From left: Nikki McComb, Kelsey Olson, Edie Overturf, Jovan Speller, Amanda Wirig


The five recipients of the 2016/17 Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Emerging Artists—Nikki J. McCombKelsey OlsonEdie OverturfJovan C. Speller, and Amanda Wirig—began their year of fellowship in November 2016. In April of 2017, they shared insights about themselves and offered updates about their work in interviews by Fellowship Coordinator Melanie Pankau and Gallery Graduate Assistants Michaela Chorn and Aaron Olson-Reiners.

These artists were selected out of a pool of 229 applicants by a panel of arts professionals that included Gabriel Ritter, curator of contemporary art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art; Amos Kennedy, Jr., letterpress printmaker and founder of Kennedy Prints! in Detroit; and Dr. Jeannine Tang, art historian of contemporary art at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

Remarking on the fellowship recipients, Dr. Tang remarked, “Although utilizing diverging material processes and working within a number of discourses, the work of the selected fellows resonated because of the strength of each artist's voice within, and commitment to, their chosen domain of practice. We were pleased to see such outstanding artistic work across process-based material experiments, cultural activism, work with subcultural or popular forms, and critical approaches to conceptual and documentary photography. The range and depth of the selected fellows offers an encouraging view of what is possible in contemporary art today.”

This competitive fellowship provides $12,000 awards to each recipient. In addition, the fellows have the opportunity to meet with visiting critics over the course of the fellowship year, to have their work featured in a group exhibition that will open in fall of 2017 in the MCAD Gallery, to have an essay written about their work that appears in the exhibition catalog, and to participate in a public panel discussion. 

The Jerome Foundation has generously supported this fellowship program since its inception in 1981.


About the Artists

Nikki J. McComb has applied her artistic interests and skills to working relentlessly in the north Minneapolis and surrounding communities for nearly seventeen years in youth and family achievement. Her public safety campaign titled The #ENOUGH Campaign uses art as a catalyst for change and social disruption. Taking on the trenchant problem of illegal firearms, McComb wants to reach people from the street level to the legislative arena and help provide communities an outlet where they feel safe enough to seek help, empowered enough to give help, provoked enough to work harder to unify, and unified enough to make change collectively through art.

In addition to serving as a student mentor and advocate, behavior specialist, and art teacher, McComb has helped plan and develop artistic programs within twelve Minneapolis Public Schools. She is a 2016 recipient of a Micro-Grant for photography and a 2014 and 2015 recipient of Community Leadership Awards. She is currently the Community Engagement Coordinator at Pillsbury United Communities, Oak Park Center.

Kelsey Olson is from Montana and lives in Minneapolis. She makes photographs that combine analog and digital processes, and makes paintings. Olson has previously exhibited at the Rochester Art Center, GAS Gallery in Minneapolis, Party at My Parents House in Prior Lake, Minnesota, and is currently in an exhibition at the Kiehle Gallery at St. Cloud State University. She received her BFA in painting and drawing from MCAD in 2010.

Edie Overturf has a practice rooted in traditional printmaking and narrative. Through her narrative based work she questions the act of storytelling, and its effect on cultural structures and personal history. Overturf moved to Minneapolis in 2010 to take part in the thriving arts community of the Twin Cities. Since then she has co-founded a cooperative printshop in NE Minneapolis by the name of LegUp Studio, as well as taught in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Overturf received her BFA from Southern Illinois University, and her MFA from California State University Chico.

Jovan C. Speller is a traditional film photographer with an extensive traditional and experimental darkroom practice. She uses photography to compose, reflect or capture phrases of time that memorialize fleeting moments and stories that are often overlooked as insignificant. Nature, women, childhood, and the land heavily influence her work, which focuses on the juxtaposition between their beauty and deterioration, and the beauty of their deterioration. She studied photography and fine arts at Maryland Institute College of Art and received her BFA in photography from Columbia College in Chicago.

Amanda Wirig is a painter and mixed media artist whose canvases meld acrylic paint, rub-on lettering, and collage elements with retro imagery and a slightly snarky sense of humor. She has exhibited her work in Minnesota and Chicago and is currently represented by the David Leonardis Gallery in Chicago. In 2016 and 2011 Wirig received Artist Career Development Grants from the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council. She has a BFA in Art and BA in Music from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and teaches both art and music in Mankato.


About the Jerome Foundation

The Jerome Foundation, created over fifty years ago by artist and philanthropist Jerome Hill (1905–1972), seeks to contribute to a dynamic and evolving culture by supporting the creation, development, and production of new works by emerging artists. The Foundation makes grants to not-for-profit arts organizations and artists in Minnesota and New York City. The Jerome Foundation celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2014 by honoring the creation, development, and production of new work by emerging artists, and the organizations that support them. 

The focus of the Jerome Foundation is to support emerging professional artists who are the principal creators of new work, and:

  • who take risks and embrace challenges;
  • whose developing voices reveal significant potential;
  • who are rigorous in their approach to creation and production;
  • who have some evidence of professional achievement but not a substantial record of accomplishment; and
  • who are not recognized as established artists by other artists, curators, producers, critics, and arts administrators.