Three Santa Cruz County Artists Awarded Rydell Visual Arts Fellowships for 2014 and 2015

January 12, 2014 - Three local artists receive $20,000 each to support their careers.

Jody Alexander, Jim Denevan and Elizabeth Stephens were nominated by local arts organizations and selected by a panel of arts professionals to receive the next round of fellowships from the Rydell Visual Arts Fund.

An exhibit of the current fellowship recipients can be seen at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History through February 23, 2014.

Roy and Frances Rydell established the Rydell Visual Arts Fund at the Community Foundation in 1985, to support the arts in Santa Cruz County in perpetuity.

Following their passing, their estate was bequeathed to the Community Foundation, with the proceeds of the sale added to the fund, which has grown to over $2 million, and used to support the arts through grants to visual arts organizations and fellowships to individual artists.

"Those of us who had the good fortune to spend time with Roy and Frances know what wonderful individuals they were and how happy they'd be with the fruits of their gift," said CEO Lance Linares.

Jody Alexander, fellowship recipient for 2015, is a bookmaker, librarian and teacher. She binds books with found and discarded papers and fabric in a number of historical and modern binding styles and combines them with found objects to create sculptural works and installations. She has taught book arts at San Francisco Center for the Book, The Center for the Book in New York City and UC Santa Cruz. At Wishi Washi Studio in the Tannery Arts Center, she works, creates and teaches.


Jim Denevan, fellowship recipient for 2014, is a surfer, chef and renowned land artist known for his monumental, temporary drawings on California beaches. His work has been written about in Art LTD, Wired UK, GQ Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times, among others. In March 2010, Denevan was commissioned to create a large-scale sand drawing on Lake Baikal, the world’s biggest single artwork. Pictured above is a 2009 creation, 300 feet by 150 feet.


Elizabeth Stephens, artist fellow for 2014, is an activist and educator whose art has explored sexuality, gender and feminism for over 25 years. Recently, her film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story, done with her collaborator Annie Sprinkle, opened the 2013 Santa Cruz Film Festival. Along with Sprinkle, Stephen performed or exhibited at the Museum Kunst Palast in Dusseldorf, Germany, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Biennale Venezia 53rd International Art Exhibition, in Venice, Italy. She is Professor, Performance, Intermedia and Sculpture at the UC Santa Cruz.


Fifty-five artists applied for the three available fellowships (two for 2014 and one for 2015) from a candidate pool nominated by 29 local and regional visual arts organizations and 11 former Rydell fellows.

Nominating organizations were asked to consider the broad range of artistic practices the Rydells thought of as part of the visual arts. This included painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, installation, mixed-media, stage set design, photography, costume design, textiles, glass, film and video.

To be eligible candidates had to be working artists, 25 years or older, who reside in Santa Cruz County and are not enrolled in a degree granting program. Fellowships are awarded solely on the merits of their artistry and not tied to the completion of any specific projects.

In November, a panel of three arts professionals met at the Foundation to select the new fellows.

Program Director Christina Cuevas noted that input from local artists, art administrators and friends of the Rydell were used in developing the fellowship program.

Jack Walsh, a curator, filmmaker and arts administrator, has managed it for the Community Foundation since its inception and did similar work with the Fleishhacker Foundation.

Since 2006, the fellowship program has awarded $380,000 to eighteen local artists and one artist collective.

Linares said, "The Rydells love of life, art and 'beauty in the home, in the garden and in the community' lives on, forever."