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AAC Diversity + Leadership Fellows Announced

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Alliance of Artists Communities is thrilled to announce the recipients of the second annual Diversity and Leadership Fellowship. Funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Fellowship program aims to amplify the voices of administrators of color and administrators with disabilities early in their residency careers to support the closing of critical gaps in leadership, decision-making freedom, and retention. Fellows are provided with a range of professional development opportunities, including cost-free attendance at the Alliance's Annual Conference, a fellowship retreat, and connection with a mentor in the arts.

Alliance of Artists Communities Executive Director Lisa Hoffman says: “The Diversity and Leadership Fellowship represents the coming together of two of the Alliance’s core priorities: equity in the arts and professional development. This program will not only contribute to the creation of a pipeline for diverse leaders to serve in decision-making positions, it will also provide necessary support to retain those administrators in the field.”

Seven awardees were selected from a competitive pool of applicants representing residencies across the United States. The 2018–2019 Fellows are: Steffani Clemons, Artist Centered Program Manager, Joan Mitchell Center (New Orleans, LA); Kelly Dennis, Residency and Public Programs Coordinator, The Watermill Center (Water Mill, NY); Jennifer Ifil-Ryan, Deputy Director & Director of Creative Engagement, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling (New York, NY); Bora Kim, Program Manager, Artist Residencies, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) (New York, NY); Sharbreon Plummer, Independent Researcher and Practitioner (Columbus, OH); Carolina Porras, Artist Residency Program Manager, Elsewhere Studios (Paonia, CO); and Cynthia A. Weitzel, Deaf Artists Residency Program Coordinator, Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (Red Wing, MN).

Fellowships are one part of the Alliance’s larger Diversity + Leadership Initiative, which combines research, advocacy, and professional development to advance diversity and equity in the residency field. The Initiative aims to build a tactical network fostering collaboration, and solidarity between administrators of color and administrators with disabilities, while supporting their growth and leadership capacity to navigate careers in the residency field.


The Alliance of Artists Communities (AAC) is the international service organization for artist residency programs and artist-centered organizations in the US and abroad. AAC's mission is to advocate for and support artist residency programs as a means of advancing the endeavors of all artists. Founded in 1991, AAC currently has more than 400 members in 50 U.S. states and 20 countries, and speaks collectively on behalf of the more than 1,500 residency programs worldwide. Since 2004, AAC has provided more than $2 million in direct grant funding to artists and residency centers. The Alliance hosts an Annual Conference and Emerging Program Institute annually to bringing together residency practitioners, funders, policymakers and other professionals to network, learn and be inspired. It is a registered 501(c)(3). For more information, please visit the website:

2018 Diversity + Leadership Fellows


Steffani Clemons | Artist Centered Program Manager, Joan Mitchell Center (New Orleans, LA)

Steffani Clemons is the Artist Centered Program Manager at the Joan Mitchell Center. Previously she worked in Local Programs at the National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network, where she managed the day-to-day aspects of the program’s capacity building efforts for artists and cultural workers. She has 10 years experience working in artist/community engagement where she started at Kentuck Art Museum and Festival in Tuscaloosa Alabama. There she worked closely with Southern folk, craft and outsider artists and served on the festival’s steering committee. She has advocated for Louisiana state artists at Americans for the Arts’ Arts Advocacy Day in Washington DC, and served as a panelist for the Arts Council New Orleans and the Ana & Adeline Foundation. As a facilitator, she leads peer-to-peer conversations for artist including NPN/VAN’s Arts In Motion Workshop, most recently for South Art’s Performance Arts Exchange. She participated in Arts Align, a local advocacy group of art leaders and served on the host committee for the National Fiscal Sponsorship Conference in New Orleans. In 2016, she is also an alum of the Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Initiative.


Kelly Dennis | Residency and Public Programs Coordinator, The Watermill Center (Water Mill, NY)

Kelly Dennis supports emerging artists in the creation of new work as the Residency and Public Programs Coordinator at The Watermill Center, an interdisciplinary laboratory for the arts and humanities located on Long Island’s East End in Water Mill, New York. Kelly is a tribe member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation of New York and Hassanamisco Nipmuc Nation of Massachusetts. Born and raised on the Shinnecock Reservation, Kelly is committed to protecting and preserving her Native American culture through traditional dances, songs, crafts and ceremonial practices that she often shares with artists at Watermill and the local community. Kelly is also an attorney specializing in Federal American Indian law and has represented her tribe and others on matters such as land rights, civil rights, cultural and natural resources protection, as well as tribal governance and business development. She continues to represent individual tribe members on educational law, family law, and small business matters. Kelly integrates her legal background with her passion for the arts through social justice advocacy efforts for the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples. Kelly earned her BA in Political Science at Middlebury College and her JD law degree at the University of New Mexico School of Law.



