Three faculty earn NC Arts Council fellowships

Posted on March 11, 2019

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(l-r) Barbara Campbell Thomas, Duane Cyrus, Mariam Stephan

Three UNC Greensboro faculty members – two from the School of Art and one from the School of Dance – were awarded fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council for 2019 after being selected through a rigorous panel screening process. Nearly 500 artists applied for the fellowships and 20 were selected.

Fellowship winners receive $10,000 to set aside time to work, purchase supplies and equipment, or pursue other artistic goals. Read about the three artists, their inspiration, and their projects below.

Barbara Campbell Thomas, visual art

detail of a painting
Detail of Barbara Campbell Thomas’ “Heart Opener,” acrylic and fabric on canvas, 2018

In recent years, Associate Professor of Art Barbara Campbell Thomas learned the art of quilt-making from her mother, which resonated with her current practice in painting.

“In the months following my mother’s visit, I spent many evenings piecing together quilt blocks. The visual thinking at work as I sewed together color and pattern was deeply linked to the paintings simultaneously underway in my studio,” she says. “Surprisingly, I started to see quilting as the flipside of painting, and immediately a new strain of influence and possibility opened up before me, eventually leading me to meld the medium of painting with the medium of quilting in order to create a reworked definition of painting.”

Thomas’ work has been exhibited nationally, in such venues as the Weatherspoon Art Museum, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Marcia Wood Gallery, the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art in Grand Rapids, Michigan, A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, and 1708 Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. She is preparing for a fall 2019 solo exhibition of paintings at The Painting Center in New York City.

 Mariam Stephan, visual art

painting and projects

Associate Professor of Art Mariam Stephan is at work on a group of large diptychs and triptychs which use landscape as a metaphor for a world of psychological and physical upheaval. She is using Francisco de Goya’s sequenced etchings as a model in her creation of multi-canvas paintings, painting and digital image pairings, and collages to explore the idea of a fractured space that is both sequential and cyclical.

“Spanish painters have always stood out to me, in particular Francisco de Goya in his use of dark and energetic relationships of both the seen and unseen forces that surround us,” Stephan says. “We continue to live in an age of conflict, where religion, ideology, even nature, is undulating and contracting around us. Seeing and experiencing my strongest influences firsthand will allow me to actually know their materiality, their scale, and their presence.”

Stephan’s past work has appeared in solo and group shows in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Cairo, Egypt. Her work is included in the Pierogi Flat files in Brooklyn, as well as in the permanent collection of the Mobile Museum of Art. She received a 2010-11 Fulbright Scholars Award to Egypt for a project entitled “Painting Bridging Time: The Egyptian Fayum Mummy Portraits.” She plans to have four test photogravures made from an ongoing series of drawings, and to develop captions for each in homage to Goya’s “Disasters of War” series. She will have a solo this year at Artspace in Raleigh this year and is also engaged in a collaboration with poet Julia Johnson, English professor at the University of Kentucky.

Duane Cyrus, dance

dancers leaping
An image of Duane Cyrus’ “Hero Complexities”

Professor of Dance Duane Cyrus, a second-time fellowship recipient, plans to further develop “Hero Complexities,” an interdisciplinary dance work inspired by heroic acts of his uncle, Charles W. David Jr., a Caribbean-American U.S. Coast Guardsman who died saving nearly 100 servicemen during World War II. The work is meant to initiate discussions with communities in North Carolina and abroad about David’s legacy and the contributions and challenges of military service for African Americans. Receiving the fellowship is an important step toward Cyrus’ goal of bringing artists to the region and providing performance opportunities for other local artists.

“The grant will help me build a team that supports the creation of work and engage audiences as I continue to research African American and Afro-Caribbean culture, histories, and imagery,” says Cyrus.

Cyrus has danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and in musical theater, including the original London production of Disney’s “The Lion King.” Throughout his career he has worked with a variety of professional and student artists at venues across the United States and at universities in China. He has been named a Coleman Entrepreneurship Fellow and a Bessie Award nominee.

See the full list of fellowship recipients here.

Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, Barbara Campbell Thomas, Mariam Stephan, and
Devin Newkirk


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