Brother Thomas Fund and Fellows Program

“We all share a creative goal with art. The goal is difficult; it is an invitation to change the world.”

-Brother Thomas Bezanson

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The Brother Thomas Fund was established at the Boston Foundation in 2007 to honor the legacy of Brother Thomas Bezanson, a Benedictine monk and world-renowned ceramic artist, who wanted the sale of his work to help other artists, as his friends had helped him.

Bernie Sue Pucker
Bernie and Sue Pucker
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Toward the end of his life, Brother Thomas joined forces with Sue and Bernie Pucker, owners of the Pucker Gallery on Boston’s Newbury Street, to continue his legacy. 

The goal of the biennial Brother Thomas Fellowship program is to support and celebrate a diverse group of Greater Boston artists working at a high level of excellence in a range of disciplines—the visual, performing, literary, media and craft arts—and to enhance their ability to thrive and create new work. The Boston Foundation also hopes that fellowship winners will have greater access to a variety of markets, including galleries, residencies and commissions, and that the importance of artists to the vitality of Boston will be more broadly recognized.

Each Brother Thomas Fellow receives an unrestricted award of $15,000—thus fulfilling the needs of artists and the wishes of the donor. 

Award Process

Brother Thomas Fellows are selected in alternate years based on an inclusive, two-step process of nomination and panel review. A diverse group of nominators from Boston’s large pool of nonprofit arts leaders, academics, gallerists, collectors and for-profit arts presenters select the initial pool of artists. The nominators focus on mid-career artists to assure that the fellowships are awarded to individuals who have made a firm commitment to their art and are working at a high level of achievement. Nominators also give extra consideration to artists who are at a catalytic moment in their life and career when a fellowship could have a transformative impact. The Fellowship program acknowledges that even established artists may struggle for the resources they need to advance their art.

The nominated artists submit work samples, a resumé and an artist statement for consideration by a multi-disciplinary panel convened at the Boston Foundation.  

All panelists complete a conflict of interest disclosure form to ensure a fair and equitable process. Should a conflict of interest arise, these individuals do not participate in this portion of the panel process.

Support the Brother Thomas Fellowship

The Boston Foundation believes raising their visibility will also increase their access to galleries, residencies and commissions, and demonstrate the importance of artists to the vitality of Boston. Since 2007, $840,000 in funding has been awarded to 56 Fellows. The quality and the range of their work are astounding, and are matched by their intense dedication to their work. As former Brother Thomas Fellows welcome new award winners, a larger “fellowship” of encouragement and support has emerged in the community of artists.

If you are interested in helping us grow the Brother Thomas Fellowship program, you may contribute directly to the fund. If you are a donor or a collector who would like to learn more about Brother Thomas’s works of art as a way of supporting the fund, please contact us at 617-338-1700.

  Meet the 2019 Fellows

Jean Appolon
Choreographer/Dance Educator

Sandeep Das
Musician

Maya Erdelyi
Animator/Director

Maria Finkelmeier
Percussionist/Composer

Patrick Gabridge
Playwright/Author

Regie Gibson
Performer/Poet

Stephen Hamilton
Visual Artist/Educator

Kathryn King
Ceramic Artist/Teacher

Shaw Pong Liu
Violinist/Composer

Marsha Parrilla
Choreographer

Hakim Raquib
Photographer

Evelyn Rydz
Visual Artist

Enzo Silon Surin
Poet

Yu-Wen Wu
Interdisciplinary Artist

Nicole Aquillano
Ceramic Artist

Halsey Burgund
Sound Artist and Musician

Danielle Legros Georges
Poet

Raúl Gonzalez III
Visual Artist

Napoleon Jones-Henderson
Visual Artist

Masako Kamiya
Visual Artist

Balla Kouyaté
Composer/Musician

Sandrine Schaefer
Performance Artist

Michelle Seaton
Author

Jae Williams
Filmmaker

Ambreen Butt
Multimedia Artist

Lorraine Chapman
Choreographer

Sean Fielder
Choreographer

Ekua Holmes
Visual Artist

Matti Kovler
Composer

Megumi Naitoh
Ceramic Artist

Sachiko Akiyama
Sculptor

Angela Cunningham
Ceramic Artist

David Valdes Greenwood
Playwright/Author

Wendy Jehlen
Dancer

Chandra Dieppa Ortiz
Painter/Sculptor

Robert Todd
Documentary Filmmaker

John Oluwole ADEkoje
Filmmaker/Playwright

Kati Agócs
Composer

Barbara Helfgott
Poet

Richard Hoffman
Poet

Brian Knep
Video Artist

Alla Kovgan
Dance-based Filmmaker

Tracy Heather Strain
Documentary Filmmaker

Heather White
Jeweler/Designer

More about Brother Thomas

Brother Thomas Bezanson photo

The ceramic work of Brother Thomas Bezanson is displayed in more than 80 museums around the world, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Vatican. The largest and most diverse collection is in the Pucker Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston. Owners Sue and Bernie Pucker had represented Brother Thomas’ work over the decades and became his close friends. Toward the end of his life, they joined forces to create a legacy to benefit other artists: Today, proceeds of the sale of his works held by the Pucker Gallery go to the Brother Thomas Fellowships.

