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Congratulations to the 2021 McKnight Fiber Artist Fellows: Ka Oskar Ly & Sarah Kusa!

Fellowship Period: January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021

The application period for the 2022 McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists will open in September 2021.

"Majestic Ensemble and Ntsuab (green) – XO Collection" by Ka Oskar Ly
Chambers by Sarah Kusa
Sarah Kusa (photo by Rebecca Slater), detail from "Distance Meditation No. 4" by Sarah Kusa

Sarah Kusa

Sarah Kusa creates sculpture and installations dealing with themes of human vulnerability and interconnection, with forms ranging from abstract bodies to three-dimensional drawings in space. She has exhibited her work throughout the United States at venues including the Plains Art Museum (ND), DeVos Art Museum (MI), Welch School of Art and Design Gallery at Georgia State University in Atlanta (GA), Hutchinson Center for the Arts (MN), and the Phipps Center for the Arts (WI). Kusa has received the Jerome Foundation Fellowship for Emerging Artists, a Jerome Foundation Fiber Artist Project Grant, and a Next Step Fund grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. She has participated in residencies at MASS MoCA, the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Advanced Study, and Ragdale. She lives and works in Saint Paul.

Ka Oskar Ly (photo by Teeko.co), "Yellow - Resistance Paradise Collection" by Ka Oskar Ly

Ka Oskar Ly

Ka Oskar Ly is a queer Hmoob (Hmong) French American artist and cultural producer using fashion, art, and culture to journey into identity and community to redefine Hmoob aesthetics, cultural innovation, and community futures rooted in social change. Operating under her label Os.Couture, she is an artrepreneur who has showcased her work along with alternative, underrepresented works from her communities, through SOY New Year, Fresh Traditions Fashion Shows, Twin Cities Pride, and Hmong MN Day at the MN State Fair. A Minnesota State Arts Board grantee, a Pfund Scholarship recipient, and Twin Cities Pride Art Gallery Chairman award recipient, her work has been recognized at the Next Generation of LGBT Leaders, hosted by President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Little Black Shhh – Part Un and Part Deux, a garment/photography collaboration with photographers Cam Xiong and Karen Nou Yang, respectively, was featured in We Are Hmong Minnesota at the Minnesota History Center.

Gabriel Dawe

Gabriel Dawe creates work centered on the exploration of textiles, examining the construction of gender and identity in his native Mexico and attempting to subvert the notions of masculinity and machismo prevalent in the present day. His Plexus installations have been exhibited all over the world, including the Toledo Museum of Art, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. His work has been collected by public and private institutions, and featured in numerous publications including 100 Sculptors of TomorrowSculpture magazine, and the cover of Arts Fundamentals. In 2020, he was the State Three-Dimensional Artist for the state of Texas, and received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant. 

T’ai Smith

T’ai Smithis associate professor of modern and contemporary art history and media studies at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.  Author of Bauhaus Weaving Theory: From Feminine Craft to Mode of Design (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), her writings have appeared in Art Journal, Grey Room, and Texte zur Kunst, and in catalogues for the Museum of Modern Art, ICA Boston, and Tate Modern. She contributed to Anni Albers, On Weaving: New Expanded Edition (Princeton University Press, 2017). Smith has been a Senior Fellow at IKKM in Weimar, Germany, and a Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies, UBC. She is currently working on two book manuscripts: Fashion After Capital and Textile Media: Tangents from Modern to Contemporary Art. 

Lena Vigna

Lena Vigna is currently the curator of exhibitions at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, where she curates and oversees the production and implementation of 10-15 exhibitions per year and heads the department. With particular interest in the contemporary fields of adornment, sculpture, fiber, and installation, she has curated numerous solo and group exhibitions and written several essays that explore issues relevant to contemporary art and society. Named one of the top craft curators under 50 in a non-published museum survey, she was awarded a Craft Research Fund Project Grant from the Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design for an exhibition about contemporary approaches to lace, and received an Art Jewelry Forum grant for Adornment and Excess: Jewelry in the 21st Century 

Fiber art is thriving in Minnesota, and the field’s growth as an artistic discipline now includes the McKnight Artist Fellowships Program, which provides two $25,000 fellowships to be awarded each year to individual mid-career fiber artists living and working in Minnesota.

In addition to the $25,000 unrestricted award and public recognition in support of their studio work and practice, McKnight Fiber Artist Fellows receive:

  • Critiques/studio visits with three critics from the field.
  • Exhibition at the end of the fellowship period in the Joan Mondale Gallery at Textile Center.
  • Participation in two public discussions that feature fellows and invited critics and curators.
  • Professional development support, such as attending conferences, workshops, and marketing advice for their work.
  • The opportunity to apply for an artist residency in partnership with McKnight and the Alliance of Artist Communities
  • Access to Textile Center’s resources, including library of more than 30,500 books and periodicals, state-of-the-art dye lab, and artisan shop opportunities.

The intent of the McKnight Fellowships for Fiber Artists is to recognize and support talented Minnesota fiber and textile artists whose work is of exceptional artistic merit. These fellowships are in support of individual artists who are at a career stage beyond emerging. Fiber Artists, as defined for the purposes of this fellowship, are artists who use textile and fiber arts materials, processes and/or sensibilities in their artistic practice throughout the conception, execution, and resolution of their work. The fellowships are funded by the McKnight Foundation and administered by Textile Center.


Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, the McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1982. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 14 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $2.8 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit mcknight.org/artistfellowships.


The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, advances a more just, creative, and abundant future where people and planet thrive. Established in 1953, the McKnight Foundation is deeply committed to advancing climate solutions in the Midwest; building an equitable and inclusive Minnesota; and supporting the arts in Minnesota, neuroscience, and international crop research. mcknight.org

A focus on racial equity is at the heart of the McKnight approach to funding. Along with Textile Center, our organizations value diversity and equity, seeking to be inclusive and accessible to all applicants. We welcome and encourage applications from artists representing diverse cultural perspectives.

To learn more about McKnight Artist Fellowships, visit: mcknight.org/artistfellowships

“McKnight Artist Fellowships increase the exploratory opportunity, economic stability, and productive capacity of artists by providing unrestricted cash awards and artistic and professional development opportunities for midcareer artists in Minnesota.”

— Arleta Little, Arts Program Officer and Director of Artist Fellowships

For the latest news on the application process, join our email list here.