NEW PALTZ — Four faculty and three alumni from the State University of New York at New Paltz were tapped to receive 1999 Artists’ Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). According to Penelope Dannenberg, director of programs for NYFA, this is an unprecedented number of awards affiliated with one educational institution in a single granting period. “It seems to be a critical mass,” said Dannenberg, “one I’ve not seen in the 15 years I’ve been working with NYFA.”

The coveted honors went to faculty members Mary Roehm and James Bennett in the Crafts category, and Francois Deschamps and Clifton Meador in the Printmaking/Drawing/Artists’ Books category; and alumni Jonathan Wahl, Lisa Gralnick and Mary Preston, all in the Crafts category.

Each year, NYFA grants are awarded in 16 artistic disciplines, constituting one of the largest sources of support for individual artists in the United States. Applicants submit small representative samples of their current work which is reviewed by peer panels of artists. This year, nearly 3,400 applications were received and only 149 individuals were awarded grants totaling more than one million dollars. Fellows each receive a $7,000 grant.

Patricia Phillips, dean of fine and performing arts at SUNY New Paltz, noted that the NYFA awards “are very important fellowships given to individual artists at a time when there seems to be a decline in such funding. They are very prestigious and highly competitive. It’s quite an honor to be chosen,” she added. Phillips should know. She has previously served on NYFA panels.

“To have so many SUNY New Paltz faculty selected for these high profile awards,” stated Phillips, “is a great demonstration of the fact that our faculty are not only deeply committed to teaching, but it also recognizes their involvement in the most innovative and creatively significant work. It is a very happy moment, not only for the school of arts, but for the college in general.”

Like her New Paltz faculty colleagues, Roehm believes her greatest value to her students is as a working artist. “As an active practitioner, I become a role model, a mentor of sorts, living what I teach. It is important for my students, particularly the B.F.A. and M.F.A. candidates, to see how much focus and discipline goes into being an artist,” she explains. “The dance between teaching and studio work is often challenging, so, if they choose to pursue art as their life’s work, they see the kind of commitment that is necessary. That so many of us are awarded also speaks to the caliber of the faculty teaching in the art department. It is an excellent program.”

About the Award Winners: the Faculty

Mary Roehm, an outstanding ceramicist and New Paltz faculty member since 1991, recently held a one-person exhibition in Boston at the Genovese/Sullivan Gallery (from which the Boston Museum of Fine Arts purchased two pieces for their collection). Her work appears in numerous collections, including the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC; the Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI; and the Museum of the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shigaraki, Japan. This summer Roehm’s work will be featured in an exhibition of American ceramics (Amsterdam). She has also been invited to fire several of her pieces in a special firing of an old German salt kiln. In September, she will have a one-person exhibition at the Sybaris Gallery in Royal Oak, MI. Roehm has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)and the New York State Council for the Arts, as well as Research and Creative Project Grants from SUNY New Paltz.

James Bennett, a world-renowned enamelist, has been a faculty member in the metals department at SUNY New Paltz since 1985. He has exhibited extensively, notably at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and in a March 1999 solo show at Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, entitled “Ordinary Sights.” In February 1999, Bennett was artist-in-residence at Myers School of Art, Akron University, where he completed an outdoor enameled steel wall relief based on the representation of ornamental images for the museum’s permanent collection. During the spring 1999 semester, Bennett is an artist-in-residence at Munich Academy of Art, Germany.

Clifton Meador has taught graphic design at SUNY New Paltz since 1994 and has worked with books for 20 years. This is his second NYFA award. Recently, while on leave from New Paltz, Meador was at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland for three months, followed by one-month residencies at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, and his current residency at Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta. While at Nexus, he is producing an artists’ book based upon photographs taken in Russia two years ago.

Francois Deschamps, another two-time NYFA award winner (his previous award was in the Photography category), has been a member of the photography department faculty at SUNY New Paltz since 1980. Deschamps has published several artists’ books. In 1995, “Memoire d’un Voyage en Oceanie,” was produced at Auckland University, New Zealand. His newest book, “Sombras Rojas,” is due out in June 1999 (Visual Studies Workshop Press). Deschamps has exhibited his work at the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and his work is included in other major collections throughout the world. He is also the recipient of three previous NEA grants.

The Alumni

Jonathan Wahl received a master of fine arts from New Paltz in 1995. His concentration was in metals. Wahl , who lives in Brooklyn, works as a studio artist, and is director of the Craft Students League Metals Department in New York City. He recently exhibited a very large piece at Best of New York State Contemporary Craft. Wahl is currently curator of a show, “Men Who Sew,” for the Elsa Mott Ives Gallery, NYC, which will run November 2 through January 2, 2000. In 1997, he was awarded a $20,000 Tiffany Fellowship.

Lisa Gralnick, a 1980 graduate of the SUNY New Paltz master of fine arts program, teaches jewelry and metalsmithing at Parsons School of Design in New York. She also previously received the prestigious Tiffany Fellowship. Gralnick lives in Rosendale.

Mary Preston graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a concentration in gold- and silver-smithing. She lives in High Falls, where she creates her own jewelry and also works part time for a local jeweler. After leaving SUNY New Paltz, Preston studied for a year at Escola Massana in Barcelona, Spain, and received her master of fine arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan, in 1997.

The New York Foundation for the Arts is a nonprofit arts service organization, one of the largest providers of grants and services to individual artists and arts-related organizations in the United States. Through its fellowships, residencies, sponsorships, loans, telecommunications, information and advocacy services, the Foundation works to bring the work of contemporary artists to the public.