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MacColl Johnson Fellowships Award $25,000 to Three Rhode Island Writers

"The best poems insist that we make a leap into the unknown. I write poetry to discover and experience these leaps for myself and, hopefully, to enter the conversation begun by the poets who inspire me." Julie Danho O'Connell, 2015 Awardee

Rhode Island writers Julie Danho O’Connell, Sussy Santana and Susannah Strong have been awarded $25,000 fellowships by the Rhode Island Foundation through the Robert and Margaret MacColl Johnson Fellowship Fund. The program is considered to be one of the largest no-strings-attached awards available to writers in the United States. The Alliance of Artists Communities has managed the application and selection for the awards since 2011.

The fund provides fellowships each year, rotating among composers, writers and visual artists on a three-year cycle. The $25,000 awards enable artists to concentrate time on the creative process, focus on personal or professional development, expand their body of work and explore new directions.

“Our fellowships provide significant financial support that enables these artists to further their work,” said Daniel Kertzner, senior philanthropic advisor for funding partnerships who oversees the Foundation’s grantmaking in the arts. “They provide Rhode Island artists with the precious commodities of time and money so they can spend more time developing their craft. They echo the value the MacColl Johnsons placed on the role of artists in the community.”

The 2015 Awardees are:

  • Julie Danho O’Connell of North Providence has received several Fellowships in Poetry from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Her chapbook, Six Portraits, won the 2013 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition, and her poems have appeared in publications including Barrow Street, Southern Poetry Review and West Branch.
  • Sussy Santana of Providence serves on the board of directors at AS220 and has performed at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in Boston, Trinity Rep, United Palace and Dartmouth College. A native of the Dominican Republic, her first book of poetry is "Pelo Bueno y otros poemas (Good Hair and other poems)."

  • Susannah Strong of Exeter is an Assistant Professor of Art at Salve Regina University. She earned a BFA in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design, a master’s degree in visual art at Goldsmiths College/University of London, and a MFA in illustration at Hartford Art School, where she received the Murray Tinkelman Illustration Award.

The recipients were chosen from nearly 200 applicants by a panel of four out-of-state jurors who are recognized practicing writers and editors. Applications were reviewed based on the quality of the work, artistic development and creative contribution to the field of writing, as well as the potential of the fellowship to advance the career of emerging to mid-career writers.

The panel also named three finalists, who received no cash award: Tina Egnoski of Barrington, whose latest project is a collection of eight stories based on Polish folk tales; Kimberly Fusco of Foster, whose first novel, “Tending to Grace,” was awarded the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award; and David O’Connell of North Providence, a poet whose work has appeared in the Bryant Literary Review, Columbia Poetry Review and North American Review.

Applications for the 2016 fellowships, which will be awarded to visual artists, will be available on the Alliance website after July 1.

Read the full press release from the Rhode Island Foundation here.

For more information on applying visit: