Press Release

Oct. 27, 2021

Oolite Arts Shines Spotlight on 2021 Winners of The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards

Forty-six artists and teachers to bring bold ideas to life through share of $500,000

Oct. 27, 2021 (MIAMI) – From a graphic novel detailing the events of Operation: Pedro Pan, to the launch of a magazine for Black women and non-binary individuals, and a Carol City Museum set up within an artist’s home, the 46 winners of The Ellies, Miami’s Visual Arts Awards, will share $500,000 to bring a variety of bold project ideas to life. Presented by Oolite Arts, The Ellies are considered to be one of the city’s most noteworthy funding opportunities for Miami-based visual artists.

Oolite Arts recognized the diverse group of 2021 winners at a virtual awards ceremony held last night, October 27.

“We’re consistently amazed by Miami’s pool of talented visual artists that rival prominent art cities around the globe. This was quite evident by the quality applications we received for The Ellies this year,” said Dennis Scholl, President & CEO of Oolite Arts. “It makes us proud to celebrate so many first-time Ellies winners, and to continually serve as an invaluable resource and platform for artists to develop their careers.”

The Ellies are named for Oolite Arts’ founder Ellie Schneiderman, who had the foresight to turn empty storefronts on Lincoln Road into artist studios. Today, Oolite Arts is one of the largest visual artist support organizations in Miami, with expanded programming that includes The Ellies, residency programs that cultivate the careers of emerging artists, the professional development series Skills and more. Schneiderman, who led a distinguished career as an arts leader and artist, passed away in 2020.

The Ellies are presented in four categories: the Creator Award, which offers grants for artists to realize significant visual arts projects; Teacher Travel Grants, which enable art teachers to travel for professional development and bring back their experience to enrich their classroom curriculum; the Michael Richards Award, which is named in honor of the late artist Michael Richards and recognizes an artist who has established and sustained their practice in Miami, as well as given back to the community throughout their career; and the Social Justice Award, which honors a visual artist who has made a commitment to working for equality in their daily lives and artistic practice.

This year’s winner of the prestigious Michael Richards Award, a $75,000 award, is artist, art activist and curator César Trasobares. Over the past 40 years, Trasobares has worked in various media and has been included in major national and international exhibitions, featuring Cuban-American artists. His sculptures, constructions and drawings are in numerous museums and private collections.

The Social Justice Award, a $25,000 award, goes to Loni Johnson, a multi-disciplinary artist born and raised in Miami. Her work varies from painting, drawing, and sculpture to performance and installation. Through her practice, Johnson transforms spaces to inform, heal, and offer counter-narratives that commemorate Black women and girls and celebrate their role in the community.

Now in its fourth year, The Ellies has awarded $2 million to over 150 individual artists and art teachers in Miami-Dade County. Winners are chosen by an independent jury of arts professionals. To learn about past Ellies recipients, visit

2021 Creator Award Winners:

Stephen Arboite ($8,000) Dreamscapes – A solo exhibition with large-scale mixed media paintings and sculptural work that focuses on the author’s journey of cultural and spiritual self-discovery.

Juan Barquin ($10,000) Flaming Classics – a movie-going experience with live performances from local drag artists to serve as a catalyst to make spectators think differently about gender, sexuality, and cinema.

Elysa D. Batista ($5,000) Neon Napkin Notes – A series of text-based installations, made with neon signs, that compels viewers to maintain an optimistic outlook upon shared uncertainties about the pandemic.

Cristine Brache ($12,000) Carmen – A short film inspired by a woman’s public self-immolation and by the artist’s personal family experiences with mental health.

Karla Caprali ($6,000) Area 32 – A collection of animated short films that bring attention to the struggles and triumphs of vulnerable communities worldwide and shed light on issues pertaining to the pandemic, rising sea levels and the death of coral reefs.

Raymel Casamayor ($5,000) Puertos – A sound installation—accompanied by visual elements—that identifies sonic ambiance, music, and cultural connection between Havana and seven other port cities including Miami.

