Past Fellows

Announcing the 2023 McKnight Community-Engaged Artist Fellows!

Pillsbury House Theatre is proud to announce the 2023 recipients of the McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists: Janice Bad Moccasin and Moira Villiard.

The 2023 McKnight fellows were selected from a group of 28 applicants by a panel of arts professionals of varying backgrounds whose careers intersect with community-engaged artistic practice in different ways. This year’s jurors were Betty Avila, Executive Director of Self Help Graphics (Los Angeles), Denise Chapman, Producing Artistic Director of the Union Contemporary Art (Omaha), and Megha Ralapati, Program Director at CEC ArtsLink (Chicago).



Janice Bad Moccasin is an enrolled tribal member of the Crow Creek Dakota nation and a spiritually-grounded, multidisciplinary artist. Her work weaves together song, reflective prayers, movement, and ritual to facilitate healing and justice. Over the years, she has immersed herself in Dakota culture and traditions, and has emerged as a valued spiritual advisor to various Indigenous communities, where she has promoted traditional wellness through spiritual practices. She is grateful for all of the teachings she has inherited from the Dakota Women’s March, Oceti Sakowin elders, and spiritual leaders.
She is currently reworking an indigenous Healing Justice project which works to honor ancestral Indigenous wisdom in an effort to respond to historical and intergenerational trauma and facilitate collective healing and transform systemic oppression. It proposes that working collectively through creative pathways is essential to healing, wellness, liberation, and for calling our spirit back to wholeness. Ultimately, our liberated bodies restore connection back to the land of Mni Sota Makoce. Janice is a traditional Dakota woman singer of prayer songs and provides spiritual prayer offerings to numerous organizations, and native communities. She is also a member of Wiwayang Waci Nagi Sagya O’Maske (Strong Spirit Woman’s Sundance society). Professionally, she has served as the Assistant Tribal Administrator for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux community for 25 years. In June, she will celebrate her 30th year anniversary in her current position that manages a Community Cultural Support program for SMSC. She has attended the Dakota Wesleyan University, including training in various holistic healing modalities. She has provided faith leadership officiating traditional burial services for many native families and communities.
Through public art collaborations across Minnesota, Moira Villiard (pronounced “Miri”) is a multidisciplinary artist who uses art to uplift underrepresented narratives, explore the nuance of society’s historical community intersections, and promote community healing spaces. She is proficient in a variety of artistic genres, but considers her primary medium to be space and people’s interactions with it.
Moira grew up on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Cloquet, MN and is a Fond du Lac direct descendent of mixed settler and Indigenous heritage; she currently lives in Duluth, MN. Moira works full-time as a freelance consultant, designer, speaker, and is the project director and lead artist of the Chief Buffalo Memorial Murals. As a community organizer and arts educator, she concentrates her efforts around issues of equity and justice. Her educational, activism-rooted exhibits “Rights of the Child” and “Waiting for Beds” feature embedded community components and are expanding as they tour the region.
She was the featured artist for the 2021 Illuminate the Lock, where she animated and directed a 10 minute, 150’ projection piece titled “Madweyaashkaa: Waves Can Be Heard”. Since then she has collaborated with a range of poets, musicians, and filmmakers to produce animated works that uplift diverse Indigenous perspectives and stories. Her overall work seeks to bridge gaps in community memory and recognition.


Betty Avila’s (she/her) work has centered on the intersection of the arts and social justice, with particular focus on community building, public space, and youth empowerment. She grew up in the Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Cypress Park and has held positions with the Getty Research Institute, The Music Center and the Levitt Pavilion. Betty joined Self Help Graphics’ leadership in 2015, an organization with a 48-year nationally-recognized artistic legacy of empowering the Chicana/o and Latinx communities of Los Angeles through the arts. She is the Chair of the Latinx Arts Alliance, and sits on the boards of Little Tokyo Service Center, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and was a founding board member of People for Mobility Justice. Betty is a passionate arts advocate, centering equity and justice, and she sat on the inaugural Advisory Committee for Los Angeles County’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative as an appointee of Supervisor Hilda Solis. She received her B.A. in Literature at Pitzer College, has an M.A. in Arts Management from Claremont Graduate University, and is a 2008 Fulbright Fellow to Korea.

Denise Chapman is an Omaha based Theatre practitioner. Currently she is the Producing Artistic Director of Theatre at The Union for Contemporary Art and an adjunct professor at Creighton University. She holds a BA in Theatre from Creighton University and a MFA from the Theatre Conservatory at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She was awarded the 2020 Individual Artist Fellowship Award from the Nebraska Arts Council, she is an alumni of the fellowship program at the Union for Contemporary Art. She was an Artist in Residence at the Carver Bank project, a collaboration between Bemis and Theaster Gates and “Liveness is Critical” at the Bemis Center.

Megha Ralapati is an independent curator, arts manager, and writer based in Chicago, where she oversees programs and fellowships for CEC ArtsLink, an organization dedicated to international exchange for artists. Megha specializes in artist mobility and has collaborated with community-centered organizations based in the US and internationally including Project Row Houses (Houston), ARTPORT Tel Aviv, and Center for Contemporary Art Lagos. She developed and oversaw the Jackman Goldwasser Residency at Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago, where she forged partnerships with foundations, universities and other institutions to design intentional cross-cultural artistic exchanges. Megha regularly participates in award and fellowship juries, presents workshops to artists of all levels, including at the School of the Art Institute, NYU, and most recently at Asiko, an experimental pan-African summer intensive for artists. She has contributed to publications for Documenta 14, Brooklyn Museum, Sharjah Art Foundation, among others. She is a board member of Artist Communities Alliance and Enrich Chicago.

2022 Fellows

Announcing the 2022 McKnight Community-Engaged Artist Fellows!

Pillsbury House Theatre is proud to announce the 2022 recipients of the McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists: Douglas R. Ewart and Olivia Levins Holden.

The 2022 McKnight fellows were selected from a group of 26 applicants by a panel of arts professionals of varying backgrounds whose careers intersect with community-engaged artistic practice in different ways. This year’s jurors were Carlton Turner, Lead Artist and Director of Mississippi Center for Cultural Production, and Dave Kyu, Artist and Director of Programs Asian Arts Initiative.



DOUGLAS R. EWART (photo credit Chelese L. Ewart), Professor Emeritus at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1946 and immigrated to Chicago in 1963 where he studied music theory at VanderCook College of Music, electronic music at Governors State University, and composition at the School of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Professor Ewart’s extremely varied and highly interdisciplinary work encompasses music composition (including graphic and conceptual scores as well as conventionally notated works), painting and kinetic sound sculpture, and multi-instrumental performance on virtually the full range of saxophones, flutes, and woodwinds, including the flutes, pan-pipes, rainsticks and percussion instruments of his own design and construction for which he is known worldwide. Professor Ewart’s work as composer, instrument maker and visual artist has long reflected his understanding of the importance of sustainable and natural materials, particularly bamboo, which serves not only as primary physical materials for many of his sculptures and instruments, but also crucial conceptual elements of some of his most important recordings, such as the widely influential Bamboo Meditations at Banff (1993) and Bamboo Forest (1990).

His visual art and kinetic works have been shown at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Ojai Festival, Art Institute of Chicago, Institute for Contemporary Art (Philadelphia), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, and his work as performing instrumentalist have been presented in the Caribbean (Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti), Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Holland, UK), Japan, Bali, South America, Scandinavia, and Australia, as well as the United States and Puerto Rico, and recorded on numerous labels, including his own Aarawak recording company. Professor Ewart is the leader of such important musical ensembles as the Nyahbingi Drum Choir, Orbit, Quasar, StringNets, and the Clarinet Choir.

Among his many honors, Professor Ewart was awarded the Jamaica Musgrave Silver Medal for Outstanding Merit in the Arts, Education, and Culture 2019, and was personally presented with the Outstanding Artist Award by Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, a U.S.–Japan Creative Artist Fellowship, the Jerome Foundation, and others.

