Playwright Alice Tuan, dancer William Shannon, film artist Marco Brambilla, and five other emerging creative artists won the first Colbert Awards for Excellence at a gala benefit Mon., Nov. 13. The awards were created this year to identify and support promising early career artists who have been active in the New York cultural scene.
The awards were sponsored by Downtown Arts Projects, a non-profit arts agency that also sponsors the annual Downtown Arts Festival and the Emerge Project, an online career development program. It is dedicated to the development of new works, new audiences, and new patrons for the arts, and publishes the arts guide Simon Says.
A committee made up of 30 arts professionals nominated artists for the awards, with final decisions made by three independent juries covering performance (theatre, dance, and music), visual arts (digital media, film-video, and fine art), and design (fashion design and product design). Award winners received grants of $10,000 each, as well as Lalique trophies.
Tuan, who won in the theatre category, has premiered her works at theatres across the country. In New York City, En Garde Arts produced her solo performance, "New Culture for a New Country," as part of "The Secret History of the Lower East Side." In addition, her play, "Ajax," got a reading at the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, which has given her a commission for her forthcoming play, "Hit." She is also working on a commission from the Foundry Theatre to adapt the 1610 drama, "The Roaring Girle," in collaboration with Melanie Joseph.
A resident of Southern California, Tuan is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts-Theatre Communications Guild Playwright Residency Grant and the Mark Taper Forum Robert E. Sherwood Award for emerging artists. She was the resident playwright at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in 1999, a playwriting instructor to teenage wards of the California Youth Authority, and the author of a 10-minute play that tours California schools as part of a program addressing racism, homophobia, and tolerance, "That Race Place."
Shannon, who won in the dance category, is an interdisciplinary dance and media artist who is also known as "Crutch Master." An active participant in the disabled arts community, he has presented dance, installation, performance, video, and spoken word in institutions from Performance Space 122 in New York to the Exit Festival in France.
Brambilla, who won in the film-video category, is not a filmmaker in the traditional sense. Instead, he integrates 35mm and 16mm film in installations shown at art institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
Kristin Lucas, who won in the digital media category, is a former recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Video Fellowship who works in video, installation, performance, and especially the Internet.
Cuong Vu, who won in the music category, is a jazz trumpeter and composer who has recorded two CDs and toured internationally.
The fine art award went to FISCHERSPOONER, a collaboration led by Casey Spooner and Warren Fischer that explores classic themes of nature by using the textures of pop musical entertainment in performance events, recorded music, video, and photography.
Wenlan Chia won the fashion design award for her Twinkle collection, and biproduct (sic) won for product design.
The selection panels included Performance Space 122 Executive Director Mark Russell; Village Voice Senior Editor Brian Parks; Franklin Furnace Archives Founding Director Martha Wilson; Interview Editor in Chief Ingrid Sischy; Artforum Contributing Editor David Rimanelli; Thelma Golden, the deputy director for exhibitions and programs at the Studio Museum in Harlem; Dan Cameron, the senior curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art; and Thea Westreich of her eponymous art advisory service.
The Colbert Foundation, which underwrites the grants, was founded in 1988 to foster Franco-American friendship and goodwill. The non-profit foundation has collaborated with the Artists Rights Foundation, and supports an ongoing interdisciplinary educational program that brings together students of the Parsons School of Design and the Columbia Business School.
For more information on the Colbert Foundation, call (212) 809-2014. Downtown Arts Projects is located at 201 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10011, and may be reached at (212) 243-5050. It also operates a website at www.simonsays.org.