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Second round of Artist Fellowship Award winners announced

Five local artists have been selected to receive the City of Boston’s second round of Artist Fellowship Awards.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture today announced five local artists have been selected to receive the City of Boston’s second round of Artist Fellowship Awards. Building off of the City’s record-breaking investment in individual artists, each artist was awarded a $10,000 unrestricted grant to help advance their careers.


“The artists selected in this round of the Artist Fellowship Awards are a reflection of Boston’s extremely diverse creative sector,” said Mayor Walsh. “Boston is proud to be home to so many talented individuals, and we’re excited to recognize their contributions to our city in this way.”


Mid-career Boston-based artists across all disciplines were invited to apply for the award, which aims to recognize exceptional artistic work and help recipients continue their work in Boston with success. The City received 192 applications, and selected the following five Artist Fellows:


  • Maya Erdelyi-Perez was born in New York City and is currently living in Boston. She is an award-winning animator/designer and director. Her work has been shown in national and international film festivals, galleries and museums, and DIY venues. She is a recipient of a 2019 Yaddo Residency, a 2017 Brother Thomas Fellowship Award and the 2017 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Film. Maya is a Faculty member in Animation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University and Lesley College of Art + Design in Boston.
  • Billy Dean Thomas, aka “The Queer B.I.G,” is a Hip-hop recording artist and composer born and raised in Harlem, but currently residing in Boston. Billy challenges the music industry with polyrhythmic flows that align with intersectional feminism, social justice and the difficulties of growing up in NYC. After sharing their story on ABC’s The View and releasing their debut EP “Rocky Barboa,” they have been nominated for four Boston Music Awards, completed the 2018 MASS MOCA Residency, and have performed at venues such as The Brooklyn Museum, Spotify, and The House of Blues Boston.
  • Paloma Valenzuela is a Dominican-American writer, director and actress from Boston. She is the creative director of La Gringa Loca Productions, and she created the comedic web series "The Pineapple Diaries". Paloma was featured in Boston Magazine's "Boston's New Creative Guard" and was selected as one of the WBUR The Artery 25. She has collaborated with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and is currently working on post-production for the third season of "The Pineapple Diaries." She also works as a teaching artist at GrubStreet in Boston.
  • Alexander Davis is a performer and choreographer interested in subverting theatrical expectations and heightening the pedestrian. Alex has worked with local organizations including Ryan Landry's Gold Dust Orphans, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Children's Chorus, Global Arts Live and Improv Asylum/Laugh Boston. A company member with Urbanity Dance for the past five years, he is now the acting director of their Summer Choreographer Intensive Program and curator of the UrbanityX performance series. Alex and primary collaborator Joy Davis received a 2018 Bessie Schonberg Choreographic Residency from The Yard, the inaugural Creative Residency at The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and an inaugural Creative Residency from Studio@550 in 2019.
  • Shubha Sunder grew up in Bangalore, India, and currently lives in Jamaica Plain. She is a writing instructor at GrubStreet whose prose has appeared in places like Lenny Letter, The Bare Life Review, Crazyhorse, Narrative Magazine, and Michigan Quarterly Review. Two of her stories were named as notable in The Best American Short Stories 2016 anthology. In 2016 she was also named a Mass Cultural Council Fellow. Other distinctions include the Crazyhorse Fiction Prize, Narrative “30 Below,” and awards from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and from The Corporation of Yaddo.

The Fellows will work with the City on one public event showcasing their work. This year for the first time, due to the many exceptional applications received, the City also awarded $1,000 grants to five finalists: Rob Gibbs from Mattapan, Maria Finkelmeier from West Roxbury, Krysten Hill from Roslindale, Stephen Hamilton from Roxbury, and Tory Bullock from Mission Hill. 

“As we work to ensure that local artists can thrive in the City of Boston, it’s so important to have programs like this that support artists creative contributions to our city,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture. “We’re excited to invest in these artists and give them the opportunity to use this grant in whatever way is most meaningful to them.”

A selection committee comprised of individuals representing a variety of artistic disciplines and local arts organizations reviewed the final round of applications and selected the five Artist Fellows and five finalists. It included former Artist Fellow Dariel Suarez of GrubStreet, Scott Wheeler of Emerson College, Lyndsay Allyn Cox of Boston Center for the Arts, Andrea Blesso of Boston Center for the Arts, Marian Taylor Brown of Arts Connect International, former Artist Fellow Michelle Fornabai, former Artist Fellow Jason Palmer of Berklee College of Music, Rene Dongo of Zumix, Vicky Rodriguez of CraftBoston, Catherine Morris of BAMS Fest, and Deidra Montgomery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“The City of Boston Artist Fellowship had a big impact on my writing career,” said former City of Boston Artist Fellow Dariel Suarez. “It not only provided a confidence boost, but it allowed me the flexibility to focus on new projects and continue developing as an artist in the city I now call home. I hope the new fellows will be as excited as I was about the prospect of personal artistic growth in this wonderful community thanks to the award.” 

The Artist Fellowship Award is part of the City's $200,000 FY20 investment in sustaining key grantmaking programs for individual artists. In addition, the City is investing $250,000 for the Boston Artist in Residence Program, providing operating funds for two full-time staff positions in the Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture, and investing an additional $400,000 to enhance the Boston Public Library and its local branches.

Learn more about the Artist Fellowship Award.


The Mayor's Office of Arts and Culture's mission is to support artists, the cultural sector, and to promote access to the arts for all. The office houses the Boston Cultural Council, the Boston Art Commission, and the Poet Laureate program. Responsibilities include leading up the City's cultural plan, Boston Creates; managing the Boston Artist-in-Residence program; curating exhibitions in City Hall; and operating the historic Strand Theater in Dorchester.

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