Diana Al-Hadid constructs large, architectural sculptures that merge classical, Western iconography (Chartres Cathedral) with Eastern references (the Tower of Babel). She received an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005. Al-Hadid has said that as an Arab-American she negotiates two different cultures, and, in her work, she balances polarities such as the secular and the sacred, microcosmic details and the cosmos, the past and the future. Some common themes in her work are “impossible architecture, unreachable places, and corrupted enterprises.” A.C
Rahim AlHaj is a virtuoso oud (a pear-shaped string instrument) player who combines Iraqi musical traditions with contemporary influences. Raised in Baghdad, AlHaj graduated from the Institute of Music there in 1990. He became involved in revolutionary activities and was imprisoned twice by the Baathist regime. In 1991, he escaped to Jordan and then Syria, and, in 2000, he emigrated to the U.S. AlHaj has released several recordings and has worked with diverse musicians, including USA Rasmuson Fellow Bill Frisell, Kronos Quartet, and classical Indian musicians.
Santa Fe, NM
Terry Allen is a visual artist, country singer, and songwriter who produces multifaceted, long-term bodies of work. He received a BFA from Chouinard Institute. Influenced by historical events and personal memory, his works combine various media (painting, drawing, sculpture) and theatrical performances that can take years to complete. Youth in Asia (1982–91) explored the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and Dugout (1991–2004) was about his parents. The multitalented Allen has produced 12 albums of original music and written songs for artists such as David Byrne and Lucinda Williams.
Cruz Angeles is a screenwriter and director. He received an MFA from New York University’s film school. When Angeles was five his parents moved to Los Angeles where he was bussed from his Watts neighborhood to Bel Air to attend school. He credits this experience of observing the economic polarities of L.A. to his becoming a storyteller. Abuela’s Revolt (2001), about a Mexican grandmother raising her grandson in the U.S., won a Best Latino Student Director award from the Director’s Guild of America. His debut feature, Don’t Let Me Drown (2008), is a love story between two young Latinos and occurs just after 9/11; it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
Cyro Baptista is one of the country’s leading percussionists. He studied music at the Instituto Villa-Lobos and the Conservatory of Music in Rio de Janeiro and worked in film and theater there before arriving in the U.S. in 1980 on a scholarship to the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York. Remaining in New York, Baptista became an in-demand studio musician playing and/or performing with numerous talents such as Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, Cassandra Wilson, and John Zorn, as well as prominent Brazilian musicians. In 2002, he created the 10-piece ensemble, Beat the Donkey, which merges music with dance and Carnaval-style theatrics.
Charles Burnett is a screenwriter and director whom The New York Times dubbed, “the nation’s least-known great filmmaker and most gifted black director.” He received an MFA from UCLA. His senior thesis film, Killer of Sheep (1977), won the Critics Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, first place at Sundance and was one of among the first 50 films on the National Film Registry. Burnett subsequently made other deeply human films about middle-class African Americans devoid of the usual Hollywood clichés and stereotypes. His 1990 film, To Sleep with Anger, won numerous awards, including for best screenplay from the National Society of Film Critics, a first for an African American. Burnett has also worked in television. He received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1990.
Salt Lake City, UT
Scott Carrier is an independent radio producer and writer. He has recorded, written, narrated, and mixed numerous stories for public radio programs, including All Things Considered, Soundprint, and This American Life. In 2004, he received the National Federation of Community Broadcaster’s Golden Reel Award for a series on Juarez, Mexico, and, in 2007, he received a Peabody Award for Hearing Voices, a special on illegal immigration. He has published one collection of stories, Running After Antelope (2000), and has completed another, Prisoner of Zion. He taught at Utah Valley University in Orem.
Vija Celmins is considered one of the most important postwar artists for her exquisite depictions of the sea, night skies, and spider webs. She received an MFA from UCLA in 1965. By the late 1970s, she had turned to the images of nature for which she is best known. Often culled from photographs, Celmins’s renderings—characterized by a palette of blacks and grays, a lack of horizon line, spatial ambiguity, and a sense of the infinite in the smallest detail—are meticulously crafted yet question the conventions of realism. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 1997.
Long Beach, CA
Sophiline Cheam Shapiro is a choreog-rapher, dancer, vocalist, and educator of classical Cambodian dance. Raised in Phnom Penh, she studied dance at the University of Fine Arts there, joining its faculty in 1981. After moving to California in 1991 she studied dance ethnology at UCLA from 1997–99. Cheam Shapiro maintains the core of traditional Cambodian dance while adding contemporary content, such as the role of women in traditional cultures, and working with contemporary composers. She co-founded Khmer Arts, a transnational dance organization based in Phnom Penh and Long Beach, California, which has the largest Cambodian population outside of Cambodia.
Heather Courtney is a documentary filmmaker. She received an MFA from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2000. Before film school, she worked for eight years for various refugee and immigrant rights organizations, and her work focuses on social justice issues through the telling of personal stories. Los Trabajadores/The Workers (2001) documents the lives of immigrant day laborers, and Letters from the Other Side (2006) centers on the women and children left behind in Mexico. In her 2011 film, Where Soldiers Come From, she returns to her hometown in far northern Michigan to follow a group of 20-year-olds before, during, and after their National Guard service in Afghanistan.