American Fantasy Classics, a collective of four recent MIAD alums, wants to “expand the capabilities of our community and be an example of collaboration and cooperation,” according to Alec Regan ’10 (Integrated Studio Arts), one of AFC’s co-founders. So it’s fitting that a community organization with similar goals, the Mary L. Nohl Fund, rewarded American Fantasy Classics with a prestigious 2011 Nohl Fellowship in the emerging artist category.
The Nohl Fellowship program annually awards individual artist grants of $5,000 and $15,000, helping local artists continue to develop work and show it to larger audiences. Outside jurors are brought in to judge the applicants’ submitted work, which included a field of 143 artists this year. The program helps artists continue to live and work in Milwaukee.
American Fantasy Classics was founded by Regan and Oliver Sweet ’06 (Printmaking) in the spring of 2011. MIAD alumnae Liza Pflughoft ’11 (Drawing and Printmaking) and Brittany Ellenz joined soon later. The group works in a variety of mediums, including print, painting, woodworking and sculpture.
“It’s an exciting project. It’s different and it challenges a lot of different conventional roles of artists and collaborators and curators,” Regan said. “We have an iron in each one of the fires for all of these different roles.”
According to Sweet, the variety of academic focuses between the four members gives the group a strong range of skills, experiences and knowledge to offer.
“Ambitious experimentation is what we encourage. We do that by offering our resources to artists and the community as facilitators, a studio and an exhibition space,” Regan said. “Our directive is to collaborate with other artists. In a lot of cases, offering ourselves up as studio assistants, giving people a chance to do something different, to experiment.”
Both of the co-founders cite their MIAD experiences as keys for their current success. Regan is particularly thankful for lessons learned in his Integrated Studio Arts courses.
“The ISA program really encouraged the social aspect of the art community. That fed into the main basis for this project, which is about building a community and encouraging people to work together to pool their resources,” Regan said. “The ISA program really set a tone for understanding that there’s a larger community. All this art making is about serving the community.”
The group has exhibited locally, as well as in Chicago and Los Angeles. AFC has put on five shows at their gallery in Riverwest. They have already worked with over 20 artists. For their first project, the collective worked remotely with Portland-based artist Brenna Murphy on an installation for the MDW Fair in Chicago.
“There’s probably never been anything like this proposed to the Nohl,” Sweet said. “It’s a new and exciting model for contemporary art practice.”
American Fantasy Classics and the rest of the fellowship winners will take part in the Nohl Fellowship Exhibition in the fall of 2012.
“Things like this really encourage ambitious art making,” Regan said of the Nohl Fund. “The grant really does exactly what it’s supposed to do, support local work.”
MIAD Painting faculty member Richard Galling also received a Nohl Fellowship in the emerging artist category. His submission primarily comprised abstract paintings. He has shown work in exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and Phoenix.
Former faculty member Sonja Thomsen received a fellowship as an established artist. Keith Nelson ’00 (Painting), Joseph Bruns ’08 (Sculpture), Painting faculty member Santiago Cucullu and Sculpture faculty member Will Pergl were finalists in that category.
Sarah Gail Luther received an emerging artist fellowship. She is one of five young artists participating in MIAD’s “Generation Next,” which runs through December 10 in the Frederick Layton Gallery. For the exhibition, Luther created a mixed-media installation that provides the backdrop for a live performance.
Top image: The members of American Fantasy Classics.
Middle image: American Fantasy Classics worked with Brenna Murphy to create this installation for Chicago’s MDW Fair.
Bottom image: Richard Galling, “Untitled,” Painting.