2019 Fellowship awards winners
Born in Dubrovnik, Croatia, Damir Catovic has dedicated himself to chronicling his adopted city of New York through analog photography. Indeed, when not working as a member of Great Performances’ events service staff, which he has done since 2003, he spends most of his walking around the city capturing images that represent its character. Catovic focuses on shots that reflect six themes: Central Park, New York City streets, portraits, animals, abstracts and expressions. His goal is to amass a body of work that will support the publication of books for each theme, the Central Park one being the first which he hopes will become reality in two years.
The $5000 Great Performances’ Artist Fellowship Award will enable him to purchase the equipment needed to set up a dark room, where he can develop his film and print his own film. Currently he relies on photo labs and their methods, absorbing their fees. Having the dark room will give Catovic control over the whole process, enabling him to manipulate his film to confirm to his artistic vision for each image and saving him a significant sum that he can allocate toward other aspects of his long-term publishing goal.
Damir Catovic’s work can be viewed at www.damircatovic.com
A composer, producer, designer and engineer of all things audio, Justin Rozanski is also a cat lover, particularly of his—Colonel Mustard and Sergeant Pepper—who keep him company in his sound studio. They also served as inspiration for the project the $5000 Great Performances’ Artist Fellowship grant will fund: The Healing Powers of Cats, A Sonic Exploration. It will be a sound design installation created from the recordings of cats purring, one that will be experienced on a large scale. Listeners will be fully immersed in a cat purr vortex, becoming wrapped in a warm, therapeutic blanket of sound. The waves, pulsing at low frequency oscillations which listeners can actually feel, will gently heal their bodies, muscles, bones and nerves, while transforming their internal frequency.
The project, using his cats as instruments, will give Rozanski the opportunity to step outside his usual music realm by creating an exhibit of sound without rhythm, which will help him grow as an artist and challenge his ability to captivate the listener.
As an individual living with multiple sclerosis, Rozanski’s affinity for sound therapy, especially as it manifests itself in cats purring, is based on personal experience. The purring of his cats has a calming effect which has made a significant positive impact on his mental and physical health. His experience is supported by clinical research that demonstrates that Low Frequency Sound Stimulation (LLFS) is an effective treatment for chronic disease.
A prep cook at Great Performances, Almira Session considers cooking her artistic endeavor. For her Great Performances’ Artist Fellowship Awards project, she teamed with a social worker and a dance therapy professional to devise Motivating Eleemosynary Juvenescent (MEJ). The grant will enable her to launch MEJ, which will focus on children in New York City’s shelter system, which unfortunately continues with homelessness at an all-time high. These children undergo sudden and stressful transitions in their lives as they move into the precarious and often scary shelter system. They often do not understand exactly what has happened or why they can’t go home; nor can they express clearly how they feel or articulate their concerns for their futures. MEJ will create a safe environment where children will learn how to express themselves through dance therapy, counseling and mentorships, while learning about healthy eating, food preparation and budgeting.
Session, who graduated from the Star Academy’s culinary program and has worked for celebrity chef Jean-George Vongerichten, is all too familiar with how children suffer in the shelter system having had to rely on it with her two sons in 2016. The stress the environment placed on her sons made it very difficult for them to focus in school and deal with simple social issues. For Session, it extremely difficult to keep a job because as a chef, her hours made it very hard to find babysitter with whom she could set up a regular schedule. MEJ was inspired by Session’s shelter experience, during which she found very little help for her or for her children to cope with the emotional and social impacts of being homeless.
MEJ will expand Session’s culinary arts horizons by requiring her to teach healthy cooking to children.
An actor and writer, Brigitte Williamson has appeared in independently produced films like LAD, written by Academy-Award Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman), performed at The Public with Under the Radar theatre festival and produced her first play at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her winning Great Performances’ Artist Fellowship Awards project is Pie Piece, a comedic microfilm about one woman’s pursuit of the perfect pie.
It will be an exploration of her relationship with perfection and the absurdity attendant to obsession with it as illustrated by a woman, Francie, so keen on making the perfect pie that she overworks the dough, rendering it all but impossible to work with. The results is a pie that looks like it was made by and angry two-year old, in contrast with the examples of pie perfection on the dessert table at a party to which she is contributing. Francie’s response to her pie’s poor showing provides the comedic punch, quite literally, to the film.
Williamson notes the story is an expression of what she’s experienced in her pursuit of a career in the arts: being paralyzed with the fear of not being perfect or being driven to rework a script for months without making any real progress.
Since a microfilm is short, sweet and fearless, she feels it is the ideal format for what is essentially a parable. Her goal is not to create a masterwork, but to make a very short film that is entertaining and to the point. As such a microfilm is a practical medium for an early-career artist, which will allow her to flex her creative muscles without stretching them beyond endurance.