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OHIO faculty win Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence awards

This semester, three OHIO faculty members have received Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council. The Individual Excellence Awards program recognizes outstanding accomplishments by artists in a variety of disciplines and give artists the resources to experiment and explore their art forms, develop skills and advance their careers, and receive affirmation and acknowledgment for outstanding work.” Each award is $5,000.

Associate Professor of Instruction, Playwriting and Director of the School of Theater Merri Biechler won this year for her play "My Bigfoot Family," having also previously won in 2018 for the play "Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver."

“I’ve always been fascinated with Bigfoot, and I wanted to explore the hope and curiosity that the search for Bigfoot brings out in people," Biechler said. "It's a play for families that's set at a Bigfoot festival in Southeast Ohio. The central character, 13-year-old Ilona, is struggling to accept her mother's drug addiction. I know that sounds grim! But it's a comedy/drama about the families we love and the communities we embrace. And Bigfoot.”

The play will be available to read on the New Play Exchange and produced at Stuart's Opera House, with music by Adam Remnant and directed by Emily Prince. 

Associate Professor and Stocker Professor of Creative Writing Eric LeMay won his OAC Individual Excellence Award in the category of Creative Nonfiction for what he describes as “an excerpt from a memoir of being diagnosed with an aggressive kind of cancer when my first child was a little over a year old."

“I was trying to grapple with the fact that, were I to die of cancer, I wouldn't live to see my son grow up and my son would have no living memory of me," LeMay said.

LeMay further reflected on the value of OAC support for the community of writers in SE Ohio. 

“I’m grateful for the OAC's support not only of my work, but also of our literary magazines at OHIO—New Ohio Review and Quarter After Eight—that allow us to reach readers across Ohio and the country.” 

You can read more about his work at

Associate Professor of Composition and Theory and Chair of the Graduate Studies Division Robert McClure rounds out the trio of OHIO awards in Music Composition for his piece "bloom." 

This has been a banner year of awards for McClure, with a number of exciting projects and accolades accumulating. This also marks the third consecutive OAC Individual Excellence award for McClure, having won previously in 2020 and 2022 in addition to this most recent win. 

“My first OAC award was the result of two pieces that were more connected with the music I was writing while at my previous institution, Soochow University. But, since 2020, Ive been evolving my creative practice and will continue to do so moving forward," McClure said. “I feel that Ive done some of the best work of my career while Ive been at OHIO. Writing 'bloom' was a direct result of teaching a particular harmonic technique that I was developing right alongside HTC student Daniel Swartz in one of their tutorials on Scales, Modular Systems, and Harmonic Practices.”

McClure explains that "bloom" was written for pianist Justin Snyder who was a guest artist on his CLICK concert series in 2019. 

"The idea was centered around the idea of light, bioluminescence, and aura. It blends the piano with electronics to make a 'hyperinstrument.' I loved this idea and thought that I could put my own spin on it," he added.

On the importance of the Ohio Arts Council’s support for composers specifically, McClure is extremely grateful for the opportunity these awards provide. 

“Im so glad that OAC can award so many composers from Ohio and there are a lot of us here. But this program is quite unique in that it offers untethered support for artists to do what they do: create. Where so many other grants require you to spend the money on a particular project, the freedom associated with OAC is quite incredible. And because it is blind adjudication, it is your creativity and artistic vision that is being commended. Thank you to OAC for continuing to support artists to create art in Ohio.”

For more information on Robert McClure and to stay connected with his upcoming work, visit his website at

Visit the Ohio Arts Council for more information on the Individual Excellence Awards and how to apply in future cycles. 

March 29, 2024
Josh Coy