OLIVIA LEVINS HOLDEN (photo credit Nedahness Rose Greene) is a queer, mixed Boricua muralist, organizer, artist, and educator living on Dakota homeland, Bde Ota Othunwe, Mni Sota Makoce, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Olivia’s work explores many ways that the arts can transform and support movements, tell stories, plant seeds, and combat toxic narratives. They center processes of community involvement and collective design, drawing from conversations and people’s history to create collaborative murals and public art, believing that the process is as essential as the final artwork. Since 2009, they have created and led the creation of 26 permanent murals in Minneapolis, California, and Puerto Rico, including Minneapolis murals Waves of Change/Oleadas de Cambio (2015), Defend, Nurture, Grown Phillips (2019), Wiidookodaadiwag/They Help Each Other (2019), and Ritmos y Raices de Resistencia (2021). With her artist collective, Studio Thalo, Olivia creates live-painted mobile murals to reflect conversations and events.

Olivia also serves as the Art of Radical Collaboration (ARC) Program Lead at Hope Community, Inc where she has trained artists and led community murals with youth and adults through the Power of Vision (POV) Mural project since 2017 and facilitates the Transformational Creative Strategies Training (TRCSTR). She was a 2015 recipient of the Forecast Public Art project grant and has served as a facilitator and mentor for project-based learning through programs such as Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES), Latinx Muralism Apprenticeship, Studio 400, and is a founding member of the Creatives After Curfew collective. She holds a BA in History from Smith College.


CARLTON TURNER, Lead Artist / Director of Sipp Culture (photo credit Kevin Edwards) is an artist, agriculturalist, researcher and co-founder of the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture). Sipp Culture uses food and story to support rural community, cultural, social and economic development in his hometown of Utica, Mississippi where his family has been for eight generations. Carlton currently serves on the board of First People’s Fund, Imagining America, Project South and the National Black Food and Justice Alliance. Carlton is a member of the We Shall Overcome Fund Advisory Committee at the Highlander Center for Research and Education and is the former Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS. He is also a founding partner of the Intercultural Leadership Institute, a current Interdisciplinary Research Fellow with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and was named to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts YBCA100. He is also a former Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow and former Cultural Policy Fellow at the Creative Placemaking Institute at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design in the Arts.

DAVE KYU, Artist and Director of Programs Asian Arts Initiative (photo credit Max Grudzinski) was born in Seoul, South Korea. Kyu’s work explores the creative tensions of identity and community in public space. At Asian Arts Initiative, he oversees public programming, and continues to coordinate advocacy efforts in Chinatown and Chinatown North. Previously, he commissioned public art on behalf of the City of Philadelphia as the Percent for Art Project Manager. Dave also co-authored Campfire Stories, a collection of short stories that interrogate the meaning of place for America’s National Parks.



2021 Fellows

Announcing the 2021 McKnight Community-Engaged Artist Fellows!

Pillsbury House Theatre is proud to announce the 2021 recipients of the McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists: Mankwe Ndosi and Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay.

The 2021 McKnight fellows were selected from a group of 38 applicants and 4 finalists by a panel of arts professionals of varying backgrounds whose careers intersect with community-engaged artistic practice in different ways. This year’s jurors were Sharon Bridgforth, Rosten Woo and Vicky Holt-Takamine.



Mankwe Ndosi is a Culture Worker, Musician, and Composer. She uses creative practice to nurture and re-examine social patterns and relationships with her community, ancestral legacies, and the earth.  She is an artist who embeds creative practice into transformative relational work. A member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) Mankwe melds the improvising and compositional strategies the AACM is known for with the black women’s ritual performance legacies of Laurie Carlos and Ntozake Shange. Her efforts have included producing a series of Great Black Music concerts highlighting black women composers, arts-rooted community wisdom sharing gatherings, serious play in racial equity workshops, and group healing workshops to support personal transformation from the inside out.

Her twenty years of creative community work has included program development, design, facilitation, teaching, and nonprofit leadership including three years supporting independent producing artists as the Director of the Center for Independent Artists. Her work is aimed at nurturing creativity and healing justice through the interconnection and liberation of our personal and social structures, practices, and mythologies.

