Sustainable Arts Foundation
supporting artists and writers with families


Fall 2015 Awards

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson's stunning essay, "On Nostalgia," reads like a piece of detective work as it ranges from musings on medieval palimpsests and Archimedes to her hometown and her own complicated family history. The essay is part of a larger project that marries investigative journalism with creative nonfiction to explore the impact of secrets and silences on a family.

Elizabeth teaches nonfiction writing at the Maryland Institute College of Art and lives in Baltimore with her family.

Brendan Mathews

Brendan Mathews' terrific novel, THE WORLD OF TOMORROW, takes place in New York City over the course of a single week in 1939; in it, we meet big band musicians, Bronx politicians, an escaped convict, a seminary drop-out, an émigré photographer, the ghost of William Butler Yeats, a former gangland hit man, and the King and Queen of England, whose visit to the World’s Fair provides a setting that draws these disparate storylines together. It's historical fiction with resonance in today's news, and we can't wait to read the finished book.

Brendan teaches at Bard College at Simon's Rock, and lives in Massachusetts with his wife and four children.

Catherine Pierce

Catherine Pierce's poems are fierce, gorgeous explorations of parenthood's vulnerability in the face of a treacherous natural world. In her collection, THE TORNADO IS THE WORLD, coming out next year, we hear from a mother, the town in which she lives, and even the tornado itself, which attacks with the casual violence of a playground bully.

In "The Mother Warns the Tornado," a mother bathing her baby speaks directly to an oncoming tornado:

I will heed the warning
protocol, I will cover him with my body, I will
wait with mattress and flashlight,
but know this: If you come down here—
if you splinter your way through our pines,
if you suck the roof off this red-doored ranch,
if you reach out a smoky arm for my child—
I will turn hacksaw. I will turn grenade.
I will invent for you a throat and choke you.
I will find your stupid wicked whirling
head and cut it off. Do not test me.

These poems mine terrain that is, for all parents, both familiar and frightening, with a sense of energy and compassion that kept us eager to read more.

Catherine lives with her family in Mississippi, where she is an associate professor of English and creative writing and co-director of the creative writing program at Mississippi State University.

Ann Toebbe

Ann Toebbe's inventive paintings of deconstructed rooms simply knocked our socks off. Her imaginative format flattens walls and invites close study of these interiors, made all the more powerful by their reliance on memory and recall. She lives in Chicago, IL with her husband and three children.

Tenesh Webber

Tenesh Webber is an abstract photographer whose black-and-white photograms wowed us with their crisp precision and graphic impact. Her work is cohesive and consistent, without being repetitive. Tenesh was previously a Sustainable Arts Foundation finalist. She lives with her husband and daughter in Jersey City, NJ.

Fall 2015 Promise Awards

Karlyn Coleman

Karlyn Coleman shared two compelling pieces of fiction with us. In "Ice Roads," we meet a father trying to track down his daughter, who has fallen in with a bad crowd: "They could smell her recklessness, her rancor, the stench that comes from being born to shitty parents--a mother moving from one man to the next, a father who hadn’t seen his daughter in nine years, now in charge of her, trying to raise her in an apartment above a bar." In "Orange Crush," Coleman gives us the perspective of another teenage girl, Avery, who lives in a Malibu house that her widowed mother has turned into a hospice: "Ghost-girl, was what the kids at school called me, because not only did I live in a place where people came to die, but I was also the whitest girl in Malibu.... The California sun had killed my father, so I hid in the shade of buildings and trees and dressed like a middle-aged woman instead of a young teen." Both of these pieces, from a novel and a series of linked short stories, electrified us with their strong, suspenseful writing and their flawed but sympathetic characters. We can't wait to read more.

Karlyn lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Lisa Kijak

Lisa Kijak is a quilter with a contemporary, painterly aesthetic. Her works are painstakingly constructed reproductions of photographs, pieces that read beautifully at a distance, and whose surfaces are alive with the rich textures of minute fabric detail. Lisa lives with her wife and two daughters in Laguna Hills, CA.

Jay Nebel

Jay Nebel's poems are like good conversation with an old friend: effortless, and sparked with wit and discovery. "Killing Things" begins "I work hard every day to be a good person / and then I get in my car...." and what could be a funny meditation on carpool road rage goes deeper; "Trouble Poem" speaks to us, too:

Every time the phone rings
I think I’m in trouble.
I’m in the stolen Honda again.
I’m out in the park scratching
my name into the picnic table with a pocket knife
while my classmates get their diplomas. ...

All these poems of everyday family life make us smile with pleasure and wince in recognition.

And Jay might have given SAF our new slogan when he wrote, in his application essay, "I still manage to write though because poetry helps me make sense of the mess."

Jay lives in Portland, OR, with his family and drives a juice truck for a living.

Nancy Reddy

The Scarlet Slipper Mystery. The Mystery of the Wooden Lady. The Secret Lost at Sea. We couldn't believe our luck on encountering Nancy Reddy's clever and beautifully well-crafted Nancy Drew series of poems, and were impressed with how well they work with all the poems of transformation in her first collection, DOUBLE JINX. Her work-in-progress, POCKET UNIVERSE, includes a series of poems about Harry Harlow’s infamous rhesus monkey experiments and another series about her older son’s birth and infancy; any creative parent can relate to these lines:

The mother loves the baby and also she can’t finish a sentence. Her mind reaches
the frayed end of a subject and the verb falls out of reach. The baby wants. ...

Nancy teaches at Stockton University and lives in New Jersey with her family.

Alison Stine

We were so moved by the poetry Alison Stine submitted from her new collection, THE SHED, which addresses motherhood, poverty, and environmental justice in an area affected by fracking operations. Despite its very specific terrain, the poems treat quite universal concerns, as in the poem "Dark":

I didn’t feel mortal. I didn’t know fear—
until they passed the child
into my arms, the faces
of the midwives shined, expectant,
your weary, wondering sigh. Only us. Only
everything. And the wild world waiting, opening—

The author of two previous collections of poetry and a novel, Alison lives in Athens, OH, with her son.

Fall 2015 Finalists
These finalists are artists and writers whose work impressed us tremendously; we are pleased to acknowledge them publicly.

Susanna Bluhm, Painting
Delano Dunn, Mixed Media
Katrina Goldsaito, Nonfiction
Caroline Van Hemert, Nonfiction
Amy Meissner, Textile Arts
Linn Meyers, Painting
David Poppie, Mixed Media
Evan Roth, Mixed Media
Sasha Steensen, Poetry
Jennifer K. Sweeney, Poetry

Learn more about our previous awardees.