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Photo of Gilda Snowden

Gilda Award in Literary Arts

Maia Asshaq, Poetry

Gilda Award in Visual Arts

Sacramento Knoxx, Interdisciplinary Work

Literary artist Maia Asshaq and visual artist Sacramento Knoxx have been named the first recipients of $5,000 Gilda Awards, a Kresge Foundation-funded initiative honoring the late Gilda Snowden’s legacy as a mentor and champion of young, emerging artists in metropolitan Detroit.

Asshaq, whose focus is experimental poetry, and interdisciplinary media artist Knoxx were selected by the same independent panels of national and local artists that selected the recently announced 2015 Kresge Artist Fellows in the Literary and Visual Arts. For the Gilda Awards, panelists selected artists who are early in their artistic career, are gaining momentum and who demonstrate exceptional potential through creative risk-taking and pushing the boundaries of their chosen art form.

Similar panels will select the 2016 Gilda Awardees in Dance/Music and Film/Theatre for no-strings awards in this two-year initiative.

Like the Kresge Artist Fellowships and the Kresge Eminent Artist Award initiatives, the Gilda Awards are funded by The Kresge Foundation and administered by the Kresge Arts in Detroit office of the College for Creative Studies. Kresge Arts in Detroit is one aspect of the foundation’s investment in the artistic communities of metropolitan Detroit, providing support to artists living and working in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Now in its seventh year, the program has contributed over $3.5 million to the local creative economy, a commitment that continues to strengthen Detroit’s position as a major center for arts and culture nationally and internationally.

Gilda Snowden was one of our inaugural Kresge Artist Fellows in 2009, a member of the Kresge Arts in Detroit advisory panel, a vital and almost ubiquitous presence in the metropolitan Detroit arts community,” says Rip Rapson, president and CEO of the Kresge Foundation. “As an artist and a supporter of artists, she is simply irreplaceable. This is one small way to extend what she believed in.”

Snowden, who died unexpected last year at age 60, taught painting for more than 30 years at the College for Creative Studies where she was a professor and interim chair of fine arts. A graduate of Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, Snowden earned BFA and MFA degrees in Painting from Wayne State University, where she studied with John Egner, a painter who was one of the lynchpins of the Cass Corridor art movement from which Snowden drew inspiration. Snowden’s work, abstract yet personal, spanned a wide range of media. In addition to her own work, Snowden was a tireless supporter of Detroit’s art scene, attending and documenting events and exhibitions across the city.

“Professor Snowden was one of the great figures at the College for Creative Studies and in the Detroit arts community – an exuberant and prolific painter, an activist and an incredibly involved and caring teacher and mentor,” says Richard L. Rogers, president of the College for Creative Studies. “By assisting emerging artists, the Gilda Awards celebrate her deep commitment to nurturing new generations of artists. Everyone at CCS is delighted that Kresge Arts in Detroit is honoring our beloved colleague in such a meaningful way.”

The two Gilda Award winners are Detroit-based artists. Iraqi-born Maia Asshaq is an experimental poet, book-maker and co-founder of the DittoDitto bookstore and publishing house in Corktown. Christopher Yepez, who creates under the name Sacramento Knoxx, describes himself as “an Ojibwe/Anishinaabe and Xicano emcee, music producer, motion picture artist, digital media artist and community cultural worker” from Southwest Detroit. His work is a synthesis of multiple art forms with an avowed goal of reaching communities of color in particular.