Minneapolis, MN—December 2, 2019—The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), on behalf of the Jerome Foundation, is pleased to announce the four recipients of the 2019/20 MCAD–Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Early Career Artists: Sarah Abdel-Jelil, Zachary Betts, and Kaamil A.Haider of the Twin Cities, and Sophia Chai of Rochester, MN.

These artists were selected out of a pool of 157 applicants by a panel of arts professionals that included Marcela Guerrero, assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art; Karissa Isaacs, associate curator at the Tweed Museum of Art in Duluth; and Dave Kennedy, a Seattle-based artist.

Remarking on the fellowship jurying process, Guerrero stated:

“The 2019/2020 MCAD-Jerome Foundation Fellowship gave us the opportunity to meet the most exciting early-career artists working in Minnesota today. The finalists share in common an acute awareness of the topics most relevant in our society through a diversity of media. Of these finalists, the selected fellows stood out because of their inquisitive approach to materials and methodology as well as the urgency of their ideas.” 

This competitive fellowship provides $10,000 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 October 2020 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.


Sarah Abdel-Jelil is a Mauritanian-American filmmaker, dancer, and choreographer. Having grown up in eight different countries in a multicultural, interfaith home, her artwork explores notions of home, movement, and liminal spaces. Her current practice of “dance time-lapse” combines slow movement with time-lapse photography as a way of inviting people to move in tandem with the cycles of the natural world. She holds a BA in cinema and media studies from Carleton College and is a recipient of the 2017 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant. Her work has been screened at numerous venues and festivals including the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, St. Cloud Film Fest, and Altered Aesthetics Film Festival. Recently, she has completed residencies at Caldera Arts Center, Sisters, OR and Château de La Napoule, Mandelieu La Napoule, France.

Zachary Betts is a visual artist working in sculpture and installation to create works that are structured to operate like memory itself, fragmented, repetitive, relational, and fragile. Betts received his BFA at the University of Wisconsin Stout and his MFA at the University of Texas at Austin. His work has been exhibited nationally at FJORD Gallery in Philadelphia, Visual Arts Center in Austin, Adler & Floyd in Chicago, and SOIL Gallery in Seattle. He has completed residencies at Fogstand, The White Page, and the Vermont Studio Center. He currently lives and works in St. Paul, MN. 

Sophia Chai is a Korean-American photographer based in Rochester, Minnesota. Chai received her MFA in photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her BA in chemistry from the University of Chicago. Before relocating to Rochester in 2017 from Brooklyn, she had shown her work at various venues in New York City, including Trestle Projects, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Knockdown Center, A.I.R. Gallery, and TSA Gallery among others. Her last solo show was at 106 Green Gallery in Brooklyn in 2016. Chai is a recent recipient of the SEMAC (Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council) grant for advancing artists. In 2020, Chai will open a solo exhibition at the Rochester Art Center and a two-person show at Hair + Nails Gallery in Minneapolis. 

Kaamil A. Haider is Somali-born visual artist and graphic designer based in Minneapolis. He received his BFA in graphic design from the College of Design, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. In his art practice, Haider considers the power of memory and archives in relation to his personal experiences and that of Somali diaspora communities as they forge a new life in their receiving societies. In addition to pursuing his individual artistic practice, Haider is a co-founder of Soomaal House of Art, a Minneapolis-based Somali artists collective supporting a growing number of emerging and established Somali artists living in Minnesota and beyond. He is the recipient of the 2018 University of Minnesota Alumni Association’s U40 Alumni Leader Award for his academic achievement and community engagement through Soomaal. Haider is one of the two 2019 Soomaal Fellows, an initiative by Soomaal House of Art in partnership with Augsburg University Art Galleries. He is also a 2019 Springboard for the Arts’ 20/20 Artist Fellow.


The Jerome Foundation, created 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 early career/emerging artists. The Foundation makes grants to early career artists and those nonprofit arts organizations that serve them in the state of Minnesota and the five boroughs of New York City.


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.

Founded in 1886, MCAD was one of the first colleges to offer the BFA degree. The college has earned the highest accreditation possible and has the highest four-year graduation rate of all Midwestern visual arts colleges. And college facilities contain the latest in technology, with multiple studios and labs open 24 hours a day.