Brother Thomas knew that for most artists, the journey is a challenging one, and that even established artists may struggle for the resources they need to advance their art. The biennial Brother Thomas Fellowship program supports and celebrates a diverse group of Greater Boston artists working at a high level of excellence in the visual, performing, literary, media and craft arts—bolstering their ability to thrive and create new work.

Meet the 2019 Brother Thomas Fellows

Since 2009, fifty-six talented artists have been recognized with the Brother Thomas Fellowship.

The artists who have received fellowships to date are extraordinary. They, along with all future Fellows, will make tremendous contributions to the art world over the course of their lives and will enrich our community in ways we can only imagine.

Jorge Santiago Arce

Performing Artist
Jorge Santiago Arce

Jorge Arce was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, a city known for its rich cultural traditions. In addition to lifelong training as an actor, dancer, singer, performer and cultural historian, he earned his B.A. in musical theater from Boston Conservatory (1985) and M.Ed. from Harvard University (1994). In 1987, he founded Humano Multicultural Project, sharing the history and arts of the Afro-Caribbean throughout the country. He was a Mass Cultural Council Traditional Arts Fellowship Finalist in 2012.

Anjimile Chithambo

Musician
Anjimile Chithambo

Anjimile is a queer and trans singer/songwriter based in Boston. As a Malawian-American raised in the suburbs of Richardson, Texas, Anjimile's experiences with racism, homophobia and xenophobia in the Deep South and beyond helped to form the basis of their radical queer politics. Anjimile released their first recordings to local acclaim while at Northeastern University. The essence of their musical output is “a gooey center of warmth and tenderness” informed by the power of their intersectional identities.


Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga

Dancer/Performer
Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga

Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga is the daughter of Congolese immigrants and Founding Artistic Director of OrigiNation, which utilizes innovative and culturally significant programming to promote self-esteem, physical fitness and civic responsibility among youth. She uses the relationships she has built with young people to assist them in becoming the best versions of themselves and provides tools on how to deal with life’s most challenging issues. Her focus is dance, youth, the community and giving back.


Robert Gibbs

Muralist
Robert Gibbs

Rob “Problak” Gibbs is a painter, muralist and graffiti artist who was one of six urban teens to co-found the nonprofit Artists For Humanity. Gibbs has conducted arts workshops for Girls, Inc., the Boston Foundation and YouthBuild. He has been a teacher and guest artist at the Eliot Middle School and has provided innovative programming to young men at Rayne Academy. His work has been featured in exhibitions around the country.


Ashe Gordon

Musician/Violist
Ashe Gordon

Ashleigh Gordon is a violist, educator and arts administrator deeply committed to fostering cultural curiosity in Black history, culture and music. She is Artistic & Executive Director of Castle of our Skins, a concert and educational series devoted to celebrating Black artistry through music. In recognition for her work, she has been featured in International Musician magazine and The Boston Globe, and awarded the Charles Walton Diversity Advocate award from the American Federation of Musicians.


Arthur Halvorsen

Ceramicist
Arthur Halvorson

Arthur Halvorsen is a graduate of Maine College of Art, where he received his BFA in ceramics. Arthur's work—which has been featured in Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated—uses bright colors, textures and patterns on earthenware, drawing from pop art, coloring books and tattoos. Arthur is a Mudflat Studio artist, and he teaches classes and workshops there and at Lesley University, among other venues nationally. He shares his latest work regularly on Instagram at @arthurhalvorsen.


Yara Liceaga-Rojas

Poet/Performer
Yara Liceaga-Rojas

Yara Liceaga-Rojas is a Queer Afro-Caribbean poet, writer, performer, cultural administrator and educator from Puerto Rico who resides in the Boston area. Her multidisciplinary projects—Acentos espesos/Thick Accents; El despojo: ¿Alguien ha/Has Anyone?; and Poetry Is Busy—produce visibility for marginalized subjects. She’s authored four books of poetry; publishes frequently in newspapers, journals and anthologies; and offers creative writing, poetry and performance workshops in cultural centers, libraries and other institutions.


Porsha Olayiwola

Poet
Porsha Olayiwola

Porsha Olayiwola is a writer, performer, educator and curator who uses Afrofuturism and surrealism to examine historical and current issues in the Black, woman and queer diasporas. She is an Individual World Poetry Slam champion and was named by Get Konnected! as one of Boston’s 100 Most Influential People of Color. Olayiwola is the current poet laureate for the City of Boston and has her first full collection of poetry forthcoming with Button Poetry in November 2019.


Oompa

Musician
Oompa

Oompa is a nationally-acclaimed, Boston-born poet, rapper and educator, who is forever representing the queer, black, orphaned, hood kids. Oompa is the Boston Music Awards 2018 Unsigned Artist of the Year, a 2018 LAB Grant recipient, 2018 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest Finalist, and the 2017 Women of the World Poetry Slam. Oompa's debut album, Nov. 3, received accolades, and she is currently preparing the release of her second album, Cleo.


