Cranbrook Academy of Art alumni awarded USA fellowships

Three Cranbrook Academy of Art alumni were recently awarded prestigious grants of $50,000 from United States Artists (USA), the national grant-making and advocacy organization. Each year, USA awards at least 50 unrestricted $50,000 grants to outstanding performing, visual, media and literary artists across the country.

This year, USA awarded 54 grants totaling $2.5 million. Cranbrook Academy of Art graduates Rowland Ricketts (Fiber ‘05) and Myra Mimlitsch-Gray (Metalsmithing ‘86) each received individual awards, and Jesse Reiser (Architecture ’84) won a grant that he will share with his partner Nanako Umemoto.

Ricketts is an Assistant Professor of Textiles at Indiana University where he runs the IndiGrowing Blue project, growing and harvesting Japanese indigo as a way to gain “unique insight into how we live, create, and consume as contemporary Americans,” he says. Ricketts plants, harvests, dries and ferments the indigo himself which he uses to hand-dye materials for his installations.

Mimlitsch-Gray creates tablewares and jewelry, working with traditional metals such as copper and silver. Her Motified Corn Pone Pan (2007), made during a residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, alludes to corn’s ubiquity in the Midwest and issues around monoculture agriculture. She has received several awards, including fellowships from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation (1995), the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), and the New York Foundation for the Arts (1997, 2005). Mimlitsch-Gray is currently Head of the Metal Program at SUNY-New Paltz.

Reiser and his partner Umemoto started their internationally recognized firm, Reiser + Umemoto, RUR Architecture, in New York in 1986. Their design work touches on furniture, residential and commercial buildings, landscapes and infrastructure. They established their firm as “an innovative laboratory in which significant social, cultural and structural ideas are synthesized into a tangible, dynamic architecture.” Reiser is a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University.

The addition of this year’s winners brings the total of number of Cranbrook graduates who have received USA Fellowships to seven. In 2006, Nick Cave (Fiber ’89) and Masamichi Udagawa (Design ’91) each received awards, and in 2011, awards went to Sonya Clark (Fiber ’95) and Jon Eric Riis (Fiber ’69).

This year’s recipients were selected from among 438 nominated applicants. USA Fellowships are awarded to artists at all career stages who demonstrate artistic excellence, unique artistic vision, and significant contributions to their fields. Through the USA Fellows program, USA has awarded $17.5 million to artists in the seven years since its founding.

Clark says that the USA Fellowship funding allows artists to tackle projects that might otherwise have been out of reach. She used her grant not only for upcoming projects, but also to circulate the funds back to the art community. She donated part of her grant back to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where she serves as the chair of the Department of Craft and Material Studies, and VCU has more than matched her donation to pay for the tuition of a graduate student. “I always try to maximize the funding and keep it within the art community,” says Clark. The student works with Clark as a studio assistant on her upcoming projects. “I’m committed to supporting the next generation of artists.”

Cranbrook Academy of Art
Cranbrook Academy of Art is the country’s top ranked, graduate-only program in architecture, design and fine art. Each year, just 75 students are invited to study and live on our landmark Saarinen-designed campus, which features private studios, state-of-the art workshops, a renowned Art Museum, and 300 acres of forests, lakes, and streams, all a short drive from the red-hot art, design, and music scene of Detroit. The focus at Cranbrook is on studio practice in one of ten disciplines: Architecture, 2D and 3D Design, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Print Media, and Sculpture. The program is anchored by celebrated Artists- and Designers-in-Residence, one for each discipline, all of whom live and practice on campus alongside our students. For more information, visit us at