Meet the 2024 BIPOC Artist Fund Awardees

Nicolette D. Corbett | Soldotna, AK

“Waqaa, wiinga Quluuqaugua. Mamterrillermiungunga taugaam Soldotna-mi uitatuunga. Hello, my Yup’ik name is Quluqaaq. I was born and raised in Bethel, Alaska but now reside in Soldotna. My English name is Nikki, and I am the proud owner of Sew Yup’ik. I come from a long line of remarkable skin sewers and talented women who have been creating garments for generations. 

My grandmothers are my inspiration and my driving force, motivating me to continually learn and embrace my traditional Yup’ik ways of living. I have been teaching sewing workshops since the summer of 2015, but my sewing journey began much earlier, back in elementary school. My very first skin sewing project was a fur hat, crafted with the guidance of my Yup’ik teachers. Skin sewing and sewing are integral parts of my life and Yup’ik culture, and I am dedicated to continuing the legacies of my three grandmothers. Creating traditional Yup’ik regalia has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I am thrilled to embark on this path.”

Casidhe Tuineta Aolani | Pago Pago, AS

A Polynesian weaver, marine scientist, and artist born and raised in Amerika Samoa, Casidhe (Cassie) Mahuka graduated from Chaminade University of Honolulu with a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Studies. Aolani currently works full-time as the Marine Invasive Species Coordinator for the Coral Reef Advisory Group (CRAG), housed by the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR). She is also the sole proprietor of Launiu Life, promoting the art and traditional skills of weaving handicrafts from coconut fronds (ig: @launiulife). 

“‘Launiu’” is the Samoan word for coconut fronds, and I use the term ‘Life’ to mean vital or to survive. Launiu Life seeks to connect people with nature and heritage by adopting traditional Samoan weaving techniques for modern-day wear, uses, and aesthetics. Through these endeavors, I aspire to grow Launiu Life and contribute meaningfully to our cultural narrative and community resilience.”

Elizabeth Siobhan | Tucson, AZ

Elizabeth Denneau is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and art educator residing in the Sonoran Southwest. She obtained her teaching certificate and BFA in Art and Visual Culture Education through the University of Arizona and her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a member of the Art21 Educators Institute and works with local community organizers, cultural workers, and colleges to develop practical models of social justice in art education. In her artistic practice, narratives of human perseverance, vulnerability, and power dynamics continually influence her artist. 

She writes about her experiences being a Black educator and her upbringing in a place where Black people represent less than 3% of the population. She co-founded the Southwest Black Artists Collective and The Projects – art space. Both organizations serve a mission to bring visibility and support to Black creatives.

Lauren Benetua | Mountain View, CA

Lauren Benetua (she/they) is an American-born Filipina of Ilonggo, Batangueña, Bikolana, and Ilokana heritage residing in Huichin Ohlone territory. They are a dedicated cultural practitioner and weaving apprentice with Kalingafornia Laga, a weaving collective of Filipino-American women who preserve, promote, and maintain the indigenous backstrap weaving traditions from Kalinga in the Philippines. 

Benetua brings with them 10 years of textile weaving experience, including facilitating cultural educational workshops and weaving demonstrations alongside their mentor and teacher, Jenny Bawer Young. She now explores the responsibility of teaching traditional backstrap loom weaving to new learners in the same tradition taught to her that has been passed down by the hands of indigenous women for generations and is eager to continue cultivating a community of Pilipinx weavers in the diaspora.

Ashli Rocker-St.Armant | Irvine, CA

Ashli St. Armant is a vocalist, writer, arts educator, playwright, and composer. A professionally trained singer and actor with 25 years of experience in education and performing arts, her work includes original music, books, and theatrical productions. Her debut musical, NORTH, explores Black American life during the antebellum period and is celebrating its second national tour with rave reviews. 

St. Armant is also the founder of Leaping Lizards Music, an arts education program for students, and she tours with her band, Jazzy Ash and the Leaping Lizards, performing jazz for young audiences. Together, they have performed at numerous venues, including Lincoln Center and Sprout Network (NBC), have produced six albums, and have been featured by NPR and LA Times. Her mystery series, Viva Durant, features a teen girl who solves mysteries in New Orleans. The first book in the series, Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons, is a national best-seller with over 10,000 reviews.

