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Professor of Art Elizabeth Stephens Awarded Eureka Fellowship

Santa Cruz Arts Division’s Professor Elizabeth Stephens and her partner Annie Sprinkle were recently awarded the prestigious Eureka Fellowship, the largest cash prize for individual artists in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sponsored by the Fleishhacker Foundation, the $25,000 award is designed to help artists continue with their art by supporting uninterrupted creative time.

The original 90 artists who applied for the Fellowship were all nominated from a candidate pool of 40 local nonprofit arts organizations. The final selections were made by three nationally recognized arts professionals: Bill Arning, Executive Director of The Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; Kris Kuramitsu, Deputy Director and Senior Curator of The Mistake Room, Los Angeles, CA; and Rebecca Shoenthal, Curator of Exhibitions for the Fralin Museum of Art at University of Virginia, Charlottsville, VA.

“We are over the moon, happy and honored to receive this award,” said Stephens. “Also some of our friends are on the list , which makes it even sweeter for us—it’s nice to win something with other people rather than winning alone.”

The Fellowship is imparted in cycles with awards given to four artists per year over the next three years: 2017, 2018, and 2019. The grant also requires the artists to remain in the Bay Area during their award year.

“As artists, we are always in the middle of a project,” said Stephens. “I imagine that when the money is available to us in 2019, we’ll be in the middle of our third film, Composting is Hot and performing as well as writing. Right now we are finishing our film, Water Makes Us Wet, finishing our book Assuming the Ecosexual Position, and getting ready to attend Documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and in Kassel, Germany. The irony of this is that our work is what attracts awards and what we spend all of our money on—we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Stephens, who is a Professor of Art at UC Santa Cruz, and Sprinkle have been partners and collaborators for 14 years, creating performances, film, and visual art. Their most recent project involved 22 performance art weddings with nature in nine countries, celebrating an “eco-sex” movement.

Stephens’ work has explored themes of gender, queerness, and feminism. Sprinkle was a sex worker who morphed into an internationally known performance artist who toured one-woman shows about her life for 15 years.

Their award-winning documentary about coal mining, Goodbye Gauley Mountain – An Ecosexual Love Story, was featured at many film festivals and is now on Netflix. Sprinkle received the Artist/Activist/Scholar Award from Performance Studies International, and the Acker Award for Achievement in the Avant Garde. Stephens is a Rydell Fellow and earned her PhD in performance studies at UC Davis.

The duo have presented their work at art venues nationally and internationally, including the Walker Art Museum, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, the Venice Biennale, and Documenta 14.

More information about their work can be found at www.earthlab.ucsc.edu.