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City Awards Fellowships to Five Santa Monica Artists

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By Lookout Staff

August 11, 2021 -- A renown choreographer praised for blending genres and mediums and a folksinger and visual artist known for her "butch lesbian aesthetic" are the latest recipients of $16,000 fellowships from the City.

Jacob Jonas and Phranc are among five local artists who will receive funding from the Santa Monica Artist Fellowship, one of the largest, public-sector, individual artist programs in the nation.

Launched in 2009, the fellowship program "nourishes and stimulates the creation of new work by Santa Monica artists by recognizing excellence, and reinforcing our community’s high regard for creativity and innovation," City officials said.

Debra Disman, Gossamer
"Gossamer" by Debra Disman, mixed media (Courtesy

Jonas heads Jacob Jonas The Company (JJTC), a creative troupe that "intersects dance across mediums to make original works and initiates nontraditional collaborations," according to the company's website.

Jonas’s work "reaches for global audiences in an effort to make the medium of dance more visible and valued," City officials said.

“[I’m] grateful to have this honor and the acknowledgment of our work,” says Artist Fellow and choreographer Jacob Jonas. “Being born and raised in Santa Monica, it means the world to have the City support the arts and our impact globally."

Phranc, according to City officials, "uses song, painting and sculpture to champion personal identities and illustrate the struggle, survival, and victory of the queer individual.

"An internationally acclaimed performer, Phranc integrates humor and a butch lesbian aesthetic to her work," officials said.

Three other artists -- writer, director and filmaker Yule Caise, multi-media artist Debra Disman and interactive artist Jody Zellen -- received $4,200 Project Fellowships.

Caise is currently writer and Executive Producer of the upcoming limited series “James Baldwin in Paris” for UK-based Impact X.

“It's hard to express how much this means to me as an artist, to be recognized by my home city of Santa Monica for past and present work on James Baldwin,” Caise said.

“I plan to invite a group of local youth to participate in my development process to give back to the Santa Monica community that has been so supportive of me thus far."

Disman -- who "works in the form of the book, in forms evoked by the book, and in mixed media of her own devising" -- is an artist in residence at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica.

According to City officials, Disman "pushes the boundaries of the book into new forms and materials, inviting altered ways of viewing the world and how we inhabit it."

Zellen -- who is the City’s first Kate Johnson Digital Arts Fellow -- "makes interactive installations, mobile apps, net art, animations, drawings, paintings, photographs, public art, and artists' books."

The new followship honors local filmmaker and digital media artist Kate Johnson, who died last year.

"This new award supports artists in the electronic and/or digital disciplines, including digital film, video, internet- and gaming-based work, and interactive fine art," officials said.

This year’s review panel included former Santa Monica Pier Executive Director Negin Singh; former L.A. County Arts Commissioner and former Executive Director of Self Help Graphics Tomás Benitez; visual artist and writer Max King Cap; former Getty Museum Performing Arts Specialist and dramaturg, Norman Frisch, and scholar and writer Heather Dundas.

For more information on the Artist Fellowship program, visit

For an archive of past recipients, visit

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