Previous Artist in Residence Projects

In 2015, Folk Alliance International launched an annual Artist in Residence (AIR) pilot to develop partnerships, foster cultural cross-pollination, and nurture artistic growth.

2022: Mixed Messages - Saskia Tomkins + The Mixed Museum

Project:  For the project, Tomkins composed an instrumental piece weaving Roma, traditional fiddle, and blues elements to accompany a narrated photo/video essay exploring her family’s search to find her grandfather, a segregated African-American G.I. forbidden to marry his white girlfriend and required to return to the US while his daughter (Saskia’s mother) was twice forced into an orphanage as part of England’s buried and rarely-discussed “Brown Babies/half-castes” era.

Partners: The Mixed Museum

2021: 20 folk artists (with Chris Thile + the Antonia & Vladimir Kulaev Foundation)

Project: FAI’s Artists in (Their) Residence project was designed to match artists across countries and cultures to speak to the universality of these issues.

Artists in (Their) Residence is a partnership with GRAMMY Award-winning artist Chris Thile, and supported by the Antonia and Vladimer Kulaev Cultural Heritage Fund. Ten US-based artists are paired with ten non-US-based artists to meet online and create a song to be presented as a two-artist collaboration video shot from their respective homes.

Artists: Rose Cousins + John Paul White, Gina Chavez + Las Migas, Charly Lowry + The Heart Collectors, Eliza Gilkyson + Lynn Miles, Mélisande [électrotrad] + Sean Ardoin, Catherine MacLellan + Crys Matthews, Adee Lifshitz + SaulPaul, Hawktail + Julie Fowlis, Calvin Arsenia + Ramy Essam, Mick Flannery + Tianna Esperanza

Partners: Chris Thile, Antonia and Vladimer Kulaev Cultural Heritage Fund

2020: Power of Love - Raqaya Alfaris with Rebecca Folsom and Mireille Bakhos

Project: Folk artist Rebecca Folsom, working with IRC staff member and translator Mireille Bakhos, was commissioned to coach high school student and poet Raqaya Alfaris in a songwriting workshop exploring and articulating her experience and perspective as a refugee. The end result was the creation of a song called Power of Love which they performed during the conference.

Artists: Raqaya Alfaris, Rebecca Folsom, Mireille Bakhos

Partner Organizations: International Rescue Committee

2019: Twin Flames - Human

Project: In collaboration with UNESCO for the International Year of Indigenous Languages, FAI invited Twin Flames to create an original piece that speaks to the importance of language, especially as it relates to identity, culture, and history.

Artist: Twin Flames

Partner Organization: UNESCO 

Twin Flames is an Indigenous wife and husband duo (Jaaji, an Inuk Mohawk from Nunavik, and Chelsey June, Algonquin Cree métis from Ottawa). Touring the Arctic and North America, together they echo the voices of their ancestors and depict life on the land as they sing songs in English, Inuttitut and French. They have received top honors at the Canadian Folk Music Awards and the Native American Music Awards.

2018: Percussive Fingerstyle Guitar Acrobatics

Project: Explored the connection between music, sound, mathematics, and art.

Artist: Henry Nam

Partner Organizations: The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Math and Stat Department, sound and media arts students of the Kansas City Art Institute

Henry Nam is a percussive fingerstyle acoustic guitar solo act following in the footsteps of Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, Don Ross, and Preston Reed. Born on a US military base in the Republic of Korea, raised in San Francisco, Germany, Maryland, and Philadelphia and currently based in Washington DC, musician and autodidact Henry Nam is the product of an international, multicultural upbringing that manifests not only in his diverse musical styling but also in his attitudes about the role of the arts as a universal language able to help people of all backgrounds build meaningful connection and communicate constructively.

2017: Topeka Prison Project - Blues Behind Bars

Project: A choral ensemble of inmates at the Topeka Correctional Institute rehearses and performs under the direction of an acclaimed blues artist.

Artist: Rita Chiarelli

Participants: Rex Pryor (poet and retired Warden), Shannon Meyer (Warden: Topeka Correctional Facility), Inmates of the Topeka Correctional Facility

Rita Chiarelli is an acclaimed award-winning Italian-Canadian blues musician, and a gifted performing songwriter with a soaring three-octave voice. Over the past five years she has released Cuore, a recording of traditional Italian folk songs, which won the World Music category at the prestigious Canadian Folk Music Awards; Uptown Goes Downtown Tonight, a highly acclaimed collaboration with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra; and Music From the Big House, a documentary movie filmed in Louisiana, at Angola prison, which premiered in New York and LA.


2017: Poetic Justice - Brown Eyes in Blue

Project: A performance collaboration between an emerging band and police of cer/poet to create a soundscape based performance piece.

Artist: Making Movies, Chato Villalobos

Participants: Rex Pryor (poet and retired Warden), Sam Cline (Warden: Lansing Correctional Facility)

Octavio “Chato” Villalobos is a celebrated 16-year veteran police officer with the KCPD. His pioneering work in community policing with the Westside Community Action Network has landed him praise and recognition with the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Also a writer, his poem “Brown Eyes in Blue” addresses the complex feelings and sometimes conflicting roles of being a hispanic officer during a contentious era of law enforcement’s relationship with minority communities. In 2016, his poem was recited in a public reading by Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino poet laureate of the United States.

Making Movies is a Kansas City-based band founded by Panama-born brothers Enrique and Diego Chi, joined by brothers Juan-Carlos and Andres Chaurand. The band’s sound is based in Afro-cumbia rhythm, and their rich lyrical content is both poetic and political with the combined soundscape an effort to manifest the beautiful reality of a new America. Their sophomore album “I Am Another You” (produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos) will be released in 2017.

2016: Joe Crookston

In 2016, FAI proudly welcomed The National World War I Museum and Memorial as its residency partner, and U.S.-based singer-songwriter Joe Crookston as Artist in Residence. Of Hungarian descent, Crookston was raised in Ohio, and currently calls Ithaca NY home. He released his first album in 2004, has toured extensively throughout the U.S. and abroad, and been featured on national radio programs, and received a Rockefeller Foundation songwriting grant. He has four albums, conducts musical tours of Ireland, and is also a painter.

Working with the education team of the Museum to access archived images, letters, and sound recordings over the months of January and February, Crookston has created a new composition inspired by time with this rare material. Working later on site with the Museum, an accompanying selection of images has been prepared to accompany the song.

2015: Brandy Zdan

The inaugural 2015 partner organization is the prestigious Kansas City Ballet. Under the artistic direction of Devon Carney, KC Ballet has been simultaneously exploring new directions with last years’ launch of a New Moves festival, providing an opportunity for national emerging choreographers to create new pieces with resident dancers.

Following an impromptu meeting between Carnery and FAI’s Executive Director Aengus Finnan, a fledgling partnership was formed with the idea of bringing an adventurous folk musician into the mix. Enter acclaimed Nashville-based Canadian artist Brandy Zdan, who had earlier explored work with contemporary dancers. Zdan writes, sings, and performs on electric and acoustic guitars, lap steel, and accordion. She has recently stepped forward as a solo artist following over 10 years of international touring, initially as Winnipeg-based Twilight Hotel (receiving 2 JUNO award nominations), and later as a side-woman for Austin-based female super-group The Trishas. Working with KC Ballet’s selected choreographer, LA-based Kelly Ann Sloan, and a company of 10 dancers over the month of January and February, a 12 minute piece entitled Lone Hunter was created and premiered at the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity in Kansas City. A 6-minute excerpt of the piece was presented with 2 dancers as part of the 2015 conference.