Yumi Janairo Roth | Boulder, CO

Yumi Janairo Roth’s research-based practice includes projects built around social engagement and site-specific installation. She has produced and exhibited works in the US, Germany, the Czech Republic, and the Philippines. She has engaged Manila-based artists, call center agents, jeepney drivers, and artisans in projects that explore labor, creative exchange, and cultural translation. 

Since 2017, she has worked closely with professional sign spinners in southern California, Las Vegas, and Denver and developed collaborations between sign spinners and professional dancers, conversations between sign spinners and contemporary art curators, engagements with audiences, and participation in professional sign spinning competitions. More recently, she and Emmanuel David have developed “We Are Coming,” which unearths the stories of a group of Filipinos, known as the Filipino Rough Riders, who performed with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in the 19th century.

Maria Barcinas | Hagatna GU (Guam)

Maria “Lia” Barcinas is an Indigenous Chamorro fiber artist from the Mariana Islands. Her art seeks to celebrate the Oceanic legacies of utilizing the environment for both sustainability and art.

Peter Rockford Espiritu | Aiea, HI

Peter Espiritu manifests safe and creative spaces for ‘Brown Dance’ culture and the arts to thrive and grow equally in the traditional and contemporary expressions, centering focus on Indigenous identities and voices in a moving dialogue addressing current local issues of urbanization and globalization. Through a National Endowment for the Arts Challenge America grant, he continues his journey towards articulating Pōhuli, reindiginization through the creation of his own movement modality and vocabulary reformed into the foundation of a new movement language paradigm for his dance company, Tau Dance Theater, the only professional dance company based in Honolulu directed by a Native Hawaiian. 

Espiritu is a 2022 recipient of the Western Arts Alliance, Advancing Indigenous Performances – Native Launchpad, was awarded a three-week Intercultural International Choreographer’s Creation Lab residency at Banff Center for the Creative Arts in Canada, and is a round 2 Dance/USA Fellowship to Artists recipient.

Noelani Haydee Montas Honolulu, HI

Noelani Montas (she/her) is a proud Kanaka Maoli and Dominicana from Southern California. She is currently a master of fine arts candidate in the Hawaiian Theatre Program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and received her bachelor of fine arts in Theatre Design & Technology from University of the Arts. Recent credits include: Glitter in the Paʻakai (ʻĀnela) – UHM, Haku Wale (Scenic, Lighting, and Projection Design; Hula) – UHM, Kaisara (Emma Nāwahī) – UHM, Primero Sueño (Scenic & Lighting Design) – Repertorio Español, and La Extinción de los Dinosaurios (Scenic & Lighting Design) – Repertorio Español. 

She is a recipient of the 2022 Brind School Award for Storytelling in Design, the 2021 Pat Mackay Diversity in Design Award, and was a lighting design mentee in the 2021-2022 Wingspace Mentorship Program Cohort. Upon her graduation from the Hawaiian Theatre Program in December 2024, she will be moving to Seattle, Washington, to continue her work with Indigenous arts and performance. E holomua, sigue pa’ lante.

Monique Michel | Boise, ID

Monique N. Michel is a bilingual educator, dancer, teacher, and the Artistic Director of her company, the Ballet Folklorico Mexico Lindo, located in Southwest Idaho. The group was established in 2003 in Nampa, Idaho. They have over twenty Mexican states in their folkloric repertoire that they perform regularly. Monique and the Ballet Folklorico Mexico Lindo have performed in five states in the Pacific Northwest and recently celebrated twenty-one years of existence in March 2024. 

Michel is a former Diversity Equity and Inclusion director, WESTAF Emerging Leaders of Colour Alumni, and a WESTAF Fellow. She is active in both the Ada and Canyon County area arts communities. As a result, Monique has danced, traveled and performed both in and around the United States. She has received accolades for her work in the Latino community as well. Recently she was awarded the Orgullo Migrante Award from Radio International in Chicago. Monique believes that everyone has the ability to dance!

