David Eckard and Ellen Lesperance receive RACC fellowship awards for excellence in visual arts

RACC's 2015 Visual Arts Fellowship awardees: David Eckard and Ellen Lesperance. (Lesperance, photo by Sabina Samiee)

PORTLAND, ORE — Two Portland-based visual artists have received RACC’s 2015 Fellowship Awards. In addition to being recognized for their artistic excellence and achievements in the visual arts, David Eckard and Ellen Lesperance will each receive a cash grant of $20,000.

David Eckard was selected for a RACC Fellowship on the strength of his personal studio work, public performances and his dedication to the arts community both at PNCA and in his activism on behalf of artists. Many of his elegantly and well-crafted sculptures are choreographed into his performances. His work is layered, complex, and simultaneously intriguing and accessible. He will use fellowship funds (and take a sabbatical from PNCA) to research, design and begin implementing plans for a “creative compound” on his property, which will be populated with exhibitions, screenings, conferences, neighborhood events, workshops, residencies and mentoring opportunities.

Ellen Lesperance creates art in various media but often employs the visual language of knitting, having once worked for Vogue Knitting as a pattern knitter. Her work is socially responsible and poignant yet inclusive – for example, she has created memorial paintings (“death shrouds”) for young women activists who have died while fighting for “causes greater than themselves.”  The RACC Fellowship will help Lesperance take a semester off from teaching to commit solely to a full-time studio practice. She will also attend two residency programs: the MacDowell Colony, and the American Academy in Rome’s Visiting Artist Program. She will also use some of the funds for materials for upcoming shows.  

“We congratulate David and Ellen on receiving these fellowship awards, which honor two of our community’s most extraordinary visual artists this year,” said Eloise Damrosch, RACC’s executive director.  “RACC is committed to supporting artists at every stage in their careers, and these fellowships are designed to help artists take major steps forward in their artistic development.”

Established in 1999, RACC’s Artists Fellowship Award remains one of the largest and most prestigious grants to individual artists in the Pacific Northwest, supporting exceptional artists who exemplify RACC’s mission of enriching the local community through arts and culture. RACC rotates the disciplines it honors each year—performing arts, visual arts, literature and media arts. 

To be eligible for consideration, professional artists must have worked in their field for 10 years and have lived in the Portland tri-county area for five years. Applications, which include three narrative questions, artist resumes, two letters of recommendation, and examples of the artist’s work, are reviewed through a panel process of community representatives from the discipline being honored. This year’s panelists included Yaelle Amir, Ben Buswell, Gabe Flores, Lisa Jarrett, Joanna Priestly, Blake Shell and Eric Stotik.

Eckard and Lesperance join a prestigious group of local artists who have been named RACC Fellows in the past, including Mary Oslund, Obo Addy, Christine Bourdette, Terry Toedtemeier, Jim Blashfield, Michele Glazer, Tomas Svoboda, Keith Scales, Judy Cooke, Michael Brophy, Chel White, Craig Lesley, Thara Memory, Henk Pander, Joanna Priestley, Kim Stafford, Robin Lane, Eric Stotik, Lawrence Johnson, Sallie Tisdale, Linda Austin and Anita Menon. All RACC fellows are listed at  www.racc.org/grants/individual-artist-fellowships