Brown Arts Institute

Brown Arts Initiative Announces David Dornstein ’85 Artist Grant Recipients

Jo Stewart and Victoria Xu are inaugural recipients of The David Dornstein ’85 Artist Grant to help fund their respective projects.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) announced its two inaugural recipients of the The David Dornstein ’85 Artist Grant on March 23, 2021. Jo Stewart and Victoria Xu were selected to receive $25,000 each for their projects.

Jo Stewart, an MFA candidate in the Literary Arts program, is a poet and theater maker. She uses a combination of gesture, voice and text to make poetry and performance that investigates entrapment, borders, and freedom. Stewart has previously been an artist in residence at Vermont Studio Center, Azule, the Old American Can Factory, the Anderson Center at Tower View and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, among others. She was also a recent member of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, rehearsing and touring “Cellular Songs” from 2017-19.

Stewart’s project, Un-, is a book length serial poem that centers the life of a girl-child named un. This work investigates the prefix as an independent formulation—one with a destabilizing gift. Un- sows’ disorder in a language and social order for which “wholeness” relies on the exclusion of a non-being Other or antithesis. Central to these poems is a preoccupation with self-recovery as it correlates with deliberate kinship and affinity for land. By joining this writing project with the hands-on teachings of land stewards and practitioners of plant medicine, Stewart seeks to find new grammars of selfhood and community formation that is rooted in becoming naturalized to place as medicine for an un- free world.

Victoria Xu, an undergraduate dual-concentrator in Computer Science and Visual Arts, is an anti-disciplinary artist whose work explores the potential of storytelling to create room for counter-histories and counter-archives. The power in re-membered and uplifted history drives their work through filmmaking, installation, and performance. Currently, they are part of a documentary team working with PrYSM, a Providence-based grassroots organization addressing Southeast Asian community needs such as over policing and deportation. They are working from a community-based mode of documentary filmmaking to uplift the Pheap family’s desire to tell their story and fight for justice in the wake of state violence. Xu is expected to graduate from Brown in 2021 and is excited to develop a practice of collaborative, critical and empowering art-making.

For Xu’s project, they are working on a documentary on Channara Tom “Philly” Pheap’s murder. Nearly two years ago, Philly was murdered by Officer Dylan Williams of the Knoxville Police, with no further recourse or disciplinary action. In the immediate aftermath local media outlets defamed him publicly, manipulating the memory of his life into a false image that justified this state violence. The documentary not only reclaims Philly’s memory but highlights the important collaboration between local Black Lives Matter (BLM) activists and the Providence Youth Student Movement (PrYSM) to find justice. The documentary process will support Philly’s family and highlight a solidarity between the movements that continue their fight.

The David Dornstein ’85 Artist Grant was established to honor the creative legacy of David Dornstein ’85. The program is designed to create new energy and life around the arts at Brown University that will carry over each year by providing resources for exceptional and unique projects that serve as a “next step” for graduating seniors or graduate students. The award scope includes original artistic projects or creative research that would benefit from extended time or extended opportunity for travel, project design or costs or experiences.

About Brown Arts Initiative
The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University seeks to cultivate creative expression and foster an interdisciplinary environment where faculty and students learn from one another and from artists and scholars in a wide range of fields across the campus and around the world. A consortium of six arts departments and two programs that encompass the performing, literary and visual arts, the BAI works collaboratively to enhance curricular and co-curricular offerings, directly engage students with prominent artists working in all genres and media, and supports a diverse program of concerts, performances, exhibitions, screenings, lectures and symposia each year. The BAI seeks to build on Brown’s reputation as a destination for arts exploration, contributing to cultural enterprise through the integration of theory, practice, and scholarship with an emphasis on innovation and discovery that results from rigorous artmaking and experimentation. For more information, see


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