The Alonzo Davis Fellowship

Tosha Grantham

Pioneering gallerist and artist Alonzo Davis spearheaded the Black Arts Movement in Los Angeles.  With brother Dale, Alonzo Davis founded the Brockman Gallery in 1967 at 4334 Degnan Blve.  Artists who showed there included David Hammons, Elizabeth Catlett,  Charles White, John Biggers, John Outterbridge, Romare Bearden and numerous others. The Davis brothers also founded a non-profit arm of the gallery that sponsored concerts and community arts projects. Today, Alonzo Davis continues to divert time and energy from his own artwork to support other artists.

The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) seeks your support to ensure full funding of the Alonzo Davis Fellowship. Established in 2004, this fund has already provided a vital opportunity for five artists, writers, and composers who are American citizens of African and Latino descent to attend residencies in the serene environment of Mt. San Angelo, the VCCA year-round artist community located in Amherst, Virginia. Eligible artists may live anywhere in the United States or abroad. The fellowship is designed to support two residencies per year and the Davis Fund can currently fund one fellow for a two-week residency.  Having raised $60,000 to support this effort, VCCA continues to enlist donors at all levels to raise the remaining $40,000 required to achieve the $100,000 goal. No contribution is too small.

Alonzo Davis Fellowship Fundraiser Attendees: Brian Carter, Jason Vartikar (gallery co-owner), and Ernesto Mercer (poet/interdisciplinary artist). Photo Credit: Tosha Grantham, Richmond, VA.Tina A. Walls, President of the VCCA Board of Directors, is a personal contributor to the campaign. Under her aegis, the fund has grown from less than $40,000 to over $60,000 in the past year. Noting that the endowment was the most underfunded VCCA residency, Walls took on the Davis Fellowship Fund as her core project while president. Together, Walls and Davis, also a personal contributor, have focused on ensuring that eligible artists—who can not afford this opportunity without financial support—are not absent. A devoted arts advocate, Davis, an artist, native of Tuskegee, Alabama, and long-time California resident who now lives in Maryland, was co-founder of L.A.’s first black-owned commercial art gallery, along with his brother Dale. Through his vision and leadership The Alonzo Davis Fellowship Fund was established in Virginia nearly a decade ago, and it urgently needs support to increase its impact by making this residency accessible to two artists each year.

Tina A. Walls, VCCA Board President (far right), addressing attendees: Dwight Carter (far left), (from center), Judi Komaki (VCCA Fellow), Kay Lindsey (VCCA Fellow and writer), Alonzo Davis (former VCCA Board Member and Fellow), Virginia Murphy, and Jacqueline Adams. Photo Credit: Tosha Grantham, Richmond, VA.In May, Davis, Walls, and the VCCA team—including board members, former fellows, friends and family—gathered in New York City at Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden in Chelsea for a successful fundraiser. The event was hosted by gallerists Sarah Christian and Jason Vartikar—Christian is the daughter of VCCA board member Melanie Christian of Lynchburg, Virginia. Davis and Walls will co-sponsor another fundraising mixer in Oakland, California on Sunday, September 30 from 3-5 p.m. PDT. For particulars including the location, please call VCCA (telephone: 434-946-7236). Details will also be available on the VCCA website ( in mid-August. Contact Carol O’Brien.

Tina A. Walls VCCA Board President (left) and Pinkney Herbert (VCCA Board Member and Fellow) [right]. Photo Credit: Tosha Grantham, Richmond, VA.In the meantime, there are many ways that you can help! Contribute if you can, but as important is spreading the word. By sharing this call with friends and colleagues who would donate funds to this initiative, you are also a contributor to its success. To find out more about VCCA and how to support the Alonzo Davis Fellowship Fund, contact Carol O'Brien, Director of Annual & Planned Giving (

Attendees, the New York fundraiser for the Alonzo Davis Fellowship, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) at Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden, Chelsea, New York. Photo Credit: Tosha Grantham, Richmond, VA.VCCA is a 501 (c) (3) organization, and your fully tax-deductible contribution to the Alonzo Davis Fellowship Fund may be made by visiting the VCCA website ( Or by mail: 

