Two alumni of the University of Wittenberg were among 75 people named recipients of the Ohio Arts Council’s (OAC) 2022 Individual Achievement Award.
Brandy Watts Schillace, Wittenberg Class of 2000, won an award in the non-fiction category, while Elizabeth Eshelman, Class of 2006, won an award in the fiction category.
A state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically, the OAC annually awards individual achievement awards to creative artists whose illustrious work their specific discipline and advances the broader artistic community.
The awards also support the growth and development of artists, while recognizing their work in Ohio and beyond. During this funding cycle, applications in the Choreography, Critics, Fiction/Non-Fiction, Music Composition, Playwriting and Poetry categories were accepted with awards announced in late February. Each prize is $5,000.
The anonymous and open review process is driven on the basis of the outstanding merit of an artist’s past work.
A freelance writer from Euclid, Ohio, Schillace is the editor of a medical humanities and social justice journal.
“In all of my work, I focus on issues of health, access and social justice,” she said. “My most recent book, Mr. Humble and Dr. Butcherexamines the ethics of transplant science and the brain death debate – it is for this work that I won the award.
“The funds will actually support my research for the next book, covering travel expenses to Berlin, Germany, where I will be reviewing archival material relating to the work of Magnus Hirschfeld, a proponent of trans and gay rights,” a- she continued. “He ran an institute and clinic to support gender affirmation surgeries in the interwar period. It was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933. Given our current climate of anti-trans legislation and the rise of fascist forces around the world, this is an important area to work in.
Schillace’s new book is set to be published in early 2024 by WW Norton & Company.
Eshelman, who lives in Westerville, Ohio, is submitting a completed novel to agents while writing a new manuscript, the first pages of which she has submitted for consideration for the CAO award.
“The new novel ‘surprised’ me,” said Eshelman, who also received an OAC Individual Achievement Award in 2016. subject turned out to be more complex, and I became invested in how you need to be to support a long project.
“I’m not quite ready to share any more details about this manuscript,” she admitted, “but for my finished novel, I can say it’s about two millennial musicians – the one with talent but no passion, the other with passion but no talent – who struggle to thrive in the “follow your heart” advice of their generation. It’s kind of like Sally Rooney normal people meets amazon series Mozart in the Jungle.”
Having attended the Sewanee Writers Conference in Tennessee last summer, Eshelman said the CAO stipend will allow for similar opportunities in the future.
“I always wanted to be a writer and I always wrote,” she said. “But I’m also a mother and (until recently) a full-time employee. This award is an important voice telling me to sit down and write, to keep going because my contributions have meaning and value beyond me.
Past Wittenberg winners include Melissa Barrett ’05, Jeremy Glazier ’97 and Terry Hermsen ’72.