Lynden Sculpture Garden
Press Release

2020 Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships for Individual Artists Awarded

Five Artists Share $70,000 in Eighteenth Cycle

By - Dec 9th, 2020 09:57 am

Five recipients of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships for Individual Artists have been selected from a field of 151 applicants in the eighteenth annual competition. Ck Ledesma and Nirmal Raja were chosen in the Established Artist category and will each receive a $20,000 fellowship. Janelle Gramling, Rosy Petri, and Leah Schretenthaler will receive Emerging Artist fellowships of $10,000 each. All of the 2020 fellows are based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In addition to receiving an award, the Nohl Fellows participate in an exhibition at the Haggerty Museum of Art and receive professional development services such as studio visits. An exhibition catalogue will be published and disseminated nationally.

Nirmal Raja, one of the two fellows in the Established Artist category, has generously elected to share her award with the five finalists in her category: “I value tremendously the support and camaraderie of the artists’ community in Milwaukee and find it truly unique. There is so much talent and generosity here and I feel lucky to be part of it. This has been a tough year for many and I would like to share the prize money with the other five finalists. Their work is strong and opportunities for recognition and growth are few. It is my pleasure to share this prize, in admiration and respect, with all of them. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.”

Polly Morris, executive director of the Lynden, who administers the fellowship program, adds: “Nirmal Raja has always been quick to share her time, support, and opportunities with her fellow artists. Her wish to share her Nohl award is the latest episode in a long history. It confirms my belief that the artists in this community are very quick to help and support each other. This year has been a real test of their capacity for mutual support.”

Finalists in the Established Artist category included Portia Cobb, David Niec, Heidi Parkes, Valaria Tatera, and Della Wells.

Finalists in the Emerging artist category included Phoenix Brown, Molly Hassler, Kelly Frederick Mizer, Open Kitchen (Alyx Christensen & Rudy Medina), Nicole Shaver, Janelle VanderKelen, and Carey Watters.

The panel of jurors included Kimberli Gant, McKinnon Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, VA; Ashley James, Associate Curator, Contemporary Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; and Shamim M. Momin, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, WA. For the first time, the entire jurying process was conducted virtually. It unfolded in several stages over a period of seven weeks, culminating in virtual studio visits with the seven finalists in the Established Artist category.

Funded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund and administered by the Lynden, the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships for Individual Artists provide unrestricted funds for artists to create new work or complete work in progress. The program is open to practicing artists residing in the four-county area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties). The Mary L. Nohl Fund also supports a Suitcase Fund for exporting work by local artists beyond the four-county area.

Artist Mary L. Nohl of Fox Point, Wisconsin, died in December 2001 at the age of 87. She left a $9.6 million bequest to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Her fund supports local visual arts and education programs, keeping her passion for the visual arts alive in the community.

About the Fellows
Established Artists

Ck Ledesma is a transdisciplinary artist from San Juan, Puerto Rico, living in the diaspora in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Their socially engaged practice is centered at the intersections of history, place, experiences, community, and how these influence the creation of our identity(ies). Most recently they’ve been exploring the legacies of slavery and colonization within Afro-Caribbean food systems, as well as the effects they have had on the formation of Afro-Caribbean cultures.

Ledesma is the co-founder of Cosecha Creative Space, served as the Cesar Chavez Drive Artist-in-Residence and the Milwaukee Public Library, Mitchell Street branch Artist-in-Residence. Recent exhibitions include 2 Productions at Reginald Baylor Studios and From the Heart at the Racine Art Museum. Their public art pieces can be found at the Milwaukee County Court House, Woodland Pattern Book Center, and the Milwaukee Public Library.

Nirmal Raja’s work examines global movement, the cultural and material legacies of colonialism, and its human consequences. She approaches her practice as a means of inquiry and a way of exercising citizenship. She experiences the local through a global lens and proposes alternative ways of encouraging empathy and human connection through installations, sculptures, and video performance. She chooses materials and processes intuitively, drawing from objects and imagery that have both cultural and personal significance.

Born in India, she lived in South Korea and Hong Kong before immigrating to the United States in 1991. She holds a BA in English Literature from St. Francis College in Hyderabad, India; a BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She has participated in solo and group shows in the Midwest, nationally and internationally. She collaborates with other artists and strongly believes in investing energy in her immediate community while also considering the global. She curates exhibitions that bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together. She was a mentor at RedLine Milwaukee, a community arts incubator, for six years and is now a mentor for the Milwaukee Artists Resource Network.

Emerging Artists

Janelle Gramling is a sculptor who works primarily in fiber, wood, and ceramic. Her work puts materials in conversation with each other and explores the histories, contexts, and narratives within them. In her wall-hung and ceiling-hung installations, she uses gravity as an important element to activate the form. Themes of ecology, economy, gender, and personal symbolism speak through the ways in which her traditionally craft-centric materials interact with each other in a contemporary minimalist aesthetic. Gramling grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is self-taught and community-taught in all of her ceramics and fiber art techniques.

Rosy Petri
is a mother, self-taught artist, and storyteller. While her primary medium is fabric portraiture, a background in printmaking, photography, and journalism facilitates multimedia storytelling that invites participants more deeply into conversations about collective liberation. In 2020, the City of Milwaukee Arts Board named Petri a recipient of the Mildred Harpole Artist of the Year award. As the 11th Pfister Artist in Residence in 2019, she created a space to showcase her fabric portraits, record podcast interviews, and celebrate traditions of the African diaspora. Petri was also a Milwaukee Artist Resource Network mentee under Della Wells in 2018.

Petri’s work can be viewed in several locations across the city, including at the Pfister Hotel, where Shavonda’s Bridal High Tea commemorates her residency. Her gestural portrait series Together is featured in Northwestern Mutual’s Giving Gallery, and the MKE WI series is installed in the Milwaukee County Courthouse outside of the County Executive’s office. Her art and fine craft can be found at

Leah Schretenthaler was born and raised in Hawaii. Even after relocating to the mainland, Hawaii continues to be a point of reference for her research and studio practice. Her work uses traditional photography, laser etching, and metal casting to create images. Through her art practice, she presents a connection between land, material, and performance. Her ongoing series, The Invasive Species of the Built Environment, focuses on the controversial manmade builds of her home state.

Schretenthaler completed her BFA at the University of South Dakota and holds an MA in art education from Boston University. She earned her MFA last spring at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was recently awarded the College Art Association Professional Development Fellowship in the Visual Arts. In 2019, she received the Rhonda Wilson Award through FRESH2019 at the Klompching Gallery; was awarded 2nd place in the Sony World Photography Awards; and received the Film Photo Award. She was named one of LensCulture’s Emerging Talents of 2018.

For more than a century, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation has helped individuals, families and organizations realize their philanthropic goals and make a difference in the community, during their lifetimes and for future generations. The Foundation consists of more than 1,400 individual charitable funds, each created by donors to serve the charitable causes of their choice. The Foundation also deploys both human and financial resources to address the most critical needs of the community and ensure the vitality of the region. Established in 1915, the Foundation was one of the first community foundations in the world and is now among the largest.

For further information about the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships for Individual Artists program, please visit

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. While it is believed to be reliable, Urban Milwaukee does not guarantee its accuracy or completeness.

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