Center for Arts + Social Justice Fellowship Grant

The Center for Arts + Social Justice Fellowship Grant is a $2,000 one-time award, available annually to one student in each program to support work and/or practice at the juncture of arts and social justice. The Center for Arts + Social Justice Fellowship Grant was created to provide support for students whose work shows a commitment to social justice, to celebrate and highlight that work, and to create a networking opportunity for recipients.

Applicants must be currently enrolled and in good academic standing. Application deadline: September 1, 2021.

Center for Arts + Social Justice Thesis Fellowship Grant

The Center for Arts + Social Justice Thesis Fellowship Grant is a $5,000 grant awarded to 2 students annually to support thesis work focused on a social justice issue. In recognition of the Center’s mission, priority will be given to projects that seek to create community-based change through the arts, and/or show the potential for future community impact.

In addition to monetary support, recipients will be featured on the Center for Arts + Social Justice webpage and will join a network of Center for Arts & Social Justice Thesis Fellows who will present a talk about their work to a college-wide audience each year.

Applicants must be currently enrolled and in good academic standing. Applicants must be in the third or fourth semester of their program and be able to clearly articulate the details of their thesis project. Application deadline: September 1, 2021.

2021 Thesis Fellows

The Center for Arts + Social Justice Thesis Fellowship Grant is a $5,000 grant awarded to 2 students annually to support thesis work focused on a social justice issue.

Brad Bailey (F ’22)

“Marlon Riggs was one of the most prolific documentary filmmakers of the late 20th century. His films, including TONGUES UNTIED (1989), were a bold and bracing look into the peak of the AIDS Crisis and other challenges for people of color during the late 1980s and early 1990s. His work was controversial and became a lightning rod for the culture wars of that era. My film will look at the legacy of that work and will also assess its relevance for today’s America.”

Brad Bailey is originally from Moultrie, Georgia. Brad is an avid fan of telling stories, especially those from underexposed communities. His film HALE won the Student Academy Award in 2017.


Juliet Way-Henthorne (W ’22)

“My critical thesis explores biracial Asian-American memoirs as I seek to uncover patterns in narrative structure, endings that aren’t happy or resolution-based—but rather, reflective, emotional, or focused on moments of self-acceptance—and, perhaps most interestingly, understand why these biracial Asian-American memoirs, of which there is no shortage, rarely make it to mainstream audiences. I examine these memoirs in the context of the history of violence towards Asian-Americans—a history that is too often overlooked or under-taught. I further examine and propose ways in which this community of doubly-othered individuals can enhance their voices and occupy a larger space within society. The biracial Asian-American experience, like other biracial experiences, is buried in shadows, its secrets often known only by those who live them. We straddle a border, often filled with shame and a deep, profound sense of being devoid of an identity. We are broken halves with no hope of mending if we cannot find each other. Therefore, I consider this—writing about biraciality and drawing awareness to experiences that are rarely discussed in major spaces—to be a life’s work, with the goal of helping other biracial people form senses of identity and community that they may not have even known were missing.”

2021 Fellows

The Center for Arts + Social Justice Fellowship Grant is a $2,000 one-time award, available annually to one student in each program to support work and/or practice at the juncture of arts and social justice.

Leah Byck (VA ’22)

“Hi! I am Leah Byck (Leah/They) [Lee-ah]. This fellowship grant will support my third semester’s work on disability justice in the VCFA Visual Art program. This semester, I am working on a film about hidden disabilities and mental illness, will be performing a drag show about mental illness, and will be painting a few paintings about disability. This grant will not only help support material costs, but will help production of these projects and the overall amount of time that will go into these pieces. My focus this semester is on disability justice, but this topic also relates to any social justice movement. My work is overall about social justice and intersectional subject matter. Once an individual starts talking about disability justice, one will start to also talk about racial justice, gender, sexuality, white supremacy, patriarchy, and colonialism. This grant will go towards my semester’s topic of disability justice, which will then inform my work from the past and moving forward will inform my other projects in the future.”


Jen Gilomen (F ’23)

In December 2018, filmmaker Jen Gilomen nearly died in childbirth. After her traumatic experience, she learned how unnecessarily common it was, and how much worse it could have been without her many privileges. DELIVERING JUSTICE: A MOVEMENT IS BORN will follow Jen’s journey to understand why the maternal death rate continues to rise in the United States, even as it diminishes in other wealthy nations, and to see who is on the front lines of efforts to reverse the trend. With racism, inequality, and the pandemic exacerbating an already broken system, the quest will take us deep within the complex world of childbirth in the United States as midwives, mothers, Congresswomen, and researchers battle to make childbirth safer and more equitable for all birthing people. www.deliveringjusticefilm.com


Vic Rodriguez Tang (GD ’22)

“My goal is to create the first brand that acknowledges four specific target audiences: trans, queer, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming folks that typically get ignored in the menstrual products industry as consumers. As part of creating this brand and company, my ultimate goal is to get into sales points such as drug stores and grocery stores (accessible points of sale) with a line of products that can compete with established brands’ prices in this industry. I want to make sure we cater to trans, queer, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming folks first, which no company does in markets such as convenience stores. I want the brand to compete with the prices of big brands while offering high-quality products. As part of this initiative, I want to help these four groups by providing jobs in a company that acknowledges, celebrates, and supports them on multiple levels. Lastly, as part of this project, this brand aims to give back to the community by offering scholarships for gender confirmation needs from these communities.”


Jaquay Smith (MC ’22)

“I created Music Matters with JAQ during the pandemic to give children a place to go to watch free videos. We focus on music education for children, and it is our mission to bring access to those who would otherwise receive lesser education. Music Matters with JAQ offers free shows and videos, helps to fill the need for supplemental music lessons (due to the decline of the arts in schools and an increase in e-learning), and provides private lessons for homeschooled children and other budding musicians. We create free videos spotlighting BIPOC children and adults that feature musical terms and ideas in an imaginative way. We also offer music lessons to homeschooled children. A lot of children have not seen or touched instruments. For many, musicians and orchestras seem out of reach; musicals are played on TV; choirs are only heard in church; and a career as a musician or a composer is unheard of. But I want to show children that it is possible to love and make music.” www.musicmatterswithjaq.com


Diana Norma Szokolyai (W ’22)

“I am honored to accept the Center for Arts + Social Justice Fellowship, which will support my book of Romani poetry in translation. I am a first-generation American of Romani Hungarian heritage, and I am translating the work of Romani poets such as Alexandre Romanès, Magda Szécsi, and Bronislawa Wajs (a.k.a. Papusza), many of whom have not yet been translated into English. Poetry can be a powerful vehicle to bear witness to authentic Romani stories that need to be told. History gives us evidence for the forced exodus of Roma from India, 500+ years of Romani slavery, and the Porajmos (genocide of Roma during WWII). Today, many Romani people are disenfranchised and continue to suffer from systemic and targeted racism. Meanwhile, the ‘G*psy’ image in pop culture has largely been written by non-Roma. Romani scholar Ian Hancock writes about how this is problematic and has resulted in the emergence of a fictitious ‘G*psy’ stereotype. Even in the face of oppression, the Romani people have remained resilient and have a vibrant and rich culture with a shared language and traditions that have endured centuries. Reading Romani poetry in translation is invaluable to our development of more multi-faceted perspectives and part of the work of anti-bias education. Personally, I agree with Edith Grossman’s assessment in her book Why Translation Matters, that ‘Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.'” www.diananorma.com | Twitter: @DNSwrites | Instagram: @DianaNormaWrites