2017 awardees

Cornell Coley


Cornell Coley, M.Ed. is an experienced drummer, dancer, teacher and public performance artist whose influences include the traditions of West and Central Africa, the Caribbean and Brazil. Mr. Coley has won numerous local and national grants and awards. He is a trained HealthRHYTHMS facilitator and certified by the Drum Circle Facilitators Guild. His current, long-term clients include Hyde Square Task Force, CLASS Inc. (adults with autism) and Tewksbury Hospital. His solo interactive program "A Fascinating Rhythm” is popular throughout New England. He also directs his Afro-Latin jazz collaboration project “Afrika Gente.” He most recently received a public performance artist residency with the Design Center 4 Social Intervention and currently serves as an Artist-in-Residence for the City of Boston.

Project Summary
The Soul of Latin Jazz – A series of multi-disciplinary music performances with dance, spoken word poetry and visual art that capture the major influencers and suggest new directions for Afro-Latin jazz.

Porsha Olayiwola


Porsha Olayiwola is an artist, educator and organize whose work exists at the intersections of performance art and political praxis. Porsha's grand passion exist at the intersection of youth and poetry and as a result, her most profound moments exist when in the classroom or kicking back with a few youth poets. As an artist, Porsha challenges herself to tell the stories that are silenced, or erased, the stories that are difficult to release from the tip of our tongues, the stories that bring together communities, and maybe, in some small way, change the world.  

Olayiwola is a nationally recognized artist and a MASSLEAP teaching artist. Olayiwola’s is the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion and 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion. She co-founded Boston’s first poetry slam venue, the House Slam. Since its inception, the team has placed first at their first national competition and third in their second competition in 2016. In Fall 2017, Olayiwola completed a fourteen stop tour, which brought her across the American South and Northeast as well as Brazil.

Project Summary
COUNTERSPELL - A one woman adventure that uses magical realism, sci fi and afrofuturism to document the narrative of Porsha Olayiwola. 

Allison Maria Rodriguez


Allison Maria Rodriguez is a first generation Cuban-American artist and video editor. Her work explores the limits of representation and the space in between meaning. She is constantly searching for methods and approaches that destabilize conventional ways of knowing and understanding the world. Rodriguez’s work has been exhibited internationally, throughout the country and extensively in the New England area, in both traditional and non-traditional art spaces.

Rodriguez has been an Artist-in-Residence at The Studios at MASS MoCA at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Arts Letters & Numbers and The Wassaic Project. She became a core member of Fountain Street Fine Art Gallery in Boston in Sept 2017. Upcoming in 2018, she will be the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Dorchester Art Project and a resident at The Ragdale Foundation and the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.

Project Summary
Rodriguez's project is an interactive multi-channel video installation that focuses on how individuals utilize creativity, imagination and memory to overcome hardship. The artist conducts interviews with different female-identified artists about childhood fantasies that assisted them in overcoming trauma or extreme circumstances and utilizes these fantasies to create a series of multimedia animations. The final project will speak to many individuals experiences and their strategies and methodologies of survival activated through the power of creativity.  

Nadroj Holmes

(any pronouns)

Nadroj Holmes describes his work as demographic specific. His projects showcase both the Black Body and various facets of Black Identity in tandem to inspire pursuit of salutary goals en masse. Cultural artifacts such as folklore, historical pictures or figures, popular music and popular video are paired with research which serves as the foundation for his projects. Holmes’ works critically analyze detrimental anti-Black narratives, while providing the Black Body a stage from which counter-narratives of resistance can be developed and promulgated. His projects are often designed with the intention of challenging the audience to expand on their critiquing capabilities, especially when it comes to violence, transgenerational trauma and identity.

Project Summary
I will produce a series of large sculptural works-on-paper that will draw upon a growing collection of 200 small drawing studies that I have archived. These works-on-paper are representative of a "surface" in the context of my working method of performance. Bringing together an interest in the transcendental experience, this work will address transformation through practices in observation using time as a framework to look deeper into the narrative structures for human experience, such as astrologies, ornamental practices such as ancient beautification rituals like scarification and the development of pastes/pigments, to merge technique and mythology.