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Amira Brown

A 2016 graduate of the Paier College of Art, Amira Brown is an interdisciplinary artist living in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. A painter, illustrator and cartoonist, she has taught workshops and classes at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School (BRAMS), the Connecticut Center for Arts & Technology (ConnCAT), and Common Ground School among others. Inspired largely by graphic novels, her posters and paintings pull viewers in with popping, electric color and bright, blocky shapes, as if the artist has used a mix of old school photo collage and new school Photoshop. When she’s not working in her Shelton Avenue studio, she’s often helping fellow artists at Hull’s Art Supply downtown.

In recent years, her work has spanned immigrant and refugee rights, personal narratives, critiques of late-stage capitalism and efforts to get out the vote. During COVID-19, she continued to probe the intersection of social justice and visual culture in her work. In June 2020, she launched the inaugural Bailout Gallery, an arts-based fundraiser for protesters arrested and jailed for protesting the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. At the time, she said she was inspired in part by Emory Douglas, a personal hero and American illustrator and graphic designer who worked on the original Black Panther newspaper in the 1960s. 


IfeMichelle Gardin

Founder of the Elm City LIT Fest, IfeMichelle Gardin has spent decades making the arts run in New Haven. Born and raised in the city, she grew up as a pupil of artist and activist Angela Bowen, who ran the now-legendary Bowen/Peters School of Dance. Years ago, she worked as a manager at Unique Boutique, one of the city’s first Black beauty supply stores, on Dixwell Avenue.

In 1993, Ife started creating festivals with an artist-led celebration in Bowen Field. She grew her cultural footprint with programming at Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven Kwanzaa celebrations, early iterations of the Dwight/Edgewood Project run through the Yale School of Drama, and community engagement at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Shubert Theatre, and Long Wharf Theatre. In 2009, she created Arts@Work, a program designed to teach youth about production work opportunities in the theater. Ife has also served as a case manager at AIDS Interfaith New Haven and Youth Continuum. In almost all of her organizing jobs, she has turned to performing arts as a lifeline. During her time as assistant director with Hill Cooperative Youth Services, she saw the creation of a youth theater intensive that traveled down to the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina.


Shaunda Sekai Holloway

Shaunda Holloway (Sekai) is a painter, printmaker, curator, and writer raised between New Haven and Hamden, where she still lives today. She fell in love with artmaking while studying journalism at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU), after realizing that most of her friends were students in the art department. Or in her words, “art chose me.”

When she left school to care for her mom, she kept the interest alive in classes at Creative Arts Workshop (CAW), where she is exhibiting work in the three-part show Made Visible in November. She credits Romare Bearden, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett and Jean-Michel Basquiat—all artists she first saw at the Studio Museum in Harlem—with guiding her work.

For decades, she has honed her craft around the city. In the 1990s, Holloway jumped onboard as an art teacher at Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School. She continued classes at CAW, expanding into abstract painting, poetry, photography and printmaking. 

Recently, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art. Her writing has been published in ESSENCE magazine, CT Post, the Inner City News, New Haven Review, Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander and other publications. Her paintings and prints have been exhibited throughout the East Coast, and across the globe, including New Delhi, India.


Paul Bryant Hudson

Born and raised in New Haven, Paul Bryant Hudson is a multi-talented singer, songwriter, pianist, and creative organizer in the city. Music has long been in his bloodstream: he started playing piano and singing with his great-grandmother, Syla A. Artis Branch, when he was just three years old. After forming his first band at Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, Paul went on to become a fixture in the city’s music scene, where he creates music soaked in mythology, music history, and his own experience as a Black man, son, grandson, father, and resident of New Haven. In 2018 he returned to the school as the director of CAS, the Co-Op After School program.

From 2017 to 2018, Paul ran the city’s chapter of Sofar Sounds, a semi-secret, site-specific concert series held in spaces including Lotta Studio, Neville Wisdom Fashion Design Studio, and Bregamos Community Theater. In 2019 he launched The Jam at the State House, a monthly opportunity for artists to gather and experiment with no strings attached. Recently, he opened The Kitchen, a coworking space by and for people of color located above Bradley Street Bike Co-Op.  

Earlier this year, Paul collaborated with musicians Trey Moore and Jeremiah Fuller to bring New Haven The Soundtrack, a five-part sound installation for Artspace New Haven’s exhibition Revolution On Trial, and was part of the creative team for the inaugural At Home In New Haven. His song “John,” which was released on Juneteenth 2020, is available via Bandcamp.


Tia Lynn Waters (Bubbles or Bubblicious)

A portrait of resilience raised in New Haven, Tia Lynn Waters—often known more affectionately as Bubbles—is one of the founders of New Haven’s drag community and a longtime champion of social justice for Black artists in the city. As a kid, she encountered what it meant to be Black and Trans in New Haven’s public schools, navigating a landscape that continues to put up barriers to LGBTQ+ students across the district today. 

In the years since, she has become a fierce mentor, confidant, role model, activist, and fixture at the New Haven Pride Center. She helped build New Haven’s drag scene when it was still in its nascent stages, just as Paris was burning and Hartford sizzled. She has continued to perform during a number of health setbacks, including a stay in the hospital where she turned her trays into art installations. In 2019, she spoke out on the New Haven Green to call for greater attention to the crimes perpetrated against Black Trans women. She has also contributed to talkbacks for Trans Body II at the Ely Center of Contemporary Art and Black Trans Women At The Center: An Evening Of Short Plays at Long Wharf Theatre. Recently, she was a performer at socially distanced celebrations for PRIDE New Haven and the New Haven Pride Center hosted a solo show of her artwork.

Liz + John Fisher

C. Newton Schenck III Award for Lifetime Achievement in and Contribution to the Arts

Liz Fisher has worked with the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, where she is currently the managing director, for more than 20 years. Her career began with the circus, where she toured the country for more than 20 years, first with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and then in New York as the associate general manager for the Big Apple Circus. She also spent two years in Atlanta, Georgia, where she contracted the Cultural Olympiad for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Liz is married to John Fisher, executive director of the Shubert Theater. They live together with their adorable Brussels Griffon Matta, in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven.

John Fisher joined the Shubert Theatre as its general manager in 1997, after positions with the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia and the Big Apple Circus in New York. At the time, the theater functioned as a not-for-profit owned by the City of New Haven. Before Fisher arrived, the theater had gone through a particularly difficult financial stretch. 

During his time at the theater, he has worked to save it from economic hardship, overseen a sweeping renovation, and grown the theater’s footprint in the community, including partnerships with the New Haven Board of Education, Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, and most recently a program for young readers at the Stetson Branch of the New Haven Free Public Library


Special thanks to our jury, Susan Clinard, Dymin Ellis, Noe Jimenez, Rise Nelson, Peter Noble, and Ilona Somogyi for selecting our awardees from the community nominations process and our Board of Directors for selecting the Lifetime Achievement Awardees.

Commissioned Projects
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New Collaborations Between Past Awardees

In addition to our cohort of honorees this year, we will celebrate this milestone anniversary with all of our awardees over the last 40 years. This summer, we invited our past Arts Awards recipients to submit proposals for collaborative projects that inspired connection and celebrated resiliency. With help from our past Newt Schenck Lifetime Achievement Award recipients and our sponsors, we selected two proposals to support with funding and a world premiere during the Arts Awards. 


Emancipation Takes A Knee

Awardee Collaborators: Site Projects (2004), David Sepulveda (2016), Susan Clinard (2015), Jamie Burnett (2005), Travis Carbonella (2016)

Featuring: Kaatje Welsh, Alissa Jones, Zoe Eichler, Jermaine Pugh, Ayo Engel-Halfkenny, Salwa Abdussabur, Patricia Melton, Laura Clarke

Artist Susan Clinard and facilitator Salwa Abdussabur work with high school students to re-imagine and re-pose one of the many monuments under scrutiny amidst our national reckoning with systemic racism. The resulting documentary film by Travis Carbonella captures their process of literally building dignity, resilience, and humanity into the infamous Emancipation Monument.

Sponsored the by MetInteractive


Fountain of Resiliency: Art That Nurtures

Awardee Collaborators: Ann Cowlin (1983) + Helen Kauder (2012)

Featuring: Alexis Highsmith Smith, Leslie Blatteau, Laurie Sweet, Sydney Rubin, Chaz Brackeen, Belinda Legere, Ellen Angus, Rachael Siriani, and Irene Pata Cullaugh with technical assistance from Tiffany Hopkins

This short film will illustrate the resiliency, joyful experience, and long-term productivity of women who coped with the demands of childbearing in the Dancing Thru Pregnancy program. Ann, founder + director, and Helen, former Artspace Executive Director and participant in this program, are collaborating with four decades of mothers who experienced the power of this nurturing community. 

Sponsored the by Community Foundation for Greater New Haven



Live Moments
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Babz Rawls Ivy

 A full minute of fun and inspiration with our fabulous host, Babz Rawls Ivy.









Adriane Jefferson + Kolton Harris

A review of 2020 and look towards 2021 with resiliency features Adriane Jefferson, Director of the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism at the City of New Haven, and Kolton Harris, Program Associate at the Connecticut Office of the Arts in the Department of Economic + Community Development.






Kolton Harris + The Jam

Local musicians from The Jam perform with New London's Kolton Harris for a special closing performance.








Get Creative

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From BINGO to recipes from the awardees, word search to coloring pages ... our ART40 Activity Book has something for everyone

Your Support is Critical

The Creative Sector Relief Fund has provided nearly $200,000 in economic support to creatives + small-budget arts groups since March. With your support, the fund will relaunch in 2021 with a focus on racial justice, directly supporting Black, Brown, and Indigenous creatives.



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We give a big thank you to all our wonderful sponsors, whose generosity has allowed for our 40th Annual Arts Awards to be virtual and completely free! Our Sponsors exemplify the mission and vision of the Arts Council to help our diverse and resilient creative community thrive during this unprecedented time. 

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Hero Sponsors

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Special thanks goes to these outstanding individuals for their generous support of our Arts Awards and Awardees this year!


Ruby Melton & Gail McAvay

Eric Ginnish

Robert Parker & David Carter

Wojtek Borowski

Mimsie Coleman

Barbara Lamb

Randall Rode

Roslyn & Jerome Meyer 

Bill Graustein

Daisy Abreu & Ike Lasater

Elaine Carroll

Iman Hameen

Elizabeth Monz

Creative Team 

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Aligning (1)


Daniel Pizarro, Branding + Graphic Design


Kyle Kearson, Sculpture

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