Jennifer Ifil-Ryan | Deputy Director & Director of Creative Engagement, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling (New York, NY)

Jennifer Ifil-Ryan is a socially engaged artist, artist educator, and arts administrator.  Deeply familiar with multicultural learning environments and the educational challenges of impoverished communities, she is driven by her belief that the arts pave the road toward social transformation.  In her current role as Director of Creative Engagement with the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum, Jennifer is responsible for conceptualizing and managing programs that prioritize diversity and inclusion in the curation of social experiences. Jennifer frequently lectures and organizes workshops for artists, educators and administrators in socially engaged project design, community engagement strategies and technique workshops in a range of artistic media.


Bora Kim | Program Manager, Artist Residencies, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) (New York, NY)

Bora is currently a Program Manager of Artist Residencies at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC). She oversees all aspects of LMCC's flagship program Workspace - a nine-month studio residency for emerging artists of all disciplines - and is involved in the programming of LMCC's new Arts Center on Governors Island currently under construction. While openly embracing a broad range of art forms, Bora professes a soft spot for classical Hollywood melodramas and film noirs. In addition to her affiliation with LMCC, she pursues independent curatorial projects and film screenings at non-profit cinemas such as Anthology Film Archives.







Sharbreon Plummer | Independent Researcher and Practitioner (Columbus, OH)

Sharbreon Plummer is a creative practitioner + PhD student in the Department of Art Administration, Education and Policy at The Ohio State University. Her upbringing in southern Louisiana informs her interest and investment in how culture and ancient practices act as influencers of personal expression and contemporary work, specifically within the Global South. She is currently the Research Assistant for the Women of Color Quilter’s Network–pairing Black Feminist Theory with narrative inquiry to inform her research on fiber and textile art through the lens of Black womanhood. Her independent research has also been supported by grants awarded by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, along with the Embroiderer’s Guild of America.

Most recently, Sharbreon was selected to be a YWCA Leadership for Social Change Fellow (2017-18) and participant in the Tate Intensive (2018). She has developed work presented in and for institutions such as Project Row Houses, Rush Corridor Gallery, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Hampshire College, Americans for the Arts and Front International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. In addition to being an occasional alchemist, she acted as the Program Associate for Community Engagement for the Joan Mitchell Center Artist Residency Program from 2013-2017. Sharbreon continues to serve as an independent consultant on special projects and artistic collaborations.

Carolina Porras - Artist Residency Program Manager, Elsewhere Studios (Paonia, CO)

Carolina Porras is a citizen artist whose work is committed to arts-based placemaking and revealing the magical world of artist residencies to all. After graduating from the University of Florida with a BFA in Drawing, Carolina attended her first artist residency in 2013, which inspired a desire to work as a creative community builder. Carolina is the current Program Manager at this same residency - Elsewhere Studios, a grass roots artist residency in the small rural community of Paonia, Colorado. Through her work at Elsewhere she strives to facilitate an accessible space for artists from diverse disciplines to explore, experiment, and create. She is also co-founder of Piney Wood Atlas, a collaborative project cataloging small, emerging, and unconventional artist residencies across the United States. With the intent of creating a resource tool that connects the dots between artists and residencies, the PWA duo has personally visited 50 unique residencies and created two publications featuring the Northwest and Southwest regions. With the Midwest regional publication in the works, they plan to cover the whole country by 2021. Piney Wood Atlas was the 2017 recipient of Lupita’s Grant through Sierra Nevada College’s Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program.


Cynthia A. Weitzel | Deaf Artists Residency Program Coordinator, Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies (Red Wing, MN)

Cynthia Weitzel is a Deaf visual artist who since 2011 has maintained a year-round studio at the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Red Wing, Minnesota. Her work involves the continuum of visual art media with primary focus on themes relating to the Deaf life experience. She attended Gallaudet University and University of Minnesota before obtaining her degree in business management and studio fine art from Austin Peay State University. Cynthia has 25 years previous experience in the nonprofit field serving the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Community. The recipient of the Minnesotan of the Year Award by Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens in 2009 and Robert M. Greenmun Memorial Award for leadership excellence by the National Association of the Deaf in 2010, she exhibits a long history devoted to the human, linguistic and cultural rights of all citizens. She founded and twice co-chaired the first and second National Juried De’VIA (Deaf View / Image Art) Competition & Exhibit and played a key role in obtaining multiple Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants supporting the preservation of historical landmarks and archives important to Minnesota and national Deaf history. Her most recent collaboration with the Anderson Center led to successfully receiving ArtWorks Grants (2014, 2016 and 2018) from the National Endowment for the Arts to host the interdisciplinary Deaf Artists Residency program— the only program of its kind in the US. She serves as coordinator and also leads the panel review and selection committee for this model program.