Five from Butler community honored with grants

The Butler University community received high honors in April when five campus faces received Creative Renewal Arts Fellowships.

The $10,000 fellowships­—supported by the Lilly Endowment— were awarded to Professors Diane Timmerman and Rob Koharchik of the theater department, Professor Cynthia Pratt of the dance department, Professor Chris Forhan of the English department and Elise Kushigian, executive director of Clowes Memorial Hall. There were 37 recipients overall.

Pratt, Timmerman and Koharchik are receiving the award for the second time.

“Faculty members at Butler are leaders in the artistic community in Indianapolis, and I think it is fabulous that this has been recognized and acknowledged,” Pratt said.

Timmerman said she plans to use the grant to advance her photography skills and use them to shape her theater pieces.

“Unlike most grants where one needs to stick to a strict schedule and produce specific outcomes, the fellowship allows artists to let projects unfold,” Timmerman said. “I am truly enjoying learning more about photography and am excited to see where the fellowship takes me.”

She said she ultimately will produce a theater piece that involves photography, but she doesn’t want to rush a product during a “fellowship period that is all about process.”

Koharchik plans to visit the Watermill Center in New York. The center, according to its website, supports projects that mix genres and art forms from diverse viewpoints and which “break traditional forms of representation and cultural specifics.”

Koharchik has not visited the center yet, but hopes to sometime this fall. He also said he’d like to meet founder Robert Wilson.

Over in the dance department, Pratt was able to visit Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival this summer. The festival received the National Medal of Arts in March, the highest arts award given by the U.S. government. Held in Massachusetts, thousands worldwide travel to see more than 50 dance companies and 200 free performances.

“As much as I love Indianapolis, it is easy to get cut off from the big picture of dance that is being created outside of the Midwest,” Pratt said. “Going to the Pillow gave me access to some very inspiring works.”

Pratt hopes to take one more trip using the grant, possibly to New York or back to the festival.

Forhan’s project is home-based. Forhan is writing a memoir that deals with questions about his father, who committed suicide when Forhan was 14. Forhan has been tracing his father’s roots, which also has meant finding out about his mother’s life, which, he said, has its “own remarkable dramas and sorrows and secrets.”

At this time, he said he is trying to organize all of his research coherently. He does not have many paragraphs written but does have hundreds of pages of notes.

Kushigian said she felt especially honored by the award as she said the fellowship tends to go to artists rather than arts administrators.

Her goal is to “once again become an audience member” and experience “live performing arts from a novice point of view.”

Currently, she is researching what is available to her, such as the New Orleans Folk and Jazz Festival and premieres in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Fellowship recipients said they are eager to share their experiences with their students, while Kushigian said she hopes to pass on her experiences to the university community as a whole.

“It is further confirmation of how talented and creatively engaged the people at Butler are,” Forhan said.

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