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Graduate students win prestigious Parry/Billman Fine Arts Award

Graduate students win prestigious Parry/Billman Fine Arts Award
Paula Atfield at Armory Park

The College of Fine Arts offers various levels of funding support for students’ creative projects, one being the prestigious I. Hollis Parry/Ann Billman Fine Arts Award. The annual Award is given to talented graduate student artists and entrepreneurs who are exploring projects in the spirit of new works that stimulate thoughts, insights, and ideas. The Award supports costs related to international travel and research, collaborative performance, travel to an on-location film shoot, or to build, purchase or rent equipment.

One of this year’s two awardees is creating a short film centered on the Appalachian region and culture and the other is creating space for a community-engaged art project.  


Keisha Martin Film Pancake 2020
Still from Keisha Martin's film, "Pancake's Pasture."

Pancake’s Pasture

Keisha Martin, an MFA in Film Production candidate, was awarded $5,000 toward her thesis short film, Pancake’s Pasture. The film showcases the beauty of the Midwestern and Appalachian landscapes through a cinematography technique called an anamorphic lens. With the tools and knowledge she has acquired while studying at Ohio University, Martin’s Pancake’s Pasture highlights the voices of rural communities. Martin will extend the film’s message beyond Athens by submitting the film through national and international film festival circuits that emphasize women creators, their stories, rural culture, and dark comedy.

“I was inspired to apply for the Billman Award to better my thesis film and its appreciation for the spirit of creation renewed faith in my hefty project,” wrote Martin via email.  “I was very aware that I was dreaming big for this project, especially during COVID times. This award is a dream come true. I am very used to creating my films and projects with little to no funding--shoestring budgets. This is my first ever project where I was able to confidently and safely create freely.”

Pancake’s Pasture’s protagonist Tyler is a rural, teenage girl who sets out with her best friend  Maeve to find out the truth about memories that haunt her including tackling missing cows, unhelpful “psychics” and family secrets that go deep. The film was produced in Athens, Ohio, with a cast of local actors and a locally sourced crew. 

“In the time I have gotten to know Martin her passion for filmmaking stands out. She is the poster child for the Midwestern work ethic,” wrote Lindsey Martin (no relation), assistant professor of Film, via email. “She develops interesting characters who are on journeys we so rarely get to see—specifically women and teen girls growing up in rural America. Martin has a unique voice in storytelling. Her life experience has made her a fearless storyteller.”

Arts at Armory Park

Paula Atfield, a master of Arts Administration candidate, was awarded $1,000 for Arts at Armory Park, a community-driven art project.  

Arts at Armory Park is an outdoors and socially distanced event on April 24 from 12-6 p.m. at Armory Park, next to the armory building in Athens, Ohio. The event’s goal is to create a banner made of pennants created by community members who are asked to think about the impact of the COVID-19 virus and how the Athens community has supported its residents throughout the pandemic. The event is in partnership with Arts West, Passion Works Studio, UpCycle Ohio and the Ohio University College of Fine Arts, organizations that have demonstrated commitment to community engaged work in the Athens region and beyond.

"This past year, I have realized my passion for facilitating community engagement in the arts, and as this is my last year in Athens, I wanted to give back to the community that has so graciously been a home for me for the past five years,” wrote Atfield via email.  “This award has helped me attain my dream of giving back to the community and has helped me create an art event for the community and partners.”

Arts at Armory Park’s purpose is to increase engagement of Ohio University students and Athens community members with local art organizations; support the long-term and sustainable impact of local art organizations in the Athens area; and contribute to an on-location installation of a public display of art for the community. The project will have a festival-like feel that celebrates multi-dimensional community collaborations and connections.

“Atfield’s enthusiasm and commitment are ever-present. She is genuinely excited about this work and is eager to expand relationships and steward ideas that might have lasting impact,” wrote Christi Camper Moore, assistant professor in the School of Dance and head of the College of Fine Arts’ Masters of Arts Administration program. “As a teacher, it is such a joy to witness students having opportunities to put into practice all that they are capable of being and doing.”

Of all the philanthropic support offered by the College of Fine Arts to its students, the I. Hollis Parry/Ann Billman Fine Arts Award is renown among the college’s graduate students for its meaningful purpose and its support of the entrepreneurial spirit, says Matthew Shaftel, dean of OHIO’s College of Fine Arts.

“The aim of the generous donors who established this award was to encourage our graduate students to not only think in robust and entrepreneurial ways on how to make new work, but also to think about how their project can illustrate the ways in which the arts are deeply embedded in our communities and in all of our lived experiences,” says Shaftel. “The creative approaches and goals of Paula’s and Keisha’s projects align with the funding priorities for the I. Hollis Parry/Ann Billman Fine Arts Award and with the College’s value of distinction: that our students work in and with communities through the powerful force the arts have in our daily lives.”