Not-so-Broke Artists: Detroit’s Creative Class Cashes in on $25,000 Kresge Grants

Kresge Arts in Detroit awards $460K in unrestricted grants, but how does Detroit blues singer Thornetta Davis actually spend that cash?

Noah Stephens / Kresge Arts in Detroit

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For a musician like Thornetta Davis, $25,000 makes it easier for her to hit the recording studio or pay musicians in her band.

That’s just some of the ways the longtime Detroit-based blues singer will use her 2018 Kresge Artist Fellowship grant, which was announced this week by Kresge Arts in Detroit.

“When you think about investing in your own career, a lot of us don’t have the money to record … or go on the road,” says Davis, who will perform at Chene Park on August 1st.

Davis is one of 18 fellows awarded a $25,000 unrestricted grant in exchange for agreeing to continue living in the metro Detroit area for one year. Disciplines this year included live arts (theatre, dance, choreography) and film and music.

A full list of 2018 Kresge Artist Fellowship winners is below.

The 10th anniversary of the fellowship also saw four artists receive Gilda Awards worth $5,000 as a vote of confidence in their potential as young, emerging talents in the same fields as the fellows.

The fellowships are funded through the Kresge Foundation through 2020. The next application cycle opens this fall and will focus on literary and visual arts.

Announcing the 2018 Kresge Artist Fellows

In film & music ($25,000):

David Binder, Music Performance
Ben Corona, Film Directing
Toni Cunningham, Screenwriting
Thornetta Davis, Music Composition and Performance
Robert B. Jones, Sr., Music Composition and Performance
Michelle May, Music Composition and Performance
Ahya Simone, Music Composition and Performance
Alex Way, Music Composition and Performance
Julia Yezbick, Film Directing

Gilda Awards film and music ($5,000):

Arthur Cartwright, screenwriting, film directing 
Aisha Ellis, music composition and performance

Fellowships awarded in live arts ($25,000):

A Host of People (collaborative), theater directing
Morgan Breon, playwriting
Ronald Ford Jr., dance, choreography
Penny Godboldo, dance, choreography
The Hinterlands (collaborative), theater directing
Carrie Morris, theater directing, puppetry
Emilio Rodriguez, playwriting
Lance Rodriguez, dance, choreography
Dwight (Skip) Stackhouse, storytelling

Gilda Awards live arts ($5,000):

Brandyn (Skilz) Burton, dance, choreography
Salakastar, Theater, performance art


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.