Pete Perez | Saipan, MP (Mariana Islands)

Pete “Pedru” Perez has been a cultural leader and practitioner in the movement to restore canoe culture in the Mariana Islands for nearly 20 years. He and his wife Emma co-founded the nonprofit 500 Sails, where he was Executive Director and lead canoe builder until retiring in April 2024. The canoes he builds are based on the historic record that describes the Chamorro sailing canoes that were banned and lost during two centuries of Spanish colonial occupation of the Mariana Islands. Canoe building is an art that has its origins over 3,500 years ago when the Chamorros settled in the remote Pacific, and they are decorated today using Oceanic motifs and traditional designs that come from Chamorro cave art and jewelry found in ancient graves. 

Since 500 Sails completed its first Chamorro “Flying Proa” in 2016, Pedru has sailed by canoe between the nearby islands and as far south as Guam and Yap. His experiences on the ocean inform both the design and decoration of the canoes he builds.

April Werle | Missoula, MT

April Werle is a narrative painter whose works investigate how culture is internalized and negotiated as a mixed-race person. Influenced by her Filipino heritage and multicultural upbringing, Werle’s works explore themes of mixed-race identity, family, and belonging. Her paintings have been exhibited at notable venues, including the Holter Museum of Art, Missoula Art Museum, and The Other Art Fair Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in publications like New Visionary Magazine and Kapwa Magazine.

Werle is an advocate for multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue. She has been invited to speak about her work, including a keynote speech at Montana State University with the Asian Student Interracial Association. She has received recognition for her contributions, including an ARPA Grant and a Strategic Investment Grant from the Montana Arts Council.

Akilah Martinez | Vanderwagen, NM

Akilah Martinez (artist name: Glittering World Girl) is an award-winning Diné artist, creative technologist and cultural bearer who focuses on Indigenous language and culture revitalization through video art and XR technology. Martinez’s lifelong goal to use modern media to perpetuate the Navajo language and culture began at the young age of 3, after constantly witnessing her Grandparents (unilingual Diné bizaad speakers) have to watch TV programming only offered in English.

Martinez earned a BFA from The University of New Mexico. A 2019 Crux XR Immersive Technology Fellowship enabled her to travel between NYC and LA to learn from leading XR technologists, social entrepreneurs and impact investors. Martinez is a recipient of Fulcrum Fund 2022, Native Arts and Cultures Foundation LIFT 2022, The Artizen Fund 2023, 2024 New Mexico Women in Tech Emerging Leader Award, is a guest speaker at the MIT XR Reality Hackathon and a current 2024 City of Albuquerque UETF Resiliency Artist in Residence.

Julie Sola | Las Vegas, NM

Julie Sola is a self-taught artist drawing on early childhood memories of her grandparents and their Mexican culture and heritage. Her work becomes a whimsical and positive interpretation of various periods of her own life. She is especially inspired by her own experiences working in animal husbandry and ranching. 

Many times in Mexican folklore, animals were used to teach right from wrong or to explain the current political events. This was one way to keep the rural population informed since many of them were illiterate. Animals often assume human characteristics in her work and she strives to create an open-ended narrative that allows viewers to create their own story. Some of her current work includes writing and illustrating children’s books, a wonderful new challenge that pushes her to look at her work from a different perspective.

Kit Julianto - Owyhee, NV

Kit Julianto, Yooti, is an enrolled member of the Shoshone Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation and a descendant of the Navajo Nation. He holds a bachelor of fine arts in Studio Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts of Santa Fe, New Mexico (2010) and a master of fine arts in Secondary Education from the Grand Canyon University (2018). 

Julianto is an art teacher for grades Pre-K to 12th at the Owyhee Combined School in the Elko County School District. He is a powwow singer and Native American Flute player and works in different mediums and techniques that include pottery, drawing, sculpting, carving, and is mostly known for painting with acrylics. His works reflect upon Native American culture, music, tradition, and storytelling through various mediums, vibrant colors, and texture.