Valerie Stephens

Performing Artist/Storyteller
Valerie Stephens

Valerie Stephens, a native Bostonian, is an award-winning performing artist with a passion for history. An actor, storyteller, vocalist, writer and producer, she has toured nationally and performed on many Boston area stages. Her original works include plays, historical pieces and tributes to singer Nina Simone. She believes in the transformative power of art on personal as well as community levels and over the last 35 years has created performance art and programming that celebrates that power.


Billy Dean Thomas

Musician
Billy Dean Thomas

Billy Dean Thomas, AKA “The Queer B.I.G” is a Hip-hop recording artist born and raised in Harlem, but residing in Boston. Billy challenges the music industry with lyrics that align with intersectional feminism, social justice and growing up in NYC. After performing on ABC’s The View and releasing the EP Rocky Barboa, Billy was nominated for two Boston Music awards and has performed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Spotify and The House of Blues Boston.


Kyla Toomey

Ceramicist
Kyla Toomey

Kyla Toomey is a Boston-based ceramic artist. Her work simultaneously draws from Modernism and Craft, and is charged with a sense of materiality and simplicity. She is fascinated with the play of opposing forces within an object, and human interaction with materials. She splits her time between making and teaching: She has taught at many institutions including The Commonwealth School, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Office for the Arts at Harvard University.

Past Fellows

2017 Brother Thomas Fellows

Jean Appolon Sandeep Das Maya Erdelyi Maria Finkelmeyer
Jean Appolon
Choreographer/Dance Educator
Sandeep Das
Musician 
Maya Erdelyi
Animator/Director
Maria Finkelmeier
Percussionist/Composer
Patrick Gabridge Regie Gibson Stephen Hamilton Kathryn King
Patrick Gabridge
Playwright/Author
Regie Gibson
Performer/Poet
Stephen Hamilton
Visual Artist/Educator
Kathryn King
Ceramic Artist/Teacher
Shaw Pong Liu Marsha Parrilla Hakim Raquib Evelyn Rydz
Shaw Pong Liu
Violinist/Composer
Marsha Parrilla
Choreographer
Hakim Raquib
Photographer
Evelyn Rydz
Visual Artist
Enzo Silon Surin Yu-Wen Wu    
Enzo Silon Surin
Poet
Yu-Wen Wu
Interdisciplinary Artist
   

2015 Brother Thomas Fellows

Nicole Aquillano Halsey Burgund Danielle Legros Georges Raul Gonzalez III
Nicole Aquillino
Ceramic Artist
Halsey Burgund
Sound Artist and Musician
Danielle Legros Georges
Poet
Raúl Gonzalez III
Visual Artist
Napoleon Jones-Henderson Masako Kamiya Ballo Kouyate
Napoleon Jones-Henderson
Visual Artist
Masako Kamiya
Visual Artist
Balla Kouyaté
Composer/Musician
Sandrine Schaefer
Performance Artist
Michelle Seaton Jae Williams
Michelle Seaton
Author
Jae Williams
Filmmaker

2013 Brother Thomas Fellows

Ambreen Butt Lorraine Chapman Sean Fielder Ekua Holmes
Ambreen Butt
Visual Artist
Lorraine Chapman
Choreographer
Sean Fielder
Choreographer
Ekua Holmes 
Visual Artist
Megumi Naitoh    
Matti Kovler
Composer
Megumi Naitoh
Ceramic Artist 
   

2011 Brother Thomas Fellows

Sachiko Akiyama Angla Cunningham David Valdes Greenwood Wendy Jehlen
Sachiko Akiyama
Sculptor
Angela Cunningham
Ceramic Artist
David Valdes Greenwood
Playwright/Author
Wendy Jehlen
Dancer
Chandra Dieppa Ortiz Robert Todd    
Chandra Dieppa Ortiz
Painter/Sculptor
Robert Todd
Documentary Filmmaker
   

2009 Brother Thomas Fellows

John Oluwole ADEkoje Kati Agocs Barbara Helfgott Richard Hoffman
John Oluwole ADEkoje
Filmmaker/Playwright
Kati Agócs
Composer
Barbara Helfgott
Poet
Richard Hoffman
Poet
Brian Knep Alla Kovgan Tracy Strain Heather White
Brian Knep
Video Artist
Alla Kovgan
Dance-based Filmmaker
Tracy Heather Strain
Documentary Filmmaker
Heather White
Jeweler/Designer 

2017 Brother Thomas Fellows Brochure

2017 Brother Thomas Fellows Press Release

2015 Brother Thomas Fellows Brochure

2013 Brother Thomas Fellows Press Release

2013 Brother Thomas Fellows Brochure

2011 and 2009 Brother Thomas Fellows Brochure

The artists who have received fellowships to date are extraordinary. They, along with all future Fellows, will make tremendous contributions to the art world over the course of their lives, and will enrich our community in ways we can only imagine.