Marketing & Communications: SAIC Announces the Winners of This Year's Fellowship Competition

Chicago—The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) announced the recipients of its most prestigious awards: the 2015 Jacques and Natasha Gelman Graduate Fellowships, the Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists, the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship and the Eldon Danhausen Sculpture Fellowship. These awards, among SAIC’s highest honors, enable graduating students to continue their artistic growth after Commencement through advanced independent study, art making, research and travel.

The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Graduate Fellowships

The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Graduate Fellowships are awarded to MFA students in their final year of study at SAIC. The prestigious $80,000 award is divided between a scholarship to support the recipients during their second year at SAIC and a fellowship to support their artistic career after graduation. This year’s Gelman Fellows are graduating MFA students Simon Belleau (Photography), Billy Feldman (Film, Video, New Media and Animation) and Keith Tolch (Painting and Drawing).

About Simon Belleau, Billy Feldman and Keith Tolch

As a multimedia artist, Simon Belleau questions and engages with the material and indexical properties of photography. Belleau is interested in photography’s capability to function both as a tool of documentation and as a poetic construction.

“The work is not a window through which the viewer can see the world, rather it is a work in and of itself: a micro-cosmos,” said Belleau.

Currently working within SAIC’s Film, Video, New Media and Animation department, Billy Feldman considers his filmmaking practice as analogous to reading—both practices working as a combination of looking, time and synthesis. In his artist statement he writes, “I often consider myself a reader first and a filmmaker second. The analogy is far from perfect, but I am skeptical that a perfect analogy exists. Analogy and approximation should be similes.”

Incorporating elements of pixelated images, backlighting, wire framed spaces, and undigestible amounts of information, Keith Tolch’s work as a painter engages with the surface of an impenetrable screen. The formal structure of digital spaces and the conceptual spaces of video games and operating systems provide Tolch with multiple access points to explore our technologically integrated era.

The Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists

The Edes Prize at SAIC provides a one-year, $30,000 award to a graduating MFA student who has demonstrated exceptional merit and creative potential. This competitive award is meant to provide promising young artists and scholars the financial means to focus exclusively on their artistic work after graduation. The 2015 recipient of the Edes Prize is MFA student Leonard Suryajaya (Photography). This year’s semifinalists, receiving $1,750 each, are MFA students Abraham Nowitz (Art and Technology), Michal Samama (Performance) and Allison Zuckerman (Painting and Drawing).

A jury comprising the Deans and Division Chairs of SAIC (Lisa Wainwright, Rebecca Duclos, Werner Herterich and Lynn Tomaszewski) and two external jurors selected the finalists. This year’s guest jurors were Michal Raz-Russo, Assistant Curator in the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago Museum, and Nadia Hebson, Faculty at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

About Leonard Suryajaya

Leonard Suryajaya uses photography, video, performance and installation to create personal narratives that challenge and deconstruct our understanding of identity in the globalized world. Suryajaya’s work explores the intricate layers of his cultural background, sexual preference and experience of personal displacement.

“Oppression and suppression were the themes of my childhood and I witnessed constant cultural and religious clashes,” said Suryajaya. “My sexuality also deeply alienated me from my traditional family and conservative country which didn’t permit fluid gender expression and homosexuality.”

Ethnically Chinese and raised in Indonesia in a period of anti-Chinese upheaval, Suryajaya formed a bond with his caregiver, a Muslim woman native to Indonesia, employed by his parents. After finding a new sense of freedom and agency in Chicago, Suryajaya plans to spend time back in Indonesia after graduating from SAIC to reconnect with his caregiver and his mother, creating a new body of work that focuses on these complex relationships.

The Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship

Philanthropist, art collector, author and curator Toby Devan Lewis established the Toby Fund in 2006 to foster creativity and encourage innovation in the arts, education and social services. The Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship at SAIC offers unrestricted support in the amount of $10,000 to a graduating MFA student of exceptional promise. This year’s recipient of the Lewis Fellowship is MFA studentKevin B. Lee (Film, Video, New Media and Animation).