Syon Davis | Portland, OR

As much of their work focuses on reclaiming their identity as a natural being, Syon Davis is largely inspired by biomimicry – they experience plants, animals (including humans), arthropods, and fungi as mirrors and opportunities for reflection. Davis’s oeuvre is made up of artifacts from their decolonization process – an intentional practice of shifting away from anti-black, patriarchal, cis-heteronormative, and human-supremacist ways of being and moving towards behaviors and patterns rooted in pleasure, balance, acceptance, interdependence & reciprocity. 

Davis is a neurodivergent artist for which sticking with any one medium sounds tedious and impossible. In their current iteration, they are exploring the aforementioned ideas through film, movement, collage, textiles, and the written word and at the intersections of those things. Davis was raised in Pomona, CA and currently resides in Portland, OR.

Micah BL Lael | Ashland, OR

Micah BlackLight can perhaps be described as a defiant, volcanic force of Nature’s creation, wearing the body of a brown-skinned catalyst and bursting with perpetual enthusiasm. He is a multi-media, multi-platform, multi-dimensional artist, writer, orator, coach, mentor, and fashion designer proficient in a myriad of mediums: visual, graphic, audible and otherwise. He is determined to create as many different works of art in as many mediums as possible while detonating spirits along the way and leaving trails of empowering, inspiring experiences in his wake like a spirit boat on the lake of existence.

Mauro Romualdo | Salt Lake City, UT

Mestre Jamaika (Mauro Romualdo) is an internationally recognized practitioner of the Afro-Brazilian art form of capoeira and has engaged and positively impacted students and audiences of all ages and backgrounds for over 30 years. Born in the heart of capoeira’s birthplace and his ancestral land, he discovered his passion for capoeira as a young child. His exceptional skill and explosive acrobatic talent put him on the world stage, and he was invited to live and teach in Israel in 1998, followed by an invitation to teach in the United States, where he has lived since 1999. 

He’s a three-time Brazilian Capoeira Confederation Champion, and director of Salt Lake Capoeira since 2005. Additionally, he has inspired video game characters, lectured at universities, and participated in documentaries, music videos, and podcasts. He lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Amanda, and will continue honoring his roots by sharing his culture and strengthening the community through these arts.

Aisha Harrison | Olympia, WA

Aisha Harrison is a studio and public artist working primarily in clay and bronze. She discovered clay in a community studio while working toward a degree in Spanish at Grinnell College in Iowa. After graduating, Harrison spent the next two years teaching third and fourth grades in Atlanta, Georgia and exploring clay at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Georgia and Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. She decided to go back to school and received a bachelor of fine arts from Washington State University, and a master of fine arts from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Harrison is currently working on a large-scale outdoor public art commission with The University of Washington Tacoma and the Washington State Arts Commission. Her studio work is shown nationally with recent work at The Whatcom Museum, The Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts, Crocker Art Museum, Northern Clay Center, Wa Na Wari, Bainbridge Museum of Art, Jordan Schnitzer Museum at WSU, and at the Leonor R. Fuller Gallery at South Sound Community College.

Charrolet Henry | Cheyenne, WY

“I’m truly honored and grateful for this opportunity. My hope with this is to build a better foundation for my own longevity and build connections within the artist community. It’s truly amazing how one can take a picture in a way that’s completely different than anyone else looking at the same thing. I describe my photography as sincere, intimate and artful and to be able to do what I truly enjoy just makes my heart full of gratitude.”

Our deepest thanks to this year’s BIPOC Artist Fund Application Reviewers

Danielle Brooks

Kesha Bruce

Jessica Ceballos y Campbell

Andrea Edwards

Nathaniel Edwards IV

Olisa Enrico-Johnson

Candace Eros Diaz

Nurieh Glasgow

Anna Gonzalez

Makaveli Gresham

Marissel Hernández Romero

Blanca Herrada

Delia Ibanez

Amir Jackson

Dana James

Kelly Jung

Patricia Mareham

Janissa Martinez

Ashlee McKinnon

Monique Michel

Qiana Moore

Ruby Morales

Renato Olmedo-Gonzalez

Chelcie Porter

Jennifer Quinto

Joseph Valencia

Courtney Young