connection in San Bernardino County; and San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture in San Diego County.