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Artist Grant 2023 Winners

FAIR in the Arts is thrilled to announce the first winners of our Artist Grant.

The FAIR Artist Grant was established as a fund for independent artists seeking support for professional activities that align with FAIR’s mission of advancing fairness, understanding, and humanity in the arts. Our purpose is to cultivate a culture where all artists – regardless of their perceived identity group or belief system – can practice their craft freely without fear.

The six winners of our 2023 Artist Grant span a wide range of artistic practices, professional backgrounds, and life experiences. They are filmmakers, theater artists, photographers, visual artists, writers, and educators. They are ambassadors, thought leaders, and change-makers who are working to restore humanity in the arts.

FAIR congratulates our inaugural Artist Grant winners: Kevin Ray, Ildiko Tillmann, Franklin Einspruch, Rob Feld, Melody Rachel, and Ben Appel. We are proud to support the creation of new works that model pro-human guiding principles. In order to change culture, we must create culture – and it happens here. Learn more about our Artist Grant winners below.

We are grateful to our donors and supporters who made the FAIR Artist Grant possible. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation directly to the 2024 FAIR Artist Grant Fund (write “Artist Grant” in the comment box). With your help, we look forward to continuing to uplift artists who are paving a FAIR future for the arts & culture.

FAIR Artist Grant 2023 Winners

Kevin Ray

Project funded: Editing and refining rehearsals with actors and designers for a live production of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel We.

Kevin Ray is a theater director and independent producer based in Brooklyn, NY. Under the name Kevin Ray | Works, Kevin produces & directs original theater in collaboration with actors & designers. Most recently, he produced and directed Unearthly Visitants, a devised play based on ghost stories written by Edith Wharton, and The Machine Stops, a devised play based on the short story of the same name by E.M Forster. He is currently developing a new piece based on the science fiction novel We by Russian dissident Yevgeny Zamyatin, premiering October 2024 in Brooklyn NY. Kevin’s work has been described as “A Space Mountain roller coaster ride, an intellectual white water rafting expedition, a production that will have you talking about it for hours and days to come.”

Watch Kevin Ray share his story with FAIR: Kevin Ray Faced Extremism in the Performing Arts (YouTube)

Ildiko Tillmann

Project funded: A long-form essay and photography piece about Afghani Sikh communities in NY/PA.

Ildiko Tilmann is a photographer, author, and educator working at the crossroads of art, documentary, commercial photography and long-form journalism. Her visual and written work explores the complexities that characterize us, human beings. Focusing on similarities, rather than on differences and boundaries that might separate cultures and geographic regions, Ildiko’s work emphasizes the shared nature of responses that we give to specific life situations and historical contexts. Her writing and photography has covered stories and histories from her native Hungary to Haiti where she spent many weeks as a photographer. She’s written about and photographed members of the Afghani Sikh community on Long Island. Her photography won awards at various international competitions and was exhibited on Long Island and in Barcelona. Her writing was published in The Columbia Journal, The Caribbean Writer, The Caribbean Quarterly, the Journal of Free Black Thought and Root Quarterly, among others.

Learn more at https://www.ildikotillmann.com/.

Franklin Einspruch

Project funded: The Dissident Museum, a digital exhibition project emphasizing artists who are undervalued in the broader cultural climate.

Franklin Einspruch is a visual artist working in painting, drawing, printmaking, and digital media. He is also active in art criticism, comics, and alternative publishing. His art has appeared in dozens of solo and group exhibitions. He has been a resident artist at programs in Italy, Greece, Taiwan, and around the United States, and was the Fulbright-Q21/MuseumsQuartier Artist-In-Residence for 2019 in Vienna. Einspruch has authored hundreds of essays and art reviews for many publications including The New Criterion and Art in America. He has been blogging about art since 2001. Einspruch has been involved with comics poetry since the form emerged in the mid-2000s. He is the proprietor of Dissident Muse, a publishing and exhibition project for artists who love beauty and freedom. You can have a look at Dissident Muse here: https://dissidentmuse.com. Franklin lives in rural New Hamsphire.

Rob Feld

Project funded: Jesters and Fools, an independent documentary short film that melds comedy and social science to myth-bust the state of polarization in America.

As a filmmaker, Rob Feld’s first dramatic short film, Love, Lots of It, starring Campbell Scott, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The second dramatic short he directed, Sand Castle, had its international premiere at the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. He directs and produces branded content for agencies and private clients.

As a film journalist, Feld hosted and produced Day for Night, a series of film screening events distributed by The Huffington Post. He is a contributing writer to the DGA Quarterly, Written By magazine, Cinemontage, and American Cinematographer. He has appeared as a commentator on Entertainment Tonight and is a contributing editor of Newmarket Press’ Shooting Script book series. He is also an adjunct instructor of screenwriting and directing at New York University, and a graduate of Cornell University.

His recent documentary, Jesters and Fools, interweaves the social science of Duke professor Chris Bail and the observations of comedians Colin Quinn, Mo Amer, Jim Norton, Rosebud Baker, Nathan Macintosh, and Dean Edwards to reveal the truth that America is not nearly as polarized as our media landscape would have us believe. Check it out at: www.jestersandfools.com.

Melody Rachel

Project funded: DEMO, a solo show that explores themes of division and unity through participation with the audience.

Melody Rachel is a theater-maker, digital creator, and producer. She creates autobiographical and movement-based solo performance works exploring identity, human nature and the irrational, anxious thought patterns that spin her out of control. Her work often involves audience participation as she believes that theater is a conversation starter and a platform to build relationships with people from different communities.  

She’s also recently started a YouTube channel/podcast titled ‘You Know I,’ where she interviews guests about their worldviews. The focus is on exploring the intersection of being gay and Christian, bridging the political divide, and challenging social justice ideology in the arts.

You can look further into Melody’s work at: https://www.melodyrachel.com/

Ben Appel

Project funded: Cis White Gay, a personal memoir that explores the author’s coming of age as a freethinker in the midst of cult-like ideologies.




Ben Appel was a hairstylist near Baltimore for over 13 years. In 2015, he returned to school to earn his undergraduate degree. In May 2020, he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Ben has written for numerous publications, including Newsweek, The Free Press, UnHerd, and Quillette. His April 2022 Newsweek op-ed, “The New Homophobia,” about the harm radical queer and transgender ideology inflicts upon gays and lesbians, garnered significant attention. His memoir, Cis White Gay, about his Christian fundamentalist childhood and his experience in LGBT activism and Ivy League academia, will be published by Post Hill Press.

You can learn more about Ben and his work at: https://www.benappelwrites.com/

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