San Antonio, TX
Natalia Almada is a Mexican American documentary filmmaker whose work explores cross-cultural issues. She attended Tufts University, College of Santa Fe, and Rhode Island School of Design. Her 2005 film, Al otro lado/To the Other Side, uses traditional Mexican corrido music to recount the story of an aspiring composer facing the choice of trafficking drugs or illegally crossing into the U.S. El General (2009) is a personal film about the legacy of former Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles, a controversial historical figure who was also Almada’s great-grandfather. El Velador (2012) is set within the Jardines del Humaya, a cemetery with immense mausoleums located deep in Mexican drug trafficking territory.
New York, NY
Julie Archer is a theatrical designer of sets, lighting, and puppetry, who has been the co-artistic director of the avant-garde theater troupe Mabou Mines since 2005. Trained as a sculptor, Archer’s first design work for the theater was for that company, and she gradually expanded her role in their productions. Her designs for Mabou Mines over the last 30 years have won many honors, including two American Theatre Wing Design Awards, three Obie Awards, and most recently, the PEW/TCG National Theatre Artist Residency. Her most renowned work was for Peter and Wendy, conceived with Liza Lorwin in 1996.
Sculptor Siah Armajani is best known for his public works in the forms of functional bridges, gardens, and rooms. He moved from Iran to Minneapolis to attend Macalester College, settling in St. Paul. Early American vernacular buildings such as log cabins, barns, and covered bridges, as well as writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Dewey, and Walt Whitman (whose texts often appear on his structures) inspire his work. His structures are gathering places for reflections on democracy and populism, and he designed the 1996 Summer Olympics cauldron. More recent installations are personal responses to political events in Iran.
Ramin Bahrani is an Iranian American director and screenwriter, heralded by Roger Ebert as “the new great American director.” Bahrani attended Columbia University. His films present unfamiliar visions of familiar places (New York City, the American South) through the stories of “new Americans.” His first feature, Man Push Cart, which premiered at the 2005 Venice Film Festival, is about a former Pakistani pop star working as a pushcart vendor in New York. The much-heralded Goodbye Solo (2008) is about a Senegalese taxi driver in North Carolina who tries to save his elderly passenger from committing suicide. Bahrani is Adjunct Professor of Directing in Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program.
New York, NY
Pioneering video artist Dara Birnbaum was instrumental in the feminist art movement of the late-sixties and seventies and one of the first artists to appropriate television imagery in videos that exposed the underlying ideologies of the mass media, particularly its portrayals of women. For her earliest, pre-VCR works, she pirated raw footage from TV stations, repeating images to construct new meanings. In later works, she has addressed important political events such as the Gulf War, always “analyzing the politics of image-making.” Birnbaum has taught at numerous universities around the world. A major retrospective of her work opened in March 2010 at the Fundação Serralves in Porto, Portugal.
Las Cruces, NM
Charles Bowden is a non-fiction writer and journalist. He received degrees from the University of Arizona and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Currently a freelance writer for several periodicals including Esquire, Harpers, Mother Jones, GQ, and National Geographic, Bowden was also a reporter for the Tucson Daily Citizen (1981–84), and the creator, editor, and co-publisher of Tucson’s City Magazine (1985–89). He has published a series of books about the ecology of the Southwest and several others about the secret war of drugs and the U.S./Mexico border, most recently Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields (2010). Bowden co-produced the documentary film, El Sicario Room 164, which played at the Venice Film Festival in 2010.
Carlyle Brown is a playwright, actor, and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, which he founded in Minneapolis in 2002. Known for his historical works about African Americans, Brown’s most famous play is The African Company Presents Richard the Third (premiered in 1987), about the first African American theatrical company’s staging of the first black public performances of Shakespeare. Brown has received commissions from Arena Stage and the Houston Grand Opera, among others. He is the 2006 recipient of the Black Theatre Network’s Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence.
New York, NY
Jazz and classical pianist and composer Uri Caine is known for his inventive interpretations of the classical repertoire and strives, in his words, “to use improvisation to transform classical music.” He attended the University of Pennsylvania. Caine has recorded as a leader on 21 CDs and has worked with USA Prudential Fellow Don Byron, Arto Lindsay, and Dave Douglas, among others. He has performed with numerous orchestras, including the Cleveland and Moscow Chamber Orchestras, and the CBC Orchestra in Canada. Caine was composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (2005–08) and also served as the director of the Venice Biennale for Music (2003).
Documentary filmmaker Almudena Carracedo studied filmmaking in Madrid and worked as a television director there before moving to the U.S. in 2000. Her 2003 short film about Tijuana, Welcome, A Docu-Journey of Impressions, received the Sterling Award for Best Short Documentary at AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival. Her first full-length film, Made in LA (2007), is the story of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment factories as they struggle to win basic labor protections. The film has been broadcast on PBS several times, won an Emmy Award, and has been part of a three-year community engagement campaign with screenings in 29 countries with the participation of local activists to connect the issues in the film to local concerns.
The work of conceptual artist Mel Chin is highly collaborative and takes myriad forms. He attended Peabody College, Nashville. Since the 1970s, Chin’s objects, installations, videos, films, television interventions, and community-engaged public works have addressed political and ecological issues. His Fundred Dollar Bill Project is “a collective artwork of three million original interpretations of the U.S. $100 bill created by children across the country. These works are delivered to the steps of Congress where an even exchange of this ‘creative capital’ is requested to obtain funding for Operation Paydirt, which offers a pragmatic, scientifically proven method to neutralize hazardous lead (Pb) that contaminates soil and compromises the health of children.