The Minneapolis College of Art and Design, on behalf of the McKnight Foundation, is proud to announce the six recipients of the 2019 McKnight Fellowships for Visual Artists: Leslie Barlow, Mary Griep, Alexa Horochowski, Joe Sinness, Melvin R. Smith, and Tetsuya Yamada.

Designed to identify and support outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists, the McKnight Fellowships for Visual Artists provide recipients with $25,000 stipends, public recognition, professional encouragement from national visiting critics, and an opportunity to participate in a speaker series. The fellowships are funded by a generous grant from the McKnight Foundation and administered by MCAD.

The 2019 McKnight fellows were selected from a group of 210 applicants by a panel of arts professionals of varying backgrounds whose careers intersect with the visual arts in different ways. This year’s jurors were Sama Alshaibi, professor and co-chair of photography, video, and imaging at the University of Arizona, Tucson; Evan Garza, independent curator based in Texas (previously curator of public art at Rice University); Amanda Hunt, director of education and senior curator of programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.


Leslie Barlow’s paintings share stories through portraiture that explore the politics of representation, identity, otherness, and racial constructs. Barlow's work has been exhibited both locally and nationally, and been featured in Vice, Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, and Shades of Noir (UK). She has received two Minnesota State Arts Board Grants, and has been commissioned for several large site-specific projects including work for the Hennepin County Medical Center and the TCO Performance Center Vikings facility. Barlow teaches at the University of Minnesota, Juxtaposition Arts, and collaborates with Public Functionary to lead the new emerging artist project Studio 400. Barlow is also an active member on the leadership team of MidWest Mixed, an organization that works to expand our understanding of race and identity through educational outreach, arts engagement, and a biennial conference.

Mary Griep’s Anastylosis Project, begun in 1998, is a series of large-scale drawings of medieval architecture. The project is witness to the accelerating loss of cultural heritage, questions what is saved, and explores what it might mean to document the work of the past in an engaged practice.  Three years as an artist-in-residence at the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture of Payap University - Chiang Mai, Thailand, rooted this work in scholarly and physical immersion in each chosen site. Griep received a BA from Macalester College and a MALS from Hamline University. She is currently based in Northfield, Minnesota.

Alexa Horochowski is a dual citizen of Argentina and the United States. Her art practice includes sculpture, photography and video. Artist residencies in Chile – at MAM, Chiloé (2017), and CASAPOLI, Coliúmo (2013) – significantly impacted her material and geopolitical research into the interrelationship between the environment and humankind. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan as well as a BA in journalism at the University of Missouri. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, at venues such as the Walker Art Center; The Drawing Center; Braga Menéndez Gallery, Buenos Aires; Diverseworks, Houston; and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Joe Sinness is interested in the history of queer sexual performance and the way that queer people have found love and community. His colored pencil drawings on paper seek to visualize future sexual utopic landscapes and celebrate queer bodies. He has exhibited nationally and internationally, and recently had a solo exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art titled the Flowers. Sinness holds a BA in studio art and English literature from St. John’s University in Minnesota and a MFA from MCAD ’05. Sinness was a recipient 2013 McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship. He works as a concept illustrator and lives in St. Paul.  

Melvin R. Smith’s artwork has been exhibited and collected across the country for the past forty years. His vibrant collage paintings and sculptures focus on the African American experience through the use of the found object. Born in Oklahoma, Smith obtained a BA in journalism at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He started making collages in the early 1980s and had his first solo show in New York at the Peg Alston Fine Arts Gallery in 1996. In 2000, this self-taught artist was honored with a PBS documentary on his life and art titled The Long Way Home. A recipient of a 2018 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, Smith and his wife and fellow artist Rose J. Smith are currently featured in the two-person exhibition Remembering Rondo, on view at the Weisman Art Museum through September 8. The husband and wife duo also founded the Oklahoma Museum of African American Art in 1997.

Tetsuya Yamada works with a wide variety of media including clay, the material that roots him. By paying attention to the great potential within simple objects, their shape, and how they act and are acted upon, Yamada’s work integrates the mind's imaginative and creative potential with the mundane acts of ordinary life that blur the categories of art, science, religion, and medicine. He is the Grand Prize winner of the 2011 Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale, South Korea, and the recipient of a 2005 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Ceramic Artists, a 2001 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Competition Award, and a 2014 McKnight Visual Artist Fellowship. Originally from Tokyo, Yamada has a BFA from Tamagawa University, Tokyo, and MFA from Alfred University, New York. He is currently a professor of art at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.


The McKnight Artist Fellowship Program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Established in 1981, the fellowship program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in ten areas, totaling nearly $1 million each year. Non-profit arts organizations oversee the administration of the fellowships and structure their own programs to respond to the unique opportunities and challenges of different creative disciplines.


The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grant-making, coalition-building and the encouragement of strategic policy reform. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Minnesota-based foundation had assets of approximately $2.2 billion and granted about $88 million in 2015.


Recognized nationally and internationally for its innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to visual arts education, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design is home to more than 800 students and offers professional certificates, bachelor of fine arts and bachelor of science degrees, and graduate degrees.