2023 Arts Innovator Award Finalist Cohort

Published: June 12, 2023

Categories: Artists | Featured | Grants & Fellowships

2023 Arts Innovator Award

Introducing the 2023 Arts Innovator Award Finalist Cohort!

Kassa Overall and Tariqa Waters were selected as this year’s AIA recipients from a cohort of eight finalists by a multidisciplinary panel comprised of five artists from across the state. We are excited to introduce the 2023 AIA Finalist Cohort: Kamari Bright (Media, King County), Jade Solomon Curtis (Performing, King County), Jesse Higman (Visual, King County), Sonora Jha (Literary, King County), Troy Osaki (Literary, King County), and Yixuan Pan (Media, Pierce County)!

These six finalists will each receive a $500 honorarium in recognition of their collective achievement and time they invested to participate. The 2023 grant cycle saw the largest AIA applicant pool since the award’s founding in 2010, underscoring the need for amplified artist support during this time.

Read to learn more about the finalists and their work! Find the full 2023 AIA announcement here.

Kamari Bright

Kamari Bright

Photo by Rubin Quarcoopome

With the goal of creating something that starts the process of healing for herself and others, Kamari Bright is a poet, videopoet, and creative that is heavily inspired by her life lessons and observations. The award-winning creator transcends the bounds of imagery and language by fortifying one with the other, creating a work more closely resemblant to the multi-sensory experiences of life. Her videopoems have been internationally received and lauded at Seattle Black Film Festival, the Film and Video Poetry Symposium, Tacoma Film Festival, and many others festivals; while their poetry has been featured in “NILVX: A Book of Magic,” “2018 Jack Straw Writers Anthology,” “Moss,” Bellwether Arts Week, and other avenues. The 2018 Jack Straw Writer is currently working on a manuscript connecting the influence of Christian folklore on present-day misogyny, and a videopoem extrapolating collective trauma and its connection to land stewardship. She currently lives, loves, and eats on the land of the Duwamish.

Jade Solomon Curtis

Jade Solomon Curtis, originally from Lubbock, Texas, is a Seattle-based award-winning
choreographer, dance artist, and curator with nearly 20 years of experience. Through the lens of
a Black woman, her works integrate Black vernacular movements, contemporary dance, and
innovative technology to explore the body as an artifact of memory, space, and time. Curtis is
the founder of Solo Magic, a non-profit arts initiative that collaborates with innovative artists to
create socially relevant experiences. She is also the creator and lead curator of the globally
focused residency program Radical Black Femme Project (RBFP).

Curtis received her BFA from Southern Methodist University and is the recipient of fellowships,
residencies, and commissions from the University of Washington’s Meany Hall, Artist Trust,
University of South Carolina, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, Duke University
(SLIPPAGE LAB), Seattle Art Museum, Chan Centre for the Performing the Arts, University of
Albany, Seoul International Dance Festival, and New England Foundation for the Arts National
Dance Project among others.

Jesse Higman

A quadriplegic in a wheelchair, Jesse Higman has developed a processed based painting technique he calls illuvium, after the geologic term for minerals settling on flood plains. As larger works necessitated the help of others, a socially-engaged visual art has emerged where he invites strangers to pour paintings in simultaneous cooperations. Higman uses computer animation and video to express corollaries between particles in motion, painters as independent agents, and the relationships people form as they participate in generative social systems. Higman has received numerous grants supporting his public paint pours throughout Washington state, including 4Culture‘s 2019 Arc Artist Fellowship, the CityArtist 2020 award, 4Culture’s Art Projects 2022, and the 2022 Arts In Parks Grant from Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture.

Sonora Jha

Sonora Jha is the author of the novels The Laughter (2023) and Foreign (2013) and the memoir How To Raise A Feminist Son: A Memoir and Manifesto (2021). The Laughter has earned rave reviews from The New York Times, The New Yorker, India Today, and The Seattle Times and received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Bookpage and others. Author Celeste Ng has described it as “a deliciously sharp, mercilessly perceptive exploration of power.” Foreign was a finalist for The Hindu Prize for Fiction and the Shakti Bhatt First Book Award. After a career as a journalist covering crime, politics, and culture in India and Singapore, Sonora moved to the United States to earn a Ph.D. in media and public affairs. Sonora’s OpEds, essays, and public appearances have featured in The New York Times, on BBC, and elsewhere. Her work is rooted in liberatory, intersectional, subversive interrogations of power, race, and gender. Sonora is a professor of journalism and lives in Seattle. She also teaches fiction and essay writing for Hugo House, Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, Creative Nonfiction, and Seattle Public Library.

Troy Osaki

The grandson of Filipino immigrants and the great-grandson of Japanese immigrants, Troy Osaki is a poet, organizer, and attorney. Osaki is a three-time grand slam poetry champion and has earned fellowships from Kundiman, Hugo House, and Jack Straw Cultural Center. He was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation in 2022. A 2022-2023 Critic-at-Large for Poetry Northwest, his poetry has appeared in the Margins, Muzzle Magazine, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the Seattle University School of Law where he interned at Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration for youth in King County. He lives in Seattle, WA.

Yixuan Pan

Yixuan Pan is an anti-disciplinary artist. Pan is from the land of fish and rice, where she grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese. Being in an unfamiliar environment often, her lack of knowledge has become the creative fuel that powers her curiosity and playful investigations. Currently, she is expanding on these ideas of collective miscommunication and cultural dislocation by making an immersive ASMR cooking show in which participants will be led through a series of collective cooking activities to make Chinese dumplings.

Pan is the author of an artist book: It -A Skillful Amateur’s Records on Glass. She also runs a podcast about artists and their day jobs called Working Artist. She is an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and she wants to be a cook when she grows up.

Funding for this award is generously donated by the Dale and Leslie Chihuly Foundation.

2023 AIAArts Innovator AwardFinalist Cohort