Announcing the 2023-2024 Southern Studies Fellows

Announcing the 2023-2024 Southern Studies Fellows

August 7th 2023

Chapman Cultural Center and Hub City Writers Project are pleased to announce the selection of writer John W. Bateman and visual artist Mo Kessler who will begin their eight-month residency in Spartanburg this September and will collaborate on a joint project addressing the culture of the American South. 

The Southern Studies Fellowship in Arts and Letters is a three-year initiative jointly hosted by Chapman Cultural Center and Hub City Writers Project and funded through a three-year $150,000 grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation. 

John W. Bateman writes and looks for stories from the Deep South. His work has appeared in places like The Chicago Tribune, The New Southern Fugitives, Electric Literature, Facing South, The Santa Fe Writers Project Quarterly, and on the silver screen. He has a not-so-secret addiction to glitter and, contrary to his southern roots, does NOT like sweet tea. His first novel, “Who Killed Buster Sparkle?” was a 2020 Nominee in Fiction by the Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters and recipient of the 2019 Screencraft Cinematic Book Award. In 2023, John received his MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a 2023 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow.

Mo Kessler is a queer multimedia object maker, installation artist, and community organizer from Kentucky. Mo’s work has been shown throughout central Appalachia and the South. They received their BFA in Sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007 and their MFA in Studio Art from Western Carolina University in 2021. Mo was a co-founder of the LIVLAB Artist Collective at Western Carolina University and the founder of Shelter In Place (SiP), an online artist residency program for artists engaged in community organizing and activism during the beginning of the Covid pandemic. As a community organizer, Mo has worked on campaigns against racial injustice, food insecurity, foreclosures, police brutality, and Mountain-Top Removal.

“Over the past two cycles of the Southern Studies Fellowship, we have been honored to host highly-motivated artists and writers who are looking to build and enhance their careers in the arts,” says Meg Reid, Executive Director of Hub City Writers Project. “I’m thrilled to welcome these two talented individuals to Spartanburg to create a project and share their talent with our community.”

“This Fellowship affords Spartanburg residents with insight into the creative process of artists and how the creative process can translate the zeitgeist of a community into a shared experience. The magical part of this program is how the Fellows look at our town through a lens of what makes us unique and special and how we share the experience of living in the South,” stated Dan Mayer, President/CEO at Chapman Cultural Center.  

The fellowship is an eight-month residency of research, creativity, teaching, and travel to collaborate on a project informed by the region. The fellows will live and have studio space in Spartanburg, SC, and are tasked with immersing themselves in the culture of the American South, along with participating in community service for educational purposes. A key component of this unique fellowship is the opportunity to interact with leading scholars, artists, and writers throughout the Southeast and to conduct research at prominent cultural and educational institutions. This research will inform their work and will be critical in the development of their collaborative project to expand their understanding of the modern South.

Chapman Cultural Center’s mission is to provide cultural leadership for Greater Spartanburg by developing, strengthening, and promoting the scope, excellence and educational role of the arts, humanities and sciences, and to further their significance in the life of our community.  Hub City Writers Project is a literary nonprofit organization located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, comprised of an acclaimed literary book publisher, an independent bookshop, and a literary programmer focused on education and outreach. Hub City’s mission is cultivating readers and nurturing writers in both the Spartanburg community and throughout the South to foster an inclusive literary arts culture. For more information, contact Lucy Southwell at Chapman Cultural Center or Mia Kilpatrick at Hub City Writers Project.

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