Ms. Ndosi has a Bachelor’s degree in social and political theory focused on economics and women’s studies from Harvard University. She also has extensive experience in facilitation and peer counseling and is actively training in trauma healing.  Mankwe is a connector, a listener; a synthesizer, and a translator, a forager, a dirt-lover, a gardener, a cook, and a medicine maker focused on forgotten and marginalized plants, people, and ways of knowing.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao poet, playwright, cultural producer, and social practice artist. CNN’s “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell called her work “revolutionary.” Governor Mark Dayton recognized her with a “Lao Artists Heritage Month” Proclamation. She’s a recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual…in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.”

She’s the author of the children’s book WHEN EVERYTHING WAS EVERYTHING and is best known for her award-winning play KUNG FU ZOMBIES VS CANNIBALS. Her plays have been presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (NY), Theater Mu (MN), Lower Depth Theater (LA), Asian Improv Arts (IL), and elsewhere. Other awards include grants and fellowships from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Bush Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, MAP Fund, Playwrights’ Center, Forecast Public Art, MRAC, MSAB, and others. In June 2020, she received a prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright in Residence award.



Sharon Bridgforth is a Doris Duke Performing Artist and writer that creates ritual/jazz theatre. A 2020-2023 Playwrights’ Center Core Member and New Dramatists alumnae, Sharon has received support from Creative Capital, MAP Fund and the National Performance Network. An Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative’s Choreographic Fellowship program, Sharon has been in residence at: Brown University’s MFA Playwriting Program; University of Iowa’s MFA Playwrights Program; The Theatre School at DePaul University; allgo, A Texas Statewide QPOC organization; and Northwestern’s Department of Performance Studies. Widely published, Sharon is Host of the Who Yo People Is podcast series. One of the many artists mentored by Laurie Carlos, Sharon has worked in the Twin Cities regularly since 1995 and has proudly called Pillsbury House + Theatre home since 2005. More at:

Rosten Woo is a designer, writer, and educator living in Los Angeles. He produces civic-scale artworks and works as a collaborator and consultant to a variety of grassroots and non-profit organizations. including the Little Tokyo Service Center, the Los Angeles Poverty Department, the Black Workers Center, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, as well as the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County. His work has been exhibited at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Triennial, the Venice Architecture Biennale, Netherlands Architectural Institute, the Exploratorium, and various piers, public housing developments, tugboats, shopping malls, and parks. He is co-founder and former executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), winner of the 2016 National Design Award for institutional achievement. His book, “Street Value,” about race, design, and urban retail development, was published by Princeton Architectural Press. He is currently engaged in a Stanton fellowship researching civic memory and the civic imagination.

Vicky Holt Takamine is a renowned kumu hula (master teacher of Hawaiian dance). Vicky ʻūniki (graduated through the rituals of hula) as a kumu hula from hula master Maiki Aiu Lake in 1975 and established her own hālau, Pua Ali’i ‘Ilima, (school of Hawaiian dance) in 1977. She earned her BA & MA in dance ethnology from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.  In addition to teaching at her own school, Vicky taught at the University of Hawaiʻi at Manoa and Leeward Community College for more than 35 years. In 2001, Vicky established a non-profit organization, PA’I Foundation, to serve the needs of her Hawaiian community and those who make Hawai’i their home. She has received numerous awards including the 2016 Doris Duke US Artist Fellow.



2020 Fellows


Pillsbury House Theatre is proud to announce the two inaugural recipients of the 2020 McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists: Cecilia Cornejo Sotelo and Rory Wakemup.

Designed to identify and support outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists, the McKnight Fellowships for Community-Engaged Artists provide recipients with $25,000 stipends, public recognition, professional development, one-on-one mentorship, and an opportunity to participate in a public discussion about their practice. Community-Engaged Artists use their artistic practice to engage relationships aimed at producing social transformation. This intention drives choice and process throughout the conception, design, and implementation of their work. These fellowships are funded by a generous grant from the McKnight Foundation and administered by Pillsbury House Theatre.  For more information about the fellowship program and future opportunities, visit our website at

The 2020 McKnight fellows were selected from a group of 30 applicants by a panel of arts professionals of varying backgrounds whose careers intersect with community-engaged artistic practice in different ways. This year’s jurors were Kemi Ilesanmi, Executive Director of The Laundromat Project, NYC; DeWayne Barton, founder and CEO of Hood Huggers Intl., Asheville NC; and Roberto Bedoya, Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Oakland, CA.


