By “thinking outside the box,” Cathy, '79, and Jesse Marion established a program that enables Fredonia to create new bridges for artistic collaboration through the Marion International Fellowship for the Visual and Performing Arts.
The fellowship, established through the Fredonia College Foundation, provides financial support for an artist to undertake a unique journey that connects Cathy’s alma mater to renowned arts and educational organizations – known as Marion Fellowship Circle members – that the Marions have generously supported.
“As we reflect on the last five years, Jesse and I are more enthused than ever about the exciting evolution of the Marion Fellowship,” Cathy said. Through visits to several of the Marion Fellowship Circle member organizations over the course of a year, the artist has the latitude to develop a project in a very open-ended and organic way, she explained.
The Marions are already benefactors of Fredonia’s strong arts programs and the Cathy and Jesse Marion Art Gallery in the Michael C. Rockefeller Arts Center is named in their honor. They worked with Associate Director of Development June Miller-Spann at the Fredonia College Foundation to establish the Marion fellowship that provides up to $18,000 each year to support the recipient’s journey.
“The idea is to connect the arts and learning at Fredonia to other members of the Marion Fellowship Circle, creating a synergy between learning and the arts that culminates at Fredonia,” Ms. Miller-Spann explained. The fellowship is administered by Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Ralph Blasting at Fredonia, and links the campus to Chautauqua Institution, the Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyo.; Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas; Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Canada; and Springboard Schools in Egypt.
Each journey begins during Chautauqua’s summer season and is aligned to one of its theme weeks. The recipient visits the Ucross retreat, a mecca of prominent visual artists, writers, composers and choreographers from all over the world, and other fellowship circle members. The completed project, which reflects the journey and interactions with other artists, is brought to the Fredonia campus so it can be appreciated by students, faculty and community members.
“Of all of our charitable and artistic endeavors, this is one of the most rewarding and creative as a brand new perspective is explored by the individual artists each year. Most heartwarming is the feedback they have given regarding appreciation for offering such a unique opportunity to grow as an artist,” Cathy explained.
Two members of the Department of Visual Arts and New Media faculty – photography Professor Liz Lee and graphic design Associate Professor Jason Dilworth – have received the Marion fellowship. Applications began to be accepted by affiliates of all Marion Fellowship Circle members in 2015.
“This has raised the profile of the fellowship, and doing it this way for three years has started to establish a regular cycle,” Dean Blasting noted. “The applications come from all over the United States and Canada, and are in every field: visual art, music, theatre and dance. Most exciting is that they are often a combination of those arts.”
Cathy describes each project as having a uniquely different feel. “Although I cannot say one appealed to us more than another, the applicants each year are increasing and bringing very impressive proposals, making the selection process more and more difficult.” In fact, two proposals clearly stood out in 2015 because of their creative processes and connections to communities and were both generously funded.
What makes a proposal to rise to the top? “We are looking for projects that are beginning and will develop through the journey, that are interdisciplinary, that focus on a particular issue, and that engage the community,” Blasting noted.
While also pleased and impressed with the projects so far, Blasting believes even more dynamic endeavors will follow. “The fellowship is now on the cusp of moving to the next level, and by that I mean it is coming to be an anticipated opportunity for affiliates of the Marion Circle institutions.”
Past awardees have greatly appreciated the opportunity that the fellowship has provided and praise it for being so unusual and well-conceived. “The opportunity to have such unique access to these incredible art venues has been very motivating for them. They feel that the experiences they had and contacts they made at each stop will be with them for life,” Cathy noted.
“Everyone says that because the fellowship funds a journey and not a product, it allows artists support in that crucial time when the ideas are developing,” Blasting added.
Fellowship circle members say workshops and project development that bring together their own artists and students with the Marion International Fellows have enriched their own programs, and the “icing on the cake,” Cathy says, is that these organizations have widened their networks and are collaborating in other ways as well.
“We look forward to further expansion of the Marion Fellowship in new and exciting ways to promote the noble pursuit of art and creativity,” Cathy said.