The New England Foundation for the Arts is pleased to announce the inaugural grant recipients of the Rebecca Blunk Fund: Elizabeth James-Perry (Aquinnah Wampanoag) of Dartmouth, MA, and Sokeo Ros of Providence, RI. James-Perry and Ros will receive awards of $2,500 each in unrestricted support to support the creation of new work and for professional development.

“We are honored to continue Rebecca’s legacy through these awards, which were established to recognize New England artists for their creative excellence and professional accomplishment,” said NEFA board chair Larry Simpson, provost of Berklee College of Music.

“Over 110 donors have contributed to the Fund thus far, and we are grateful that with their support the deepest work of the Fund is now beginning. This is a unique opportunity to provide unrestricted creative support to New England artists,” said NEFA executive director Cathy Edwards.

Elizabeth James-Perry of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, is an enrolled member of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe on the island of Noepe (Martha's Vineyard). She is a life-long traditional artist, taught by family and community members, whose work focuses on Northeastern Woodlands Algonquian material culture: wampum shell adornment in diverse forms, treaty belts, friendship collars, jewelry design, fiber arts and natural dye techniques. As a member of a Nation that has long lived on and harvested the sea, Elizabeth’s is a perspective that combines art and fashion sense, a strong appreciation for Native storytelling and traditional environmental knowledge in her ways of relating to coastal North Atlantic life. She grew up watching her mother, illustrator and scrimshander Patricia James Perry, and recounted some of her families’ whaling history for a volume about Northeast Native whaling families Living with Whales. Elizabeth’s tightly twined woven bag Thunderbirds Over Red Earth won first place in the Textile Division at the annual Heard Museum Guild Art Market in Arizona in 2010 and her wampum set Bear at the Water took second place in 2014.  She has been the recipient of several New England Foundation for the Arts Grant awards for rare Native arts. In 2014, Elizabeth had the honor of receiving a Traditional Arts Fellowship from Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her wampum will be featured in the Peabody Essex Museum in the November 2015 exhibit, Native Fashion Now, and a recently commissioned wampum alliance collar will be included in an upcoming Jewelry show at the Historic New England Museum in Milton, MA. http://www.elizabethjamesperry.com.

Sokeo Ros of Providence, Rhode Island, is a Hip-Hop choreographer, teacher, and performing artist. Born in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand, Sokeo arrived in the U.S. at age three, and in high school began performing with a non-profit organization called Everett: Company, Stage and School. Much of his work addresses issues of poverty, incarceration and community. He recently came back from Cambodia from volunteering for a nonprofit that offered free classes in education and the performing arts; while there, he was able to conduct interviews and research his family’s compelling history of surviving the Khmer Rouge. This was the first time that Sokeo got a chance to meet his family. He created a piece that tells the story of his experiences from being born in a refugee camp to arriving in the United States to live in a gang neighborhood in Providence, RI. This show, From Refugee Camp to Project, premiered in Amherst College at the KO Festival. He is also in a piece called Freedom Project, which explores mass incarceration and stories from the community that are related to this topic.  Sokeo currently is the director of Case Closed! which he founded in 2004, as well as director of Hip-Hop Dance Program at Everett: Company, Stage and School. In addition, he has worked with The Yard, Rhode Island School of Design, Adam Miller Dance Project, and Brown University. He has received several awards from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and in 2007 received a Mentors that Matter Award. Freedom Project is running currently at Everett; From Refugee Camp to Project can be seen in January. Details at was.everettri.org.

About The Rebecca Blunk Fund
The Rebecca Blunk Fund at the New England Foundation for the Arts was established in memory of Rebecca Blunk (1953-2014), celebrating her 29 years of service to NEFA and her abiding passion for the arts. Honoring Rebecca’s desire that the fund support artistic creation, connection, and curation, the Fund awards two annual grants of $2,500 each to New England artists whose work demonstrates creative excellence and professional accomplishment. Awards are in the form of unrestricted funds intended to support artists’ professional development and creation of new work. NEFA welcomes donations to the fund on an ongoing basis; as with all donations to NEFA, donations to the Rebecca Blunk Fund are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Acknowledging Rebecca Blunk’s long service and expertise as part of the NEFA staff, artist nomination is made by NEFA program staff with comments by external advisors. 

About Rebecca Blunk
Rebecca came to NEFA from the Nebraska Arts Council in 1985 as the director of performing arts and then served as deputy director for ten years before being named executive director in 2004. Under her leadership, the organization brought important resources to New England, strengthening its capacity to connect artists and communities through regional, national, and international programs.

A tireless champion of the arts – from public art, the visual arts, music, dance, theater, and puppetry – Rebecca’s unwavering presence was felt across the arts and culture landscape, through her work in performing arts creation and touring, the creative economy, Native American arts, and cultural exchange on an international scale. Throughout her career, she derived deep personal reward from the artists and administrators with whom she worked.

About NEFA
NEFA builds connections among artists, arts organizations, and funders, powering the arts to energize communities in New England, the nation, and the world. NEFA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that operates in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the New England state arts agencies, with additional funding from foundations, corporations, individuals and other government agencies.

NEFA’s work is accomplished through grantmaking, services, and initiatives which strengthen and advance the national arts infrastructure. For more information, please visit www.nefa.org or call 617.951.0010.

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Contact: Ann Wicks | 617.951.0010 x534

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