by VSA Arts of Minnesota   February 11, 2010

Seven Minnesota artists have been awarded grants of $1,250 each through the VSA arts of Minnesota Career Advancement Grant Program. The 14th annual competitive grant recognizes excellence by Minnesota artists with disabilities.



Seven Minnesota artists have been awarded grants of $1,250 each through the VSA arts of Minnesota Career Advancement Grant Program. The 14th annual competitive grant, funded by the Jerome Foundation, recognizes excellence by Minnesota artists with disabilities. Selected from 53 applicants, the grantees are:

Bridget Riversmith, Duluth
Visual Art - painting and animation

Mark Davison,Minneapolis
Visual Art - ceramics, sculpture

Naomi Cohn,St. Paul
Writing- poetry

Alec Sweazy,Minnetonka
Performance - accordion

Loretta Bebeau, Minneapolis
Visual Art - painting, multi-media

Serik Kulmeshnekov,Duluth
Visual Art - engraving, drawing

Christine Sikorski,Minneapolis
Writing - poetry

A short bio about each artist is included with this release, following the information about panelists.

The grants were awarded following a jurying process conducted by individuals with extensive backgrounds in the written, visual and performing arts. They looked at samples of the artists' work, proposed projects, resumes and artist statements. Members of the panels included:

Howard Quednau, Minneapolis, painter, Associate Professor, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Adu Gindy, Minneapolis and Duluth, Painter, Professor Emeritus of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth

Roald Molberg, Duluth, Ceramicist, 2008 VSAarts MN Grant Recipient

Mary Sullivan-Rickey, St.Paul, Painter, Arts Advocate

Emily Newman, Sartell, Assistant Professor of Art, Art History, St. Cloud State University

Kim Hines, Minneapolis, Actress, Playwright, Director, Arts Mentor and Coach

Dr. Peter Kizilos-Clift, Excelsior, Freelance Writer, American History,

Rebecca Dosch- Brown, Poet, Flash Fiction Writer, Book Maker, Disability Advocate

Tamara Ober, Minneapolis, Dance, Theater, Performer, Zenon Dance

Ted Sherarts, St. Cloud, Professor Emeritus of Art, St. Cloud State University

VSA arts of Minnesota and the grant recipients would like to thank the Jerome Foundation for their continued support in making this grant possible.

VSA arts of Minnesota is a nonprofit organization working to make the arts accessible to people with all types of disabilities. For more information about its grants, services and activities for individuals or arts organizations, call 612-332-3888 or 800-801-3883, Voice/TTY; e-mail; or go to its website:

Bios of Recipients of 2009 VSA arts of Minnesota Career Advancement $1,250 Grants



Mark Davison
"Adversity gave me a strength and insight that I don't think I would have gotten without this disease so I guess it is true that every cloud has a silver lining." - Mark Davison

Exhibiting as ceramicist since 2003, Mark Davison's collection of work captures his desire to reflect his thoughts and feelings of illness, religion and death. Mark has been HIV positive for 23 years and was also diagnosed with muscle myopothy as a result of medications. Small, intricate and precious, his work uses found and discarded objects for molds. What was has lost its usefulness has been given a second chance, an "after-life" in surprising and invented ways in small, earthen objects at the hands of this remarkable ceramicist. Mark will use his grant money to continue his study of burial urns, reliquaries, shrines and burial masks from many cultures. He will be able to purchase more materials to create new bodies of work and pursue new exhibition opportunities.

Mark has exhibited at the Northern Clay Center, St. Paul, the Northrup King Building, Minneapolis, Intermedia Arts, Minneapolis and the Loring Playhouse, Minneapolis. He won First Place at the Minnesota State Fair in 2009 in the ceramics category.


­Amy Salloway

" I love writing and performing autobiographical stories about human vulnerability, about mistakes and embarrassments, about the ways in which I've been an outsider and a misfit and a maker of terrible choices, and to look at those experiences through the lens of humor" - Amy Salloway

Through personal storytelling, clever writing and funny, warm performances, Amy is an artist who reaches your heart immediately. She allows you to enter with her into that place between unstoppable laughter and heartache in her brave, gritty and inspiring solo performances. Past performances have included: "Does this Monologue Make Me Look Fat?", "Circumference" and "So Kiss me already, Herschel Gertz!" She won Best Comedy and Best Original Script at the Columbus (Ohio) National GLBT Theatre Festival (2006) and Critic's pick of the Fringe at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival (2005). She is a contributing writer/performer for Minnesota Public Radio's "In the Loop."

Amy is ready to give up her title as her own booking agent and plans to use grant funds to find her replacement while attending "entertainment trade" conferences to promote and increase her stage performances.


Bridget Riversmith
"Artistic expression is the part of me that has not been deconstructed, deprogrammed, or disabled." - Bridget Riversmith

Over 27 years of treatment for mental illness, Bridget Riversmith says she has lost a lot. However, a conference on the Art of Employment five years ago inspired her and put her to work "writing goals and making a commitment to strengthening and employing this core self."