Leo Castañeda ($6,000) ENTORNOS – The first of a series of site-specific, multimedia installations including the video game Levels & Bosses, augmented and virtual reality, interactive sculptures, and paintings launching Fall 2022 at Locust Projects.

Dimitry Chamy ($8,000) Miami Artists Font: a creative typology – A symbolic alphabet representing the work of Miami-based artists in typography by inviting them to submit symbolic fragments of their artist practice as glyphs for a font family.

Abhi Chatterjee-Dutt ($5,000) Block to Block – A book highlighting the artist’s collection of hand-carved and hand-printed woodblock prints with the goal of donating a portion of the profits to aid pandemic relief efforts in India.

Alberto Checa ($10,000) Ritualizing the Futile Labor of the Latino Working-Poor Class – Utilitarian structures that recontextualize the way household objects could be repurposed to empathize with the exploitation of poor, working-class Latino bodies.
william cordova ($18,000) M.I.A. (Mobile in Arts) Motorhome – A motorhome transformed into a traveling artist studio that provides temporary space for visual artists, musicians and writers in South Florida who are experiencing economic hardship or need extra space to develop their projects.

Morel Doucet ($12,000) Water Grieves in The Six Shades of Death – A series of mixed media drawings that examine the realities of climate gentrification, migration, and displacement within South Florida’s Black diaspora communities.

Carlos Estevez ($10,000) Cities of the Mind – Mural-sized paintings and animated productions that represent the culture and human nature of Miami’s inhabitants.

Diana Eusebio ($8,000) MIRROR: A Reflection of the Black + Latinx Diaspora – Reflected as a photo series, textiles and ultimately a book, MIRROR is a multidisciplinary project that researches the lived experiences and intersections of global Blackness and Latinx identity.

Naomi Fisher ($10,000) The Scientific Value of Drawing – Create a body of work focusing on the legacy of botanical illustrator Priscilla Fawcett, who actively advanced science and intellect through artistic methodologies, culminating in a publication.

Colin W Foord ($10,000) Coral City Camera: 2021 and Beyond – The upgrade and expansion of the Coral City Camera, an award-winning multimedia performance art project that debuted at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) documenting Miami’s diverse marine life.

Chris Friday ($10,000) “Reparations” – A series of large-scale mixed media works for an exhibition that will center the Black body as a site of rest, leisure, pleasure, reclaimed time and privacy.

Gabriela Gamboa ($6,000) New Topographies: Mapping the Territory from Venezuela to Miami – A photographic installation that builds a new topographic map connecting these two geographical points through the use of archives, memory, erosion and personal mythology.

Jessica Gispert ($10,000) UNSEEN – A book and exhibition that explores how spirituality in the artist’s family and community relates to her Cuban-American identity.

Cooper Jacoby ($8,000) Bone Flute – An immersive installation that explores Florida’s geologic topology through a chorus of ceramic sculptures that convert human speech into acoustic compositions and vibrations.

Regina Jestrow ($8,000) Americana Quilts – Large textile artworks that explore activism and race in American history.

Carl Juste ($8,000) Defiance: An Exhibition of Open Resistance and Bold Disobedience – An exhibition that features several photojournalists and includes panel conversations and workshops to re-examine the local implications of George Floyd’s death and discuss race, police brutality, and how the community can move forward.

Karla Kantorovich ($8,000) Mending Ourselves: Reflections on Healing – An immersive art installation to provide a space for reflecting on how to heal, as individuals and as a community, inspired by Amate paper, an ancestral Mexican tradition used for healing rituals.

Summer Jade Leavitt ($10,000) The Queer Theory Library – A nomadic library & gallery hosting exhibits, pop-up events, workshops, and performances, with a mission to bring theory to life by shifting and exploring new possibilities for queer thought, culture, creation.

Monica Lopez De Victoria ($12,000) Swamp Deco – An immersive interactive XR art experience where players dive into the year 2300 where climate change has happened and Miami’s historical Art Deco architecture is underwater.

Arsimmer McCoy ($12,000) The Carol City Museum – A museum inside the artist’s home that details the history of Miami