Sustainable Arts Foundation
supporting artists and writers with families


Spring 2016 Awards

Radhiyah Ayobami

Radhiyah Ayobami's singular voice is like nothing we've read before; her essays are urgent and unforgettable. In "what we volunteered for," Radhiyah writes:
some of us got jobs. some of us bought cartoon smocks and white pants and went to one of the buildings in one of the neighborhoods all across the country that train poor and immigrant and colored women to take care of the parents and sick relatives of those that weren’t poor and immigrant and colored, and after we went to one of those buildings everyday for three or four weeks we came out with a piece of paper that said we were qualified to feed elderly people, wipe their bottoms and turn them in bed, and that’s what some of us did...

Radhiyah lives in Oakland, CA, with her teenage son.

Lisa Myers Bulmash

Lisa Myers Bulmash is a mixed-media artist who inserts personal stories into physical books, frames, and texts — an intimate process that takes established historical narratives and turns them inside out. She elevates these small glimpses and reclaims the historical framework that contains them. She lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her two children.

Carmen Lizardo

Carmen Lizardo is a photographer whose gelatin transfer prints on wood wowed us with their luscious tonal range, but even more so with their quiet, composed commentary on immigration and citizenship. As a Dominican-born artist, she explores both assimilation and displacement in her work, and we look forward to to seeing more powerful images. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her two daughters.

Abby Murray

In "Five Days after the Wedding," a young bride collects an Army ID card and "a sheet of paper that says What Happens after Death in Combat...her belly still full of lemon cake and champagne." In "How to Be Married after Iraq," a couple is guided through alphabet poses that signal the strength of their relationship: "the right choice for officers and their wives, a letter H: two people clasping hands across a comfortable lunging distance..." Abby Murray's poems about military life impressed us all with their quiet restraint and vivid images. She teaches creative writing at the University of Washington-Tacoma and lives in Puyallup, WA with her husband and daughter.

Joshua Rivkin

The surface of Lake Eden is black glass under the press of winter stars. The snow, stopped for now, hangs to the branches of the pine trees. A young man, Robert Rauschenberg, is alone in the icy water. His mind, like the air, like the sky, is black. ...

Another young man, Cy Twombly, his friend and fellow student, his lover too, wades out in the cold water and calls him back to dry land. The black water around Twombly's waist is ice and fire both...

So opens Joshua Rivkin's dazzling new biography-in-progress of Cy Twombly, a book which is both personal—the writer is a presence here, chasing for meaning in the clues of Twombly's life—and also deeply steeped in research: letters, interviews, and feet-on-the-ground travel. We found the mix extremely successful and appealing. Joshua lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and daughter.

Spring 2016 Promise Awards

Todd Anderson

Todd Anderson is a skilled printmaker whose exquisite woodcuts are impressive from a pure visual standpoint; his series portraying the last remaining glaciers in Rocky Mountain Park in Colorado provides poignant documentation of climate change, and its impact on our lives and on our landscapes. He lives in upstate South Carolina with his wife and two children.

Rebecca Grabill

We were a bit skeptical about a novel in verse for a middle-grade audience, but Rebecca Grabill's manuscript, One Summer, about the friendship and families of two young girls, Bethy and Eloise, won us over with sweet passages like this:
I wish Eloise was white,
so Daddy’d let her and me be bests forever.
Cause I could do this all summer long,
me and Eloise like proper ladies
making up fancy accents
and wearing her mama’s Sunday hats.
And we think it will win young readers over to the pleasures of poetry. Rebecca lives with her husband and five children in Michigan.

Terence Hannum

Terence Hannum impressed us with a portfolio that was unlike any we'd seen before. A musician, he creates works--with magnetic tape and leaders from discarded cassettes--that are striking both in color and in black and white. The exploration of tape and leader, figure and ground, signal and space, obsolescence and posterity is exquisitely achieved through these linear abstractions. He lives in Baltimore with his two children.

Tania James

Tania James shared two pieces of writing with us: Rawhide, which offers a familiar, wrong-place, wrong-time set up for a story, but took our breath away with its nuanced understanding of character and its delicate craft; and an excerpt from her novel, The Tusk That Did the Damage, which tells the story of the ivory trade from the varying perspectives of a poacher, a filmmaker, and an elephant known as The Gravedigger. Her new project is a novel about the U Street neighborhood of Washington DC—focusing on its current, gentrified incarnation while also delving into its past as a center of African-American arts and culture. We can't wait to read it. Tania lives with her husband and son in Washington, DC.

Kim Piotrowski

Kim Piotrowski is a painter whose exuberant works dazzled us at scales both big and small. Her work is alive with energy, and her palette continually surprises: at times muted, while at others nearly iridescent, at all times a pleasure to behold. She lives near Chicago with her two children.

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts

Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts is the author of two books, Harlem is Nowhere: A Journey to the Mecca of Black America and a picture book, Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist in Harlem. In clear, lucid prose, she explores race, history, art, and all their various intersections. Her current project is A Free Zone: Journeys in Haiti, the Black Republic. Sharifa lives in Houston with her son.

Maya Jewell Zeller

Maya Jewell Zeller's poems move gracefully between personal and archetypal, domestic and mythic. We sighed with pleasure and understanding at lines like

What I mean to say is
being a mother made me feel
like a myth.


...delicate embryos, sensing each
flutter as they began to move steadily
to the booming koans rippling this frat
house of a body.

Maya teaches at Gonzaga University and lives with her husband and children in Spokane, WA.

Spring 2016 Finalists
These finalists are artists and writers whose work impressed us tremendously; we are pleased to acknowledge them publicly.

Larissa Bates, Painting
Adriana Carranza, Printmaking
Madeline ffitch , Fiction
Carribean Fragoza, Fiction
Tytia Habing , Photography
Toni Jensen, Fiction
Rachelle Mozman , Photography
Cindy Pon , Young Adult Fiction
Yelizaveta Renfro , Nonfiction
Alyse Rosner, Painting

Learn more about our previous awardees.