Emerging Artist Fellowships Open Career Paths for Talented Young Creatives

A Few Strategic Steps

Art is fun. Art engages the senses. Art enriches the spirit. All true, but graduating from college with an art degree can be unnerving. Maybe you’re talented, but you haven’t tallied up a string of one-person shows or prestigious commissions. 

Suddenly you’re on your own. Where do you go from here? 

Tamarack Foundation created Emerging Artist Fellowships specifically to offer promising new West Virginia artists a stepping stone toward the career of their dreams. 

The program began in 2016 with the selection of two young artists, Hannah Lenhart and Rosalie Haizlett. In 2020, five more young creatives were chosen.

When asked how the Emerging Artists Fellowship has affected them, all of the 2020 fellows mention increased confidence, new business skills, and a growing network of creative peers. Moreover, they’re convinced they can cultivate a successful career in West Virginia. The two artists who received their fellowships in 2016 can offer a deeper perspective about how the fellowship shaped their futures.

Here’s an introduction to the new fellows and a check-in with the 2016 fellows. 

Jaci Rice (2020)

“I paint the skyscapes and the landscapes intermixed with the industrial spaces here in Weirton,” said Jaci Rice. A graduate of  Tyler School of Art, part of Temple University in Philadelphia, Rice explained her fascination with the juxtaposition of landscape and the ghostly remnants of once-booming steel mills: “For me, deconstruction is a chance for new things to happen, and it’s a part of the story of this place, the story of the people who live here.” 

“Field of Dreams” by Jaci Rice, Acrylic on Panel

She admits that 2020 challenged her. “This pandemic has caused me to lose some opportunities that might have given me more of a presence in the local communities. But things are bouncing back slowly. Remaining focused on the end goal of being a self-sustaining artist, all the while staying present with life, drives me along.”

Jessie McClanahan (2020)

“I make pots and sculptures. Within my work, I’m talking about enjoying nature and the things around us,” Jessie McClanahan said. She holds a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia State University and has also worked at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in North Carolina. 

“Root Vessel 6” by Jessie McClanahan, Ceramic

McClanahan’s sculptures are hand-built, and she likes the “mountains and valleys” that give her work the textured, organic quality that makes each piece unique. “It reminds me of West Virginia, which is my home.” 

Jes Reger Davis (2020)

“I love watercolor because it has this certain flow to it — it’s unpredictable. Once the pigment hits wet paper, it blooms and it goes wherever it wants,” Jes Reger Davis said. Her paintings, often of birds, make good use of her free-flowing medium. She concentrated on visual arts and creative writing for her interdisciplinary degree from West Liberty College.

“Fleeting” by Jes Reger Davis, Watercolor on Paper

In addition to painting, she is a sought-after teacher, and looks forward to resuming in-person watercolor classes at Wheeling’s Stifel Fine Arts Center and in her studio. 

Psychoflauge (2020)

“I am literally telling my favorite story with collaging,” said Psychoflauge. “I want to communicate with other people in ways that transcend language.”

“St. Alphonso’s Pancake Breakfast” by Psychoflauge, Collage

Working from a farm in Webster County, the artist uses cut-out paper and video to create artworks he describes as “hyper-realistic and hyper-dense collage work.” Imagery and narrative elements extend from one piece to another, forming an over-arching narrative in his body of work. 

Nevada Tribble (2020)

“My work centers around the themes of memory, place, and change, and how those three things interact with each other,” Nevada Tribble said. “I capture the things that remind me to hope, the things with layered memories of what is good.”  

“This is how I hope” by Nevada Tribble, Mixed Media

An Elkins native who came home after earning her bachelor’s degree at Shepherd University, Tribble often combines fiber art and papermaking, using a sewing machine as a drawing tool or shaping freshly made, damp paper around objects to create sculptures. 

Hannah Lenhart (2016)

Hannah Lenhart discovered the appeal of ceramics in her freshman year. “Within two weeks I knew that I had found ‘my thing’ and it became my major the following semester.” Even before then, she was attracted to bright color, texture, pattern, and abstracted forms. Her whimsical vessels are intended to make everyday rituals special.

 “Orange Scotch Set” by Hannah Lenhart, Ceramics

The fellowship helped her to turn “my thing” into a thriving business. “Reality hits you hard after college, especially when pursuing a creative field. Having that support early on helped me to believe that I would be able to have a successful creative career,” said Lenhart. That support included a stipend, travel assistance, connections with other working artists, help with writing grants, and insight into “the business side of being an artist.”

Rosalie Haizlett (2016) 

Rosalie Haizlett received her fellowship as a college senior. “It came at the perfect time, when I was so close to being on my own. Getting this was a confidence booster.” 

“Sphagnum Moss” by Rosalie Haizlett, Watercolor

Haizlett began teaching watercolor workshops in 2018, during a residency at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and started teaching virtual classes on Skillshare, a workshop hub, before the pandemic. “That came in really handy. It was awesome that I was already teaching on Skillshare.” She is now among their top teachers.

Not long ago, Haizlett tested out the entrepreneurial savvy she’s acquired during the past few years. She made a shortlist of “dream clients” and created illustrations tailored to each. She posted her illustrations to Instagram, tagging the businesses, and also contacted the companies directly. Expecting nothing, she was happily surprised. “Within a few days, they reposted my work and tagged me! My online shop got more traffic and way more sales than I ever dreamed of.” Better yet, she ended up working with two of her “hand-picked” clients on new projects. 

That experience further boosted her confidence. “I’ve never been excited, before, about being strategic with my career. I always felt that, as a young illustrator, I should just take whatever blows my way. But now I cannot stop thinking about all the creative possibilities that are just a few strategic steps away.”