Faculty Matt Donovan Receives Prestigious Creative Capital Grant for the Production of an Opera

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SFUAD Faculty Matt Donovan Receives Prestigious Creative Capital Grant for the Production of a Multimedia Chamber Opera

The project, Inheritance, explores America’s deeply complex relationship with violence and guns

Media Contact:

Lauren McDaniel

Santa Fe
University of Art and Design


Santa Fe, NM – February 1, 2016Santa Fe University of Art and Design (SFUAD) Creative Writing & Literature faculty member Matt Donovan was recently awarded a prestigious grant from artist support organization Creative Capital to help fund his project, “Inheritance,” a multimedia chamber opera. The production is a collaborative work anchored in the life and legacy of Sarah Winchester, heir to the gun-manufacturer fortune, and is designed to raise consciousness and open dialogue about America’s deeply complex relationship with violence and guns. Donovan’s proposal, in conjunction with collaborators Ligia Bouton and Lei Liang, was one of just 46 selected to receive funding from nationwide pool of 2,500 applicants.

“Artists today are brave, bold and deeply engaged in the world,” said Ruby Lerner, Founding President & Executive Director, Creative Capital. “The 2016 class of Creative Capital awardees are creating important and deeply moving work, with immediacy and passion. This class is diverse, it is extraordinarily talented, and we believe the 2016 Creative Capital artists will shape their fields for decades to come.”

Drawing on venture capital principles, Creative Capital seeks out artists’ projects that are innovative and genre-stretching, then surrounds those artists with the tools they need to realize their visions and build sustainable careers. Each funded project receives up to $50,000 as well as financial consulting and communications support valued at $45,000, for a total commitment of up to $90,000. Donovan’s “Inheritance” received the full $50,000 grant.

“‘Inheritance’ is a project born out of fascination with the biography of Sarah Winchester, as well as a deepening sense of urgency around the issue of guns in this country,” explained Donovan. “One of the piece’s central conceits is taken from Winchester’s mansion, designed – so the legend goes – as a complex labyrinth intended to keep the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle at bay. The more I explored her life and home, the more it seemed to me like a metaphor for our country’s relationship to guns. Even if we find ways to mourn the dead, we’ve simultaneously generated a mode of self-imprisonment for which there’s no discernible resolution. Our intention is to forge a piece that, rather than pointing fingers, will serve as a vehicle to raise awareness and provoke dialogue.”

Creative Capital awardees are selected through an intensive, three-phase application process. In February 2015, Creative Capital issued an open call for Letters of Inquiry and received around 2,500 applications. Working with more than 100 curators, programmers and other arts professionals from around the country, Creative Capital winnowed the thousands of inquiries down to 763 artists who were invited to submit full proposals. 231 of those proposals moved to the panel review stage, where consultants selected the 46 funded projects.

“Inheritance” is designed for a lead soprano plus three female voices and a chamber ensemble comprised of percussion, piano, flute, clarinet, and double bass. The production will be housed within a multimedia environment comprised of video, photography, and complex interactive costuming that enacts a collision between gun culture in America and ordinary domesticity as revealed through the prism of Sarah Winchester’s life. Opera collaborator Liang is serving as composer, Bouton is managing costume, staging and production visuals, while Donovan will serve as libretto and Susan Narucki as soprano.

“I’m utterly thrilled to receive a Creative Capital grant, and truly honored to be working with this collaborative team of artists,” Donovan added.

Awardees will participate in a Creative Capital ceremony and orientation this March in New York. Productions of “Inheritance” are planned to begin in 2018.

About Matt Donovan

Matt Donovan is the author of two collections of poetry Ten Burnt Lakes (forthcoming, Tupelo Press, 2017) and Vellum (Mariner, 2007), as well as the collection of lyric essays A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape: Meditations on Ruin and Redemption (Trinity University Press, 2016). His work has appeared in numerous journals, including AGNI, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Seneca Review, Threepenny Review and Virginia Quarterly Review. Donovan is the recipient of a Rome Prize in Literature, a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Larry Levis Reading Prize, a Breadloaf Fellowship in poetry, and a Lannan Writing Residency Fellowship. Donovan received his MA from Lancaster University and his MFA from New York University. He teaches in the Creative Writing and Literature Department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

About Ligia Bouton

Ligia Bouton was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and spent her childhood in London, England. She received her education at Vassar College and at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her creative work combines sculpture with performance, digital video and photography to recreate appropriated narratives. Each project wrestles with the intersection of functionality and narrative, drawing on sources from art history, literature and science. Recent projects have been shown at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Guildhall Art Gallery in London, SITE Santa Fe, the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Art Alliance. Reviews of her work have appeared in Art in America, Art Papers, The Art Newspaper, The Philadelphia Enquirer and The New York Times. Ligia Bouton is currently Associate Professor of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico.

About Lei Liang

Heralded as “one of the most exciting voices in New Music” (The Wire), Lei Liang (b.1972) is a Chinese-born American composer whose works have been described as “hauntingly beautiful” by The New York Times, and as “far, far out of the ordinary, brilliantly original and inarguably gorgeous” by The Washington Post. A finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Lei Liang is winner of the 2011 Rome Prize and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert for the inaugural concert of the CONTACT! new music series. Other commissions and performances come from Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the Taipei Chinese Orchestra, Fromm Music Foundation, Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man. Lei Liang’s solo discs are released on Mode, New World, Naxos and Bridge Records.

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