Four Faculty & Alumni Receive 2019 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships

BY Zoe Contros Kearl, August 13, 2019

Columbia School of the Arts faculty and alumnu were recently named NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Program Recipients and Finalists by the New York Foundation for the Arts. In Visual Arts, faculty member Liz Phillips was named a Music/Sound Fellow and alumnus Derrick Whitson '17 received a Photography fellowship. In Theatre, alumna Rehana Lew Mirza '07 was named a Playwriting/Screenwriting Fellow and alumna Sheri Wilner '99 was named as Finalist in Playwriting/Screenwriting division. The NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Program makes unrestricted cash grants of $7,000 to artists working in 15 disciplines, awarding five per year on a triennial basis. The program is highly competitive, and this year’s recipients and finalists were selected by discipline-specific peer panels from an applicant pool of 2,542. Since it was launched in 1985, the program has awarded over $31 million to more than 5,000 artists.


“We are grateful to NYSCA for this annual opportunity to provide nearly 100 artists from New York state with unrestricted cash grants,” said NYFA executive director Michael L. Royce in a statement. “What’s most exciting is that the fellowship impacts artists of all disciplines and career stages and that these artists are being recognized by a jury of their peers. Beyond the financial aspect, it empowers them to keep creating and exploring new possibilities in their work.”


Liz Phillips (b. 1951, Jersey City, NJ) studied at Bennington College and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986. She has been making interactive sound installations for over four decades at venues such as Harvestworks on Governors Island, NY (2017); Creative Time (1981,2001); Lincoln Center, New York, NY (2002, 2001); the Jewish Museum, New York, NY (2002); Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria (1991, 1988); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1988, 1985); and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (1978) and many more. She is a visiting professor at Columbia University in the Visual + Sound Art MFA Program. 


Derick Whitson is an artist currently living and working in NYC. Working primarily in photography and video, Whitson explores the history and relationships of clowning, drag queens and black/white face to explore the social constructs of race, gender, and sexuality. Whitson has attended artist residencies at AICAD New York Studio Residency program, NY, Mass MoCA, Massachusetts, The Fountainhead, Miami, FL, and The Galveston Artist Residency. Recently his work has been exhibited at Art Basel, Miami FL, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, CO. He receied his MFA at Columbia University.


Rehana Lew Mirza’s plays include Soldier X, Lonely Leela, Barriers, Neighborhood Watch, and if it's sad i don't want to see it. Her plays have been published with the Alexander Street Press, indietheaternow, and the New York Theatre Review. Her breakout play, Barriers was the first play to address 9-11 from a Muslim perspective, and has been included on the curriculum at West Virginia University, Yale University and NYU. She is the recipient of a 2016 Lilly Award and a National Playwrights Mellon residency at Ma-Yi Theatre. Past honors include a Rhinebeck Musical Theater Residency, Tofte Lake Emerging Writers Residency, IAAC Playwright Residency, a TCG Future Leader Fellowship, the NBC DiverseCity ShortCuts Audience Award, a John Golden Award, and an LMCC Artist Grant. Rehana Lew Mirza holds a BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU, Tisch School of the Arts and received her MFA at Columbia University. 


Sheri Wilner, award-winning playwright and arts educator, is the author of more than 20 full-length and one-act plays. Wilner currently works as the Director of the Dramatists Guild Fellows Program in NYC. Prior to that appointment, she was the Master Playwright for the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs Playwrights’ Development Program. Wilner has also taught playwriting at Vanderbilt University, where she was the Fred Coe Playwright-in-Residence, and Florida State University, where she headed the playwriting division of the MFA Writing for Stage and Screen program. She has been the recipient of several prestigious fellowships including the Howard Foundation Fellowship in Playwriting, the Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship, The Playwrights Center’s Jerome Foundation Fellowship, and the Dramatists Guild Playwriting Fellowship. Wilner attended Cornell University where she received a BA in English, and received her MFA from Columbia University.