About Kevin B. Lee

As a filmmaker and film critic, Kevin B. Lee explores the surprising lives and transformative possibilities that moving images have today. Lee’s past film work utilized an aesthetic he calls “desktop documentary,” where the entire story happens on his computer screen. In Transformers: The Premake, for example, Lee assembled web-sourced production footage of a Hollywood blockbuster and distributed it online before the actual film was released.

Lee plans to use the Lewis Fellowship to help complete his current film project, City of Future Delights, that examines the proliferation of LED light displays in China, specifically in the ancient city of Suzhou. Lee will travel to Suzhou after leaving SAIC to continue filming and to interview people whose lives are impacted by the booming light industry.

The Eldon Danhausen Sculpture Fellowship

Established in 2010 in memory of former SAIC faculty member Eldon Danhausen, this $9,000 award is given to a graduate student of exceptional merit studying in the Department of Sculpture. The 2015 recipient of the Eldon Danhausen Fellowship is MFA student Jeffrey Prokash (Sculpture).

About Jeff Prokash

Jeff Prokash’s sculptural works unite his interest in social and political systems with his personal experience working in residential construction and fine furniture restoration. Prokash draws on the conventions of preservation, appropriation and the historical archive to raise questions about accessibility, ownership and connectivity in the built environment.

Additional SAIC Fellowships

In addition to these four prizes, SAIC’s Fellowship Competition confers a number of other awards. This year’s winners are listed below.

Bachelor of Fine Arts & Post-Baccalaureate Fellowships

Camille Laut, John Quincy Adams Fellowship; Ursula Andreeff, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Chenchen Sheng, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Tewosret Vaughn, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Amiko Wenjia Li, Fred J. Forster Fellowship; Yasmine Afshar, William Merchant R. French Fellowship; Selva Aparicio, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Clare Arentzen, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Justin Chance, John Quincy Adams Fellowship; Chenyu Chen, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Magda Dudziak, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Yuehao Jiang, Fred J. Forster Fellowship; Timothy Kelly, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Charles Kelman, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Marina Miliou-Theocharaki, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Sarah Prendergast, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Amina Ross, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Rachel Sanfilippo, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Eva Walkuski, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship and Manuela Wijayanti, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship

Master of Fine Arts Fellowships

Naama Hadany, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Jiyeon Lim, Fred J. Forster Fellowship; Jeffrey Prokash, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Arnon Rabin, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Tobias Zehntner, John Quincy Adams Fellowship; Elena Ailes, Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship; Bachar Bachara, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Simon Belleau, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Blair Bogin, William Merchant R. French Fellowship; Lucas Briffa, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Grace Johnston, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Jaehyun Kim, Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship; Taehoon Kim, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Bahar Noorizadeh, Fred J. Forster Fellowship; Arianna Petrich, John Quincy Adams Fellowship; Erika Raberg, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Michal Samama, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Kevin Stuart, George and Ann Siegel Fellowship; Yuge Zhou, James Nelson Raymond Fellowship; Allison Zuckerman, George and Ann Siegel Fellowship; Austen Brown, Municipal Art League Fellowship and Keith Tolch, Carrie Ellen Tuttle Fellowship

Master of Fine Arts in Writing Fellowships

Suman Chhabra and Sarah Kim

Master of Arts and Master of Science Fellowships

George Price (Arts Administration and Policy), Sadaf Yacoob (Art Education), Miriam Dolnick (Art Education), Brian Leahy (Art History), Seth Carlson (Art Therapy), Jessica Sattell (New Arts Journalism), Monica Giacomucci (Historic Preservation), Tina Tahir (Visual and Critical Studies), Patrick Reynolds (Visual and Critical Studies) and Tie Jojima (Art History & Arts Administration and Policy)

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate programs to more than 3,200 students from around the globe. SAIC also provides adults, high school students, and children with the opportunity to flourish in a variety of courses, workshops, certificate programs, and camps through its Continuing Studies program. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC's resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit

Press/Media contact

Bree Witt
P: 312.499.4211 (office)