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Painting by Chante Fontaine, C'2011

Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. Rockefeller Foundation Division of the Arts Priority Award

The Division of the Arts Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Award prioritizes faculty engaged in creative practices through making, performing, or exhibiting original work.  

2021-2022 Award Winners

During the academic year 2020-2021, five faculty in the arts were awarded Carnegie/Rockefeller Division of the Arts Priority Awards. Faculty who received the awards are Erin Washington (Department of Theater & Performance), Jaycee Holmes & T.Lang (Department of Art & Visual Culture, and Department of Dance Performance & Choreography), Nydia Blas (Department of Art & Visual Culture), and Paula Grissom Boughton, Ph.D. (Department of Music). Each recipient received $3,000.00 and had six months to deliver the project. Following is information about their projects.

Ayoka Chenzira
Division Chair for the Arts


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The passion, imaginative thinking, and commitment to wrestling with ideas is evident inblue-quote-right each project. 

The Division Chair of the Arts, Dr. Ayoka Chenzira

Faculty Recipients

Carnegie/Rockefeller Division of the Arts Priority Award Winner Nydia Blas

Nydia Blas | "The Girls Who Spun Gold"
Department of Art & Visual Culture 
Medium: Photography

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia BlasProfessor Nydia Blas is nationally recognized for a body of photographic work entitled "The Girls Who Spun Gold." The collection of images were the result of a girl empowerment group that she founded after observing a lack of space and community for teen girls of African descent in her hometown, Ithaca, New York. 

The group was active for about two years and, at its height, consisted of twelve young women from ages 13-17. It was a unique space that functioned based on mutual respect and care in an intimate learning environment. Professor Blas taught them about issues surrounding the constructs that she learned in college, such as race, gender and sexuality. 

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas

Additionally, they talked about real life and growing up in a small, predominately college town. As a result, the girls kept journals, started a dance group that performed at local events, deconstructed rap videos, and worked with the younger children at the center.

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas

In 2016, Professor Blas completed her photographs of the girls. Five years later, with the help of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. Rockefeller Foundation Division of the Arts Priority Award, she returned to photograph them; some are now mothers, attending graduate school, or doing other things. She created eleven new images of "The Girls Who Spun Gold." The photographs reveal that they are indeed women now with their own lives, loves, dreams and children. The photos by name as they appear below: Looked Back At You, The Oppositional Gaze, Hold You Down, Light As A Feather, Samone With Ancestors Keys, Resana With The Stars in Her Eyes, Starring You, Growned Up.

Photography From Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas


Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia Blas