Michael Manson has racked up many achievements, from appearing on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” to being the choreographer for D-Town, the Detroit Pistons dance crew.
But like other performers, he has faced many challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. In his case, the virus took a personal toll.
Manson lost his father to COVID-19 in May. About a week later, he found out he was a finalist for a 2020 Kresge Artist Fellowship, one of the most prestigious honors in the metro Detroit arts community.
“It was bittersweet, because it showed me my hard work had paid off,” says Manson, who’s traveled from France to Bolivia to teach and perform his specialty – street-dance styles like popping, locking, house, and the Detroit JIT.
On Thursday, Kresge Arts in Detroit announced the 30 metro Detroit artists who will receive Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Emerging Artist Awards.
Manson is among the 20 artists named Kresge Artist Fellows, which comes with a $25,000 “no strings attached” grant. That’s up from 18 fellows in 2019.
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Ten emerging artists were given Gilda Awards – eight more than last year – which come with $5, 000 grants. The award is named for the late educator and mentor Gilda Snowden, a 2009 Kresge Artist Fellow.
The total of $550,000 in grants represents an increase of $90,000 from 2019, a sign of Kresge Arts in Detroit’s commitment to a local creative community that continues to endure the shutdown of theaters and other venues where they usually earn a living – and where they provide inspiration, comfort and food for thought to audiences.
“It is in times like these – full of uncertainty, pain, and injustice – that the arts play a unique role in provoking society to deeper reflection and arcing us to higher aspiration,” said Kresge Foundation and CEO President Rip Rapson in a statement.
“A long, enduring investment in the arts, and in individual artists, is an insurance policy – that we never lose sight of our common humanity, never overlook the travails of our history, and never give up hope for the boundless possibilities for our future. There could be no clearer proof than the group of artists presented today.”
The grant winners typically gather for a group photo each year. For 2020, that group photo is a grid of individual portraits — a reflection of the social distancing measures that are now part of everyday life.
Things have changed, but the new Kresge Artist Fellows are looking to future goals that the grants can help make possible.
Naima Shamborguer, a composer and jazz song stylist who’s devoted 50 years to singing for live audiences, says becoming a Kresge Artist Fellow “is going to enable me to do some projects I’ve had in mind” that involve both senior jazz greats and rising young musicians that she mentors.
Shamborguer produces much of her own work, like the show “Me and Sarah: The Music of Sarah Vaughan” that she’s performed for the stage, radio and Detroit public schools. She also has produced and released five CDs, including her recent tribute to late jazz piano great Geri Allen.
She says the Kresge Artist Fellowship will help her keep sharing the music that’s sustained her with a new generation. “That’s my plan, to give back to the community as much as I can.”
Kresge Artist Fellowships and Gilda Awards are funded by the Kresge Foundation and administered by the College for Creative Studies. Given out annually, they run on a two-year cycle of categories. The 2020 awards focus on two categories: live arts and film & music. In 2021, the categories will be literary arts and visual arts.
Those who apply are scrutinized by local and national panelists and selected through criteria that include having a track record of high-quality work and the potential to impact communities in metro Detroit.
Along with the $25,000 grants, Kresge Artist Fellows get one year of help with professional development in areas like networking and promotion. For 2020, the support wi…