Ten MA artists named Brother Thomas Fellows honoring sculptor and Benedictine monk

Ten local artists awarded $15,000 Fellowships from Boston Foundation program

Boston, MA – The Boston Foundation announced today the fourth cohort of Brother Thomas Fellows – 10 local artists who will receive no-strings-attached $15,000 fellowships from the Foundation.

Brother Thomas Bezanson

Brother Thomas Bezanson

The fellowships are drawn biennially from the Brother Thomas Fund, which was established at the Boston Foundation in 2007 to honor the legacy of Brother Thomas Bezanson, a Benedictine monk and ceramic artist credited with elevating the status of ceramics from craft to fine art in the United States. Through the quality of his work and artistic vision, Brother Thomas changed that perception forever. Today his work can be found in more than 80 national and international museums and galleries, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which owns 16 pieces of Brother Thomas’s ceramic art.

Strongly influenced by Asian pottery, often adapting traditional Chinese and Japanese methods and materials to his work. He was primarily known for his porcelain pottery and mastery of complex glazes

Prior to his death in 2007, Brother Thomas expressed a desire to establish a permanent means to help struggling artists, a mission carried on today through the Brother Thomas Fund.

The 2015 Brother Thomas Fellows are:

Napoleon Jones-Henderson, a visual artist, Napoleon Jones-Henderson has been developing his art for more than 50 years, independently and through formal study—from the Sorbonne in the 1960s to the Maryland College of Art, where he received a Master of Fine Arts as recently as 2005.  Now he is teaching and inspiring the next generation of artists by working with young apprentices to create large-scale public art.  “It is my dream,” he says, “to continue sharing my skill and love of the creative journey as a life-fulfilling enterprise.” http://RoxburyRhapsody.tumblr.com.

Michelle Seaton reads her essay, “How to Work a Locker Room”

Michelle Seaton reads her essay, “How to Work a Locker Room”

Michelle Seaton is an author who uses the “unreported knowledge” that she has gained over 25 years as a writer and reporter to tell nuanced, fictional stories.  Some of her work is inspired by her journalism—her position as a sanctioned observer in restricted spaces, such as locker rooms and cancer wards.  “I want to continue to describe what it’s like to be an individual in a world where the official story told by news sources is incomplete,” she says.  “I want to continue to write the stories that are important to me.”


Jae Williams, a filmmaker, has made it his life’s mission to share and express his curiosity and to challenge himself through his chosen medium of film.  Now he is also dedicated to teaching inner-city children the fundamentals of filmmaking through the Forever Ink Project, inspired by his first film. He has reached 60 children in just two years.  “To understand my vision and mission,” he says, “is to understand the path to my identity as an artist and how I see myself providing a space for those who have had limitations.” http://www.ReelLifeExperience.com.

Masako Kamiya

Masako Kamiya

Masako Kamiya, visual artist, challenges the way painting is conventionally perceived.  Working with acrylic gouache, she creates three-dimensional paintings through a repetitive technique of paint application that gives her work a “sculptural dimension.”  She explains, “This sculptural surface moves viewers across the field of the painting … forcing viewers’ eyes to mix and optically process the various properties of color.”  Now, with six solo exhibits at Boston’s Gallery NAGA to her credit, Masako is ready to open her mind and start a new body of work. http://www.MasakoKamiya.com.

Halsey Burgund

Halsey Burgund

Halsey Burgund, a sound Artist and Musician, has spent the last decade collecting spoken human voices and creating performance pieces as well as what he calls “evolving contributory installations” using the voices, along with traditional and electronic instruments, as raw material.  “There is music around us every day,” he explains, “the music of human existence that, when processed and arranged by an artist, can emphasize to everyone who listens that there are beautiful and lyrical moments surrounding us all the time.” http://www.halseyburgund.com.


Danielle Legros Georges, the current “Poet Laureate” of Boston, was born in Haiti and grew up in Dorchester. She began her work by bringing the immigrant experience to life through her poetry.  “I write poems as a way to explore questions I have, or as attempts to better understand certain subjects,” she says.  “Art and art production, for me, carry with them many of the positive principles of the lessons learned from family and members of the Haitian-American community in which I developed as a person and an artist.”

Raúl Gonzalez III.

Raúl Gonzalez III.

Raul Gonzalez III, a visual artist, believes that art should strive to be a true reflection of our world and not just of those who have the privilege to create it.  Inspired by the immigrant experience, from his perspective as a first generation Mexican American, he strives to tell stories that welcome diverse citizens from all backgrounds and give them the confidence of belonging.  In his words, “My work revolves around teaching, community and the making of artwork that shines a light and gives a voice to those who may not have it.” http://www.artbyraul.com.

Nicole Aquillano

Nicole Aquillano

Nicole Aquillano, a ceramic artist, says that she establishes “a close personal relationship with each piece,” through the labor-intensive act of making her ceramics. Her work, inspired by her collection of architectural photographs, features intensely detailed drawings and lines etched directly into the porcelain clay body, which is, in her words, “blurred by the movement of glaze.”  She is particularly moved to explore the human need to maintain collections as a way to preserve the past and satisfy the longing with which we inhabit the world. http://www.nicoleaquillano.com.

Balla Kouyaté with balafon. Photography by Alison Williams.

Balla Kouyaté with balafon. Photography by Alison Williams.

Balla Kouyaté, a composer/musician, is a Mandé Djeli—a musician from the Dokkala lineage of the Kouyaté clan in the Mali region of West Africa.  He plays and arranges for a traditional instrument called a balafon, which he learned from his father.  “I consider it both my destiny and my purpose to share my history, culture and music with the world,” he says.  His love of music also has led him to transcend what he calls the “boundaries of my ancestral heritage” and explore cross-cultural collaboration with musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma. http://www.ballakouyate.com.


Sandrine Schaefer, a performance artist, uses what she calls a “site-sensitive” approach to explore the parameters of time and the body.  “Because my practice is site-sensitive,” she explains, “each piece I create can only exist in the place that I have sited at the time I am making the work.”  As such, she adds, “Because the work unfolds in real time, it must be witnessed live.” For Schaefer, the thing we all call “art” in performance art, is the creative process rather than the product of a creative process. http://www.SandrineSchaefer.com.

The 2015 Brother Thomas Fellows were selected through a rigorous nomination and review process by a multidisciplinary panel of Boston-area nonprofit arts leaders and practitioners.

“We are excited to once again recognize amazing Boson-area artists with Brother Thomas Fellowships,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “The fact that we are awarding our thirtieth fellowship from the Brother Thomas Fund speaks to both the legacy of Brother Thomas and the positive long-term impact that arts and culture can have on community development and unification.”

As an adult, Brother Thomas, a visionary potter, lived at a Vermont monastery and later a convent in Erie, Pennsylvania. Bernard and Suzanne Pucker, who represented Brother Thomas and whose Pucker Gallery on Boston’s Newbury Street holds the largest and most diverse collection of Brother Thomas’s work.

The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of some $1 billion. In 2014, the Foundation and its donors made more than $112 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of nearly $112 million. In celebration of its centennial in 2015, the Boston Foundation has launched the Campaign for Boston to strengthen the Permanent Fund for Boston, Greater Boston’s only endowment fund supporting organizations focused on the most pressing needs of Greater Boston.  The Foundation is proud to be a partner in philanthropy, with nearly 1,000 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.

The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener and sponsor of special initiatives that address the region’s most serious challenges. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), an operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit www.tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.

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