News / Press Releases

Artist Trust Awards $80,000 in New Grants to Three Washington State Artists

For Immediate Release:

Artist Trust is thrilled to announce the recipients of the inaugural James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award and James W. Ray Venture Project Awards.

The $50,000 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award, the largest cash grant available to Washington State artists, recognizes artists in all disciplines whose work demonstrates exceptional originality. Intended to help advance the creative work of an outstanding individual artist, the recipient also benefits from an individualized program of advisory support and access to artist advisors, consultants, business and financial planning, and other training opportunities offered through Artist Trust’s Creative Career Center.

Jessika Kenney (Seattle) is a vocalist and composer in the realm of new, experimental, metal, electronic, and improvised music. Inspired by both traditional music and experimental methods, she has explored the interpretation and performance of Persian and Javanese secular court music, vocals, and literature, including innovative translations focused on the mysteries of traditions. Kenney has also created and collaborated with Seattle composer Eyvind Kang, and performed throughout the world with the Orchestra del Teatro Communale and Coro da Camera di Modena (Italy), Gamelan Pacifica (Seattle), Gamelan Madusari (Vancouver, BC) and others. She has performed, recorded, and studied with the ney master Ostad Hossein Omoumi since 2004. She is a recipient of Artist Trust’s Grants for Artist Projects and a CityArtist Project grant from the City of Seattle. She is a graduate from and adjunct vocal faculty at Cornish College of the Arts.

I am so grateful and delighted to accept the James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award. It is a joy and humbling honor, which will truly support my life’s work, and I hope in turn will benefit my extended community in many ways. I hope that the spirit of projects and awards like these will help improve the atmosphere of our world, and lead to all kinds of generosity, understanding and diverse imaginings. [Jessika Kenney]

The $15,000 James W. Ray Venture Project Awards support projects by artists in all disciplines whose work demonstrates exceptional originality. These awards support artistic excellence and the development of new ideas through individual and collaborative projects. The power of the award rests in the ability to have a transformative impact on the artists’ careers.

Cris Bruch (Seattle) is a sculptor who integrates a formal aesthetic characterized by the use of non-traditional materials and repetitive processes with a social and philosophical conceptual basis. He has received many awards including The Pollock Krasner Foundation award, The Northwest Major Works Award from the Seattle Arts Commission, The Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Memorial Award and The Neddy Fellowship from the Behnke Foundation. His work has been written about in ArtNews, High Performance, Artweek, Art in America and ArtForum. A comprehensive survey of his work was presented by the Salt Lake Art Center, UT in 2003, portions of which then traveled to the Boise Art Museum, ID in 2004. He has completed many large-scale public commissions, and earned an MFA and MA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. With funding from the James W. Ray Venture Project Award, Bruch will develop objects, installations and performances based on his family’s life on the Great Plains, 1919-40.

Amy O’Neal (Seattle) is a choreographer and dance educator who has taught and performed nationally and internationally and choreographed for stage, commercials, dance films, and music videos. She is a Creative Capital, National Performance Network, National Dance Project and Mid Atlantic Arts grantee, two-time Artist Trust Fellowship recipient, DanceWEB Scholar, and two-time Stranger Genius Award Nominee with a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts. With funding from the James W. Ray Venture Project Award, O’Neal will create an evening-length dance performance with a cast of B-Boys (hip hop dancers) around questions and perceptions of femininity and its impact on male behavior. It will premiere in December 2014 at On the Boards in Seattle.

The three 2014 James W. Ray Award recipients will be showcased in exhibitions funded by the Raynier Institute & Foundation and Frye Art Museum.

These awards are made possible by a grant from the Raynier Institute & Foundation, which awarded the Artist Trust | Frye Art Museum Consortium a five-year, $1.1 million grant to support exceptional artists living and working in Washington State.

James W. Ray Awards Process

Artists must be nominated to be eligible for the James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award and James W. Ray Venture Project Awards. Nominations of artists representing a breadth of disciplines, art practices, and locations around the state were sought. Evaluation of applications and selection of recipients was performed by a multi-disciplinary panel of arts professionals. Nominators and panelists were selected by Artist Trust.

2014 James W. Ray Award Nominators

Literary Arts
Rebecca Hoogs, Program Director, Seattle Arts and Lectures, Seattle
Jess Walter, Author, Spokane

Visual Arts
Peter Christenson, Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Washington State University, Pullman
Sarah Clark-Langager, Curator, Western Washington University, Bellingham
Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Director of Education, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle

Media Arts
Juan Pampin, Associate Professor of Music Composition and Director, Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS), University of Washington, Seattle
Tracy Rector, Media Artist, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Longhouse Media, Olympia

Performing Arts
Lane Czaplinski, Artistic Director, On the Boards, Seattle
Stuart Dempster, Composer, Professor Emeritus, School of Music, University of Washington, Seattle
Karen Zeller Lane, Executive Director, Theatre Puget Sound, Seattle

2014 James W. Ray Award Panelists

Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Director, Frye Art Museum, Seattle
Elizabeth Brown, Chief Curator (2000-11), Henry Art Gallery, Seattle
Joan Rabinowitz, Executive Director, Jack Straw Productions, Seattle
Molly Sheldon Scott, Visual Artist and Choreographer, Seattle
Robert Snowden, Curator, Yale Union, Portland, OR

About Artist Trust
Artist Trust is a nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to support and encourage individual artists working in all disciplines in order to enrich community life throughout Washington State. Since its founding in 1986, Artist Trust has invested over $10 million in individual artists through grant programs, and provides a comprehensive suite of professional development training and resources to help artists achieve their career goals. Learn more at