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Emory Arts Fellowship program announces inaugural cohort

Masud Ashley Olufani (left) and Tom Zhang are the inaugural cohort in the newly-founded Emory Arts Fellowship program. They will spend the year teaching undergraduate classes and partnering on courses with Emory faculty.

Artists Masud Ashley Olufani and Tom Zhang will spend the year teaching undergraduate classes and partnering on courses with Emory faculty as the inaugural cohort of the Emory Arts Fellows program from Emory Arts and the Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

Drawing upon Emory University’s strength across the arts, combined with expertise in marketing and management, the new program seeks to cultivate artistic talent while helping fellows, faculty and students reimagine the influence of art on the world around them.

“The Emory Arts Fellows program reflects the values and priorities of the university: excellence in scholarship and education; innovation through creative expression; and engagement with communities beyond our campus,” says Michael Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

“We are choosing this moment to reaffirm our commitment to the arts, the cultivation of working artists and the education of our students for whom creativity will be critical in whatever path they pursue,” Elliott says.

Engaged for one academic year, Emory Arts Fellows will teach undergraduate classes in theater, music, visual arts, dance or film and media — expanding the number of in-demand arts courses Emory can offer to students, while giving fellows valuable university teaching experience and opportunities to mentor future working artists.

During their second semester, fellows may partner with faculty members from anywhere in the university to co-teach a course and create a capstone project that brings new, creative perspectives to the study of critical issues and the effect of the arts on humanity.

Throughout their year at Emory, fellows have access to facilities for creating, exhibiting and/or performing their works. They will have opportunities to build connections with the broader academic and artistic communities at the university and in Atlanta, and with the cohort of other creative fellows at Emory, including in creative writing and playwriting.

A series of “Business of Arts” workshops will be created in collaboration with faculty at Emory’s Goizueta Business School and cover a wide range of topics, including accounting, marketing and evaluating contracts, helping fellows to advance their careers as working artists.

The Emory Arts Fellows Program is made possible with the support of Sarah Arison 07B, president of the Arison Arts Foundation and chair of the board of YoungArts, whose work and advocacy spans a broad cross-section of national arts organizations.

“We couldn’t be more excited to launch this program this year, to have this chance to connect our students with incredibly talented, emerging creatives, while also helping professional artists to build their portfolios and advance their careers,” says Kevin Karnes, associate dean for the arts in Emory College. “Sarah’s vision and support have been instrumental in getting this program off the ground.”

“I have followed Sarah’s career and accomplishments closely, and we truly value her insights as both an arts leader and an Emory alumna,” says Elliott.

Last year, Arison was named board chair of MoMA PS1 and president of the American Ballet Theatre. She also serves on the boards of the Museum of Modern Art, Americans for the Arts and as a trustee of Lincoln Center, among others.

”I am thrilled to see Emory express a commitment to its community by investing in emerging artists,” says Arison, who earned a bachelor’s degree in business and French with a minor in art history. “If we want our society to flourish, supporting the artists who will also be mentors to the next generation of art makers is crucial.”


2021-2022 Emory Arts Fellows

Masud Ashley Olufani (Visual arts)

Masud Ashley Olufani (MAO) is an Atlanta-based actor, mixed media artist and writer whose studio practice is rooted in the discipline of sculpture. He is a graduate of Morehouse College and The Savannah College of Art and Design, where he earned an MFA in sculpture in 2013. As an Emory arts fellow, Olufani will offer courses in new media and social practice.

Tom Zhang (Theater)

Tom Zhang holds an MFA in acting from CalArts and a bachelor’s degree from Emory 17C in theater studies and vocal performance. Zhang is a theater-maker dedicated to creating performances that use humor to explore race relations and American identity. As an actor, singer and writer, his works focus on telling stories typically left out of mainstream entertainment. Since receiving his MFA, Zhang has been teaching with CalArts and their Community Arts Partnership program. During his time as an Emory arts fellow, Zhang will teach courses in musical theater.

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