Her artistic focus gravitates to dreams and stories - "grasping at fleeting impressions and the residual greasy fingerprints left on my internal lens from straining to catch even more elusive things perched on my periphery." She uses techniques such as "unintentional sleep-deprivation, mistakeology, post-traumatic stress, wit, and mostly water-based media, wood and metal as tools of divination to extract imagery from the collective unconscious."

Bridget is in the process of realizing a lifelong dream of becoming an animator. She will be using the grant funds to dedicate herself to a new animated film which she will submit to film festivals worldwide.

Bridget's exhibitions in the last few years have been extensive - from the MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids and Duluth Art Institute to the North Dakota Museum of Art and Keki Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, and many galleries in the Twin Cities, including Intermedia Arts, Outsiders and Others, Minneapolis Foundation, Rogue Buddha Gallery, etc. She has earned awards for her visual art from Artability at Apollo, Sister Kenny, Pathways to Employment poster contest and the Convergence Convention Art Show in Bloomington. She is one of the founders of the Arrowhead Alliance of Artists with Disabilities.


Loretta Bebeau
"My role as an artist is to stir things up, make new connections, and present them to the community. My art is a defiant act, even when it's pretty." - Loretta Bebeau

Painter and Adjunct Instructor of drawing at Minneapolis Community College, Loretta Bebeau is an artist driven to create challenges for herself, willing to explore new mediums for her work as well as new venues to exhibit.

Loretta uses sheetrock as her canvas onto which she paints and stencils letters. Her new work will project video onto these already engaging, gridded surfaces. The invented play between "vowels and consonants" will allow "the hearing community to see hearing irregularities in order to understand how better to communicate with the hearing impaired." Loretta has researched Asian healing philosophies and "realized the nine-square grid is important. The grid overlaps with the game (used on all continents) Tic-Tac-Toe." For Loretta, Tic-Tac-Toe represents the game of life and is a stunningly accurate way of representing confusion, memory and miscommunication. Her work is contemporary, pushing the viewer to make connections between the aesthetic and real possibilities of entering someone else's reality.

Her exhibition record is impressive, including many solo shows in University galleries such as Hamline and the University of Minnesota. Recently she was a mentor for WARM. She will be in the 2010 Smithsonian Institution, Revealing Culture; VSA International Juried show in Washington D.C. Loretta also holds an MA from Hamline University.


Christine Sikorski

"I want people to find what they need from my work... it's hard to do if they can't find the work itself." - Christine Sikorski

This is "the year of the chapbook" for poet Christine Sikorski. Christine will publish her collections of poems titled "How the Earth Once Felt" with funds from this year's VSA Career Advancement Grant. Having an extensive publishing career in collections, including Artworld Quarterly, Avocet and the Great River Review, it is clear that she is ready for her own chapbook, with an audience ready and anxious to read her collection.

Beautiful and moving, Christine's poetry draws you in. She has been recognized with a 2000 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, an award from the Academy of American Poets in 1995 and a Loft Mentor Series Award in 1992. Also a prose writer, and mother, Christine suffers from Psoriatic Arthritis, the management "of which entails considerable time, energy, and money". She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota.

Alec Sweazy

"Music is my passion! I have worked hard to become an accomplished musician on piano, accordion and voice. I have enjoyed performing for all kinds of audiences and have won many awards. Even though there will always be many challenges in my life, I know that my amazing musical ability will take me far." - Alec Sweazy

The youngest of the grant recipients, Alec is a talented and dedicated musician. Alec was a recipient of a VSA arts of Minnesota's 2009 Young Soloist Award, the February 2005 "Artist of the Month" for KFAI (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Disabled and Proud program and has appeared on 60 Minutes, Nightline and 60 Minutes II.

Born with Williams syndrome, Alec plans to use the grant funds to upgrade to a professional-grade accordion and to work with a mentor to improve his performance/stage presence. An upgraded accordion will offer Alec "limitless combinations of orchestral and accordion sounds." The upgrade will also be lightweight and portable, allowing Alec to prevent future joint and fatigue problems. He will also experiment with his own arrangements on the new accordion. He is a 2004 graduate of Musictech College (now McNally Smith College of Music) in St. Paul.


Naomi Cohn

"I write to explore the truths of the world as I experience it in all its cruelty, gorgeousness and dark humor. My subject matter varies; I began writing poetry in exploration of the personal - my own progressive vision loss and watching a beloved parent diminished through dementia. I also return again and again to the larger natural world around us. In these poems I often take an interest in how creatures other than our human selves might experience that world; I also use the personae of other creatures to reflect on our human society." - Naomi Cohn

Poet Naomi Cohn claims to be a "word nerd." Even so, Naomi's gift for words is strong and apparent in her poetry. She is currently working on publishing her collection of poetry. In past poems, she has explores the subject of memory and vision. She plans to use the grant funds for a writing retreat at Edenfred in Madison, Wisconsin. There, she will explore traditional forms of poetry, read contemporary poetry and "craft 10-15 new poems that will form the core of a new manuscript."

Naomi has been published in the Star Tribune, Fourth River and Main Channel Voices. She was a recipient of a 2006 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in Poetry and was a SASE/Jerome finalist in 2007. Her recent work includes The Mermaid's Corpse, a collection of 50 poems and Nectar and Eternity, a chapbook of 15 poems about insects. Naomi has a BA from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.