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Emerson Artists Get Boost From St. Botolph Club

Nicole Graev Lipson sits in front of a white bookshelf
Nicole Graev Lipson. Courtesy photo

Three Emersonians, including a current MFA student, have been named 2021 winners of the St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award, a program established to encourage artists as they’re starting out in their careers.

Nicole Graev Lipson, who is working towards an MFA in Creative Writing, was awarded a Don Kissel Award for Nonfiction for her collection of essays exploring contemporary motherhood through a feminist lens. Brad Babendir, MFA ’18, also won in the Literature category, while Shaka Dendy, MFA ’18, won an award for Visual Arts.

The St. Botolph Club is a Boston society of artists and intellectuals, founded in 1880 (the same year as Emerson College). The St. Botolph Club Foundation identifies artists “to whom it can ‘make a difference,’ through the combination of financial support, recognition, and endorsement,” of a specific project, according to the foundation’s website. Approximately 150 candidates are nominated each year, with 15-20 receiving awards of $3,000. 

Shaka Dendy MFA '18 with his art project Gestures of Incompleteness
Shaka Dendy, MFA ’18 was a public artist in residence at the Boston Centre for the Arts through August 23, 2019. His public art project, “Gestures of Incompleteness,” combined milk crates and old basketballs. Courtesy file photo

Lipson’s essays look to rewrite what “good” motherhood looks like, the mother of three said.

“Whether grappling with my loss of youth as my children grow, confusion over what to do with my unused frozen embryos, or the longing to help my daughters navigate the minefield of being female, these essays reveal my journey to uncover the true wishes buried beneath my culturally conditioned ones, so that I might summon the courage to live these more fully,” Lipson wrote.

“My greatest hope while writing these essays has been that by describing my own maternal challenges with honesty and vulnerability, I might help others – mothers especially – recognize their truths in mine.”

Lipson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Creative Nonfiction, River Teeth, Fourth Genre, Brevity, The Hudson Review, Hippocampus, Alaska Quarterly Review, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe, among other publications. Her essay, “The New Pretty,” winner of Hippocampus’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Award, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Babendir is a freelance writer, literary critic, and fiction writer. His work has been published in or on the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, NPR, the Washington Post, The A.V. Club, The Kenyon Review, and The Nation, among other publications.

Dendy is a multimedia artist working in sculpture, video, performance, installation, and music. He is one half of Boston-based industrial hip-hop band Camp Blood, and a Teaching Artist at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.  In 2019, Dendy was Boston Center for the Arts Public Artist-in-Residence, where his installation, “Gestures of Incompleteness“, enlisted the community in donating old basketballs to create a sculpture that speaks to race and opportunity.

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