Cecilia Cornejo Sotelo is a Chilean-American documentary filmmaker, artist, and educator based in Northfield, Minnesota. Known for placing community members at the center of the creative process, she uses a range of approaches and production methodologies to engage them as active participants and co-creators of meaning. Locally rooted yet globally minded, Cecilia’s work examines notions of belonging and the immigrant experience while exploring the traces of historical trauma on people and places.  Cecilia’s work has screened at MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, Melbourne Latin American Film Festival, L’Alternativa (Barcelona), Cine Las Américas, InVideo (Milan), Athens International Film Festival, Festival de Cine Pobre (Cuba), Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival and many other venues.

She is the recipient of Minnesota State Arts Board and Jerome Foundation grants for her most recent film, Ways of Being Home (2020), made in collaboration with the Latinx community of Northfield, and received funding from Carleton College and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture for the multi-platform project The Wandering House. She holds an MFA in Film and Video from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and teaches filmmaking at Carleton College and at St. Olaf College, both in Northfield, Minnesota.



The Wandering House, 2018 Cecilia Cornejo


Rory Wakemup is the Artistic Director and visionary behind Wakemup Productions. A proven leader, gifted teacher, and sought-out community activist with infectious enthusiasm and optimism, he is creatively driven to change the narrative of what it means to be Native American in the 21st century, alleviating effects of racism, and awakening all people to their inherent ancestral indigenous values. An enrolled member of the Bois Forte Anishinabe (Chippewa tribe), his life’s work is to support the recovery of his community and be part of a legacy of healing. He does this through the power of participatory and multidisciplinary art. With his more than 300 post-secondary credits in studio arts and Native American topics, Wakemup practices (and teaches) in any form of studio-related and visual arts medium.

As a deeply collaborative, multi-disciplinary, multi-sector artist, this stable base of support will provide him more opportunities to focus on the work and himself.  As a professional whose work connects four disparate professional networks: indigenous arts, indigenous youth leadership development, local government, and organizing, this award will support his work positioned for what it is, where it is. He holds a MFA in Glass/Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin and a BFA from the Institute of American Indians.

Darth Chief, Mascot Hunter 2018 Rory Wakemup


Kemi Ilesanmi is Executive Director of The Laundromat Project, which advances artists and neighbors as change agents in their own communities. She has previously worked at Creative Capital Foundation and the Walker Art Center. In 2015, she was appointed by the Mayor to the NYC Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. She is on the board of the Joan Mitchell Foundation and The Broad Room. A graduate of Smith College, NYU, and Coro Leadership NY, she is also a Sterling Network Fellow.






DeWayne Barton is a native of Asheville, N.C. He grew up in Washington, D.C. and is a Gulf War Veteran. He is co-founder of the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens, the founder and CEO of Hood Huggers Intl. and Hood Tours.  Hood Hugger International, LLC builds greater communication, connection and wealth in systemically marginalized neighborhoods in the Affrilachian region through the arts, environment, and social enterprise. DeWayne was recently appointed by the governor to sit on the board of the NC Arts Council.






Roberto Bedoya is the Cultural Affairs Manager for the City of Oakland where he most recently shepherded the City’s Cultural Plan – “Belonging in Oakland: A Cultural Development Plan.” Through-out his career he has consistently supported artists-centered cultural practices and advocated for expanded definitions of inclusion and belonging in cultural sector. His essays, advocacy, and policy work has reframed the discussion on cultural policy to shed light on exclusionary practices in cultural policy decision making. He is a Creative Placemaking Fellow at Arizona State University.

Follow Us!

an integral part of Pillsbury United Communities an integral part of Pillsbury United Communities an integral part of Pillsbury United Communities an integral part of Pillsbury United Communities

an integral part of Pillsbury United Communities