Atlanta Life and Culture

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Three 'Working Artists' win fellowships from MOCA GA

A filmmaker, a photographer and a muralist are recipients of fellowships from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, intended to support local artists, and to keep them, by the way, local.

Winners of Working Artist Project grants were announced Tuesday night at the Midtown museum, where alumni from previous fellowships gathered to congratulate their new colleagues.

Chosen for the grants were multimedia artist and filmmaker Jonathan Bouknight, painter Sarah Emerson and portrait photographer Sheila Pree Bright.

The project was created to support artists from the 23-county metro area. Each year it grants three established artists a monthly $1,250 stipend, a $3,000 salary for an assistant/apprentice and money for supplies. Recipients are chosen by an outside curator and create new art for a one-person show at the museum.

Annette Cone-Skelton, director of MOCA GA, said the program is intended to strengthen the network of local artists, and, through the apprenticeship element, to extend that network into the next generation. The program has succeeded in one of its more subtle goals, encouraging promising artists to resist the lure of bright lights elsewhere, and to stay in Atlanta.

“I’ve seen too many wonderful artists leave for other states,” Cone-Skelton said.

The strategy appears to be successful: 17 of the 18 previous recipients still call Atlanta home, she said, and most of them were on hand for Tuesday’s event.

The Working Artists Project is supported by a grant from the Charles Loridans Foundation.

About the winners:

  • Jonathan Bouknight, 34, creates an interdisciplinary mix of video, performance, sculpture and drawing. The Working Artist grant will allow him to complete a non-narrative film of “performative action.” The assistance from MOCA is "huge,” he said.

  • Sarah Emerson, 39, paints colorful landscapes peopled with exotic characters, often of colossal size. She’s painted murals for Living Walls and recently completed a 70-by-40-foot mural for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Sheila Pree Bright, “forty-something,” is a fine art photographer who creates wall-sized portraits. In her most recent project, “1960 Who,” she has documented the contemporary faces of the men and women who were the young leaders of the Atlanta Student Movement back in 1960.

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About the Author

Bo Emerson is an Atlanta native and a long-time AJC feature and news writer.