Kay Lindsey (VCCA Fellow and writer) reading a poem to attendees [left to right: Sarah Christian (gallery co-owner), Suzannah Herbert, Tracy Gray-Walker, Janet Neipris (VCCA Fellow) standing in front of husband, Don Wille, Jason Vartikar (gallery co-owner), Carol O’Brien (VCCA Director of Annual & Planned Giving), Judi Komaki (VCCA Fellow) and friend Judy White, Virginia Murphy and Jacqueline Adams.] New York fundraiser for the Alonzo Davis Fellowship, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts at Hansel and Gretel Picture Garden, Chelsea, New York. Photo Credit: Tosha Grantham, Richmond, VA.Alonzo Davis Fellowship Fund
154 San Angelo Drive
Amherst, VA 24521

Virginia Center for the Creative Arts/VCCA Alonzo Davis Fellowship (Established 2004)

Kay Lindsey reading a poem in celebration of the Alonzo Davis Fellowship with Alonzo Davis. Photo Credit: Tosha Grantham, Richmond, VA.Initiated by VCCA Fellow and former Board member AlonzoDavis, this fellowship was established as an endowment to support writers, visual artists and composers who are American citizens of African or Latino descent. The first award was made to a writer. 2007-2012 Recipients: RafaelOsés, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Jon Lewis-Katz, Angélica Muñoz Castaño, and Rickey Laurentiis. (Alonzo Davis Fellowship) (About Virginia Center for the Creative Arts) (VCCA Fellows) (VCCA Board)

Who We Are

Alonzo Davis has been a VCCA Fellow since 1995 and is a former VCCA Board Member. He is the inspiration for, and a tremendous supporter of, this endowed fellowship. As an artist, Davis works with an array of materials including paint, bamboo, copper, leather, indigenous textiles and other media to incorporate the magical sensibilities of arts from the American Southwest, Brazil, Haiti, West Africa and the Pacific Rim. His mixed media works are represented in numerous public, corporate, and private art collections.

A native of Tuskegee, Alabama, Alonzo Davis received his undergraduate degree at Pepperdine University (formerly Pepperdine College) and earned an MFA in Printmaking and Design at Otis Art Institute. He has traveled widely in Africa, the Caribbean and the Southwestern United States. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Davis was involved in the California mural movement that culminated with the 1984 Olympic Murals project. His “Eye on ’84” is one of ten murals painted on the walls of the downtown Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles.

In 1987, Davis moved from Los Angeles to Sacramento, California. He received fellowships in Hawaii and Texas that led to deanships at the San Antonio Art Institute and the Memphis College of Art. During this period his “Blanket Series” of woven paintings grew into a series of installations. These include “Christopher Columbus Did Not Discover America”—which incorporated light elements, rocks and arrows—and the “Tar Paper Series,” comprised of richly-textured organic forms that Davis choreographed onto large-scale walls. These works marked his transition from two-dimensional to three-dimensional work. Davis’ public art commissions include site-specific works for the Boston Subway and Atlanta International Airport, and Wolfchase Galleria and the Memphis/Shelby County Library in Tennessee. These installations contributed to the direction of his next large body of work—sculptural forms in bamboo that he regards as paintings in the round. Davis continues to work with bamboo as a primary medium and among his recent works are: “Power Poles,” “Sky Ladders,” “Bamboo Constructions,” and “Passageways.” A Maryland resident, Alonzo Davis recently completed a permanent installation of “Power Poles” for the United States Embassy in Togo, West Africa. On his decision to establish this VCCA fellowship, Davis stated: 

During a series of board meetings [at VCCA we discussed the need to] set up endowed fellowships to ensure annual funding for artists residencies.  Endowed fellowships have long been recognized as a successful funding model.  My first residency at VCCA was sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to encourage U.S. minority participation. The Alonzo Davis Fellowship was built upon this endeavor by the NEA.  It was my goal to encourage other board members to recognize and support similar endowed initiatives. The Alonzo Davis Fellowship is an endowment that funds outstanding artists, writers and composers who are Americans of African or Latino descent. Each year, it gives one of these exceptional people the creative edge: a two-week residency at VCCA so they can focus completely on their art, writing or music. This endowed fellowship includes a private studio, bedroom, all meals, and travel stipend. When fully funded at 100,000, the Alonzo Davis Fellowship will support two artists each year with a two-week residency

Tina A. Walls served in many Corporate Affairs functions for Altria, Inc. in the United States and Europe for approximately twenty-five years. Prior to joining Altria Group, Walls served the Colorado General Assembly for six years at the Colorado Legislative Council as a non-partisan research and committee staff member.

Walls received a BA in Administration and Legal Processes from Mills College in Oakland, California.  She is a graduate of the Rocky Mountain Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government and the Executive Program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Walls is currently a member of the board of directors Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Colorado, and Save Venice, New York, New York. She is Secretary of the Legacy Media Institute, Petersburg, Virginia, and the President of the Board of Directors, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) in Amherst, Virginia.

Alonzo Davis Fellowship Recipients

Rickey Laurentiis, Writer, St. Louis, Missouri 
Residency: June 4 – 11, 2012

Laurentiis was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and a scholarship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His manuscript received an honorable mention in the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and he was a finalist for the 2011 National Poetry Series. Individual poems have appeared or are forthcoming in several journals, including Indiana Review, jubilat, Knockout Literary Magazine and Callaloo, and have been anthologized in Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality and Mighty Real: An Anthology of African-American Same-Gender Loving Writing. His other honors include a Pushcart Prize nomination, first and third runner up in the 2009 International Reginald Shepherd Memorial Prize and he has been a semi-finalist for the Discovery/Boston Review Prize. Currently, Laurentiis is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Washington University in St Louis where he is a Chancellor’s fellow.

Jon Lewis-Katz, Writer, Bronx, New York
Residency: August 23 – September 6, 2010

Jon Lewis-Katz received his undergraduate degree from New York University. He worked as an English teacher in the New York City public school system and a freelance journalist before attending Cornell University’s graduate creative writing program.  His writing has appeared in publications such as Los Angeles CityBeat, the Pasadena Weekly, the Ventura County Reporter, and the Trinidad Guardian; it is collected in Social Issues Firsthand: Mixed Heritage.  His work has won the Arthur Lynn Andrews Prize for Fiction and he was chosen as a finalist for the Kirkwood Literary Prize. Lewis-Katz was twice selected for a residency at the Paden Institute and Retreat for Writers of Color.  He is currently finishing a collection of linked short stories about West Indians in New York City. Of the Alonzo Davis Fellowship and the VCCA residency, Lewis-Katz’s commented:

The Alonzo Davis Fellowship gave me the opportunity to attend a residency that I could not have otherwise afforded.  In general, artist residencies are important for the time, peace, and community they provide.  My residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, however, came at an especially crucial moment in my young career. I had just finished a fully-funded MFA program and, suddenly faced with the prospect of returning to the pressures of the outside world, I was not fully convinced that I wanted to keep making the personal and professional sacrifices that are the life of a writer. Perhaps the greatest factor in my continuing to write was a series of yeses that arrived that spring of 2010, one of which came in the form of the Alonzo Davis Fellowship.  Years down the road, I will remember the stony paths, group meals, and open studios that I found at VCCA. One day, too, I will finish slaving over my collection of stories and I will write a second book and then another and another and another, and I look forward to reflecting upon my earlier years and remembering that landmark yes that the VCCA and Alonzo Davis gave me.

Angélica Muñoz Castaño, Visual Artist, Hackensack, New Jersey 
Residency: January 18 – February 1, 2010

Muñoz is a 29 year-old Colombian-American fine art-documentary photographer.  Born in Teaneck, New Jersey and raised in the Colombian coffee region, Muñoz’ work has been an exploration of mixed-cultural identity and the investigation of traditions preservation. She currently resides in Lubbock, Texas where she finalized her MFA degree in Photography. Her work has been part of several group exhibitions in the United States and she has had solo shows in her native city of Pereira, Colombia. Muñoz’ images are part of the Latin America Photography 2 Collection of the Lehigh University Art Galleries in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She is also represented in the Southwest Collection Special Collections Library of the Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Muñoz was one of five recipients of the 2009 Anne Giles Kimbrough Fund Award, given by the Dallas Museum of Art to promising artists under 30 who reside in Texas. This grant will support Muñoz’ future travels to Latin America to continue ongoing projects in Colombia and Brazil. Of her work, Muñoz stated:  

My photography is a documentation of the disappearance of fragments of my life.  Through my personal history, I represent moments lived, imagined and remembered.  I am investigating sides of my identity, inspired by moments witnessed while growing up in Colombia.  I recreate and invent cleansing rituals with elements of shamanistic practices to reconnect with my ancestors. These images are responses to that part of my cultural identity that is slowly disappearing in my country because of the segregation due to the violence and political unrest.  In my daily life, I see my connection to my history slowly deteriorate due to my Americanization and my physical distance from my community. My Colombian roots, my Latin American heritage, and the inner conflicts of being away for a decade in an unfamiliar country have been the influence of all my work. I am interested in posing questions about my own identity: How has my culture shaped me? And how has this perception of myself changed over the years as a detachment from my community started taking place? How do we preserve traditions and family legacies when we have been separated or distanced from our culture, family and folklore? How do we carry the traditions that were handed down to us when we find ourselves removed from our native surroundings? What do we do with what we have inherited without asking? I feel a responsibility to my past and my history, and a desire to sustain a narrative in the attempt to preserve intra-cultural traditions. Legacies rescued as ancestral remains, memory transferred as a visual language.

Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Writer, Chicago, Illinois
Residency: August 4 – 17, 2008

Sandra Jackson-Opoku has authored fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic works. She writes frequently on travel, culture, and community in the African Diaspora, with work appearing in "Islands," "Ms. Magazine," "The Literary Traveler," and elsewhere. "The River Where Blood is Born," her first novel won the American Library Association Black Cactus Award for Best Fiction. "Hot Johnny (and the Women Whom Loved Him)" was an Essence Magazine bestseller. A third novel in progress takes place on Atlantic Islands. Jackson-Opoku has earned the SBCWI Kimberly Colen Award for Children's Writing, an American Antiquarian Society Fellowship for Creative Writers, a National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Fellowship, the CCLM/General Electric Fiction Award for Young Writers, and Illinois Arts Council Finalist Awards.

Jackson-Opoku teaches literature and creative writing at schools, workshops, and youth programs, including Columbia College Chicago, the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, the Writer's Studio at the University of Chicago, the North Country Institute for Writers of Color, and the Hurston-Wright Writers Workshop. She is currently on faculty in the English Department at Chicago State University where she serves as Fiction Coordinator of the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing.

While in residence Jackson-Opoku worked on a collection of short stories about a Tennessee migrant at a white Mid-western college, a feisty foster child named Sojourner Truth Washington, the wanderings of a lovelorn travel writer, the parallel stories of two Caribbean immigrants, and a resourceful airline employee who shows her children the world on a shoestring. Then there are the mythic voices: an African artifact that speaks from her perch at the British Museum; a woman who narrates her passage from life to death; and a tarnished icon that is resurrected in the character of an enslaved woman who arrives in the Americas with a cache of watermelon seeds. In the course of her wanderings in search of freedom, she propagates this African fruit like a female Johnny Appleseed. Of her Alonzo Davis Fellowship and the VCCA residency, Jackson-Opoku stated:

As the car pulled up the winding path onto Mt. San Angelo, I spotted a buck deer with mature antlers, frozen in motion just outside the main entrance. I would have thought it a statue until he slowly turned and bounded off into the brush. I took him as my mascot, welcoming me to the world of VCCA. My ensuing residency was a truly productive and life-altering experience. I'd taken an unpaid leave from my job in order to devote [time to] long-postponed [work] on a novel in progress; VCCA was the first in a series of month-long residencies at artists’ communities throughout the country. The beautiful surroundings, the wonderful meals, the collegial atmosphere, and the unprecedented luxury of having both a work studio and a sleeping space were more than I could have imagined or expected. Without the Alonzo Davis Fellowship none of this would have been possible. I am forever grateful for that generous support.

Rafael Osés, Writer/Poet, Hartford, Connecticut
Residency:  September 5 – 18, 2007

Rafael Osés holds degrees from Hartford Art School and Columbia University (MFA 1996). His work appeared in Black Warrior Review in 1998, won its Literary Award for poetry (1998-99), and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He received an artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts in 1999, was a MacDowell Colony fellow in 2002, a finalist for the Philbrick Award in 2004, the inaugural recipient of the Alonzo Davis Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2007, and received an Amy Rao Honorary Fellowship from the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in 2008. He was a Caldera Artist Residency Fellow in February 2010, and presented a talk on his artwork and a reading of his poetry at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon. His book-length narrative poem, “The Night Pharaoh,” with woodcut illustrations by artist Daniel Duford and designed by Cumbersome Multiples, was published in August 2010 by Publication Studio. In 2012, he collaborated with photographer Wendy Given on a book of poems and photographs entitled, “Gæst.” His poems have appeared in Fugue, The Cincinnati Review, Endicott Review and The Portland Review.

Osés’ radio play “Violet Enlightens” was broadcast on Pacifica Radio affiliates KGNU, Boulder, KPFA, Berkeley, and KNMU in Albuquerque, as well as on Bush Radio in Cape Town, South Africa, Resonance 104.4fm in London, England, and WDR in Germany, and is archived in the Electronic Poetry Center at SUNY-Buffalo. “Necessary Monsters,” a performance piece/song cycle written with composer Carla Kihlstedt, was performed at Alverno College in 2007, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2008, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in 2011.

His poem “Balada,” set for soprano and guitar by composer Thomas Schuttenhelm, premiered at the Centro Cultural Conde Duque in Madrid, Spain in 2007, and their “Tres Canciónes Españolas” premiered at Central Connecticut State University in 2009. Osés has been a core faculty member in Creative Writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts since 1997 and department chair of Creative Writing at the Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University since 2000. He received a Surdna Arts Teacher Fellowship in 2007. Osés has also taught courses at the University of Hartford and Saint Joseph College. Of his Alonzo Davis Fellowship at VCCA, Osés commented:

I finished the first draft of a long narrative poem called “The Night Pharaoh” while at VCCA; it has since been published as a book and CD, and was the inspiration for a month-long print installation by Cumbersome Multiples at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon…. I also finished the third poem in a song cycle of Spanish poems while at VCCA, [one of them,] “Tres Canciones Españolas” has been performed at several venues in the Northeast, [including] the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut. I [also] completed the script for a theatrical song cycle entitled, “Necessary Monsters”… These three works have propelled my life and work forward considerably since my VCCA fellowship in 2007.

[My] time at VCCA and the considerable (and cathartic) influence it had on me… was a case of being at the right place at the right time. Finishing the first draft of “The Night Pharaoh,” in particular, allowed me to articulate the feelings I’d held concerning the death of my girlfriend, release the thoughts and emotions that had gestated into words, and gave me the chance to move forward with my life and work. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to complete a number of different projects and “clear the decks” for future work that I’ve since been creating and developing. It was a crucial turning point and transition… I’ve had residencies before and since, but none has been as inspiring, transformative or productive as my time at VCCA.

Artist, writer, and independent curator, Tosha Grantham is a PhD Candidate in Contemporary American art history at the University of Maryland College Park. She thanks Lexie Boris, Alonzo Davis, Carol O’Brien, Tina A. Walls, and Alonzo Davis Fellows: RafaelOsés, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Jon Lewis-Katz, and Angélica Muñoz Castaño, and Rickey Laurentiis for their contributions to this article.


Below a link to photos of the VCCA campus from their website with permission; all photo credits as indicated. Contact: Carol O’Brien ( or Lexie Boris (

  • VCCA Aerial View.jpg
  • VCCA Bike Path - Photo credit: Karen Bell (photographer, New York, NY).jpg
  • VCCA Fountain by Ivy Parsons - Photo credit: Joelle Wallach (composer, New York, NY) 2009.jpg
  • VCCA Residence Exterior - Photo credit: Elliot Anderson (artist, San Francisco, CA) 2008.jpg
  • VCCA Studio - Tanja Softic (artist, Richmond, VA) - Works from her Migrant Universe series
  • VCCA Sunrise - Photo credit: Karen Bell (photographer, New York, NY) 2007.jpg
  • VCCA Studios Exterior - Photo credit: Joelle Wallach (composer, New York, NY) 2009.jpg
  • VCCA Field with cows - Photo credit: Georgia June Goldberg (artist, Ross, CA) 2007.jpg