By: Scott Rappaport
UCSC art professor Elizabeth Stephens has been awarded a $20,000 Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship for 2014-15.
Stephens is one of three Santa Cruz County artists selected from a pool of 55 visual artists that will receive the grants to pursue their work.
The Rydell fellowships were established by long-time Santa Cruz cultural icons Roy and Frances Rydell and are administered by the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County.
They are awarded solely on artistic merit by a panel of arts professionals.
Stephens is a performance artist, activist, and educator whose artwork, performance art, and writing explores themes of queerness, feminism and environmentalism.
Her latest project, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story, is a film documenting a trip back to her hometown of Gauley Bridge in West Virginia.
The 70-minute documentary premiered at the Santa Cruz Film Festival in November, and chronicles the fight to save the region from the destruction of “mountaintop removal” coal mining, a further extension of conventional strip mining techniques.
“Receiving the 'Spirit of Action' award from the Santa Cruz Film Festival for my film Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story and then receiving the Rydell Visual Arts Fellowship has made this year my honeymoon year with Santa Cruz,” said Stephens.
“It is a great honor to receive the Rydell Fellowship and this places me in wonderful company with other Santa Cruz artists whom I know and admire, such as Hanna Hannah, Felicia Rice, Tim Craighead and Victoria May. It is a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged at home,” she added.
In addition to Stephens, this year’s new Rydell fellowship recipients are Jody Alexander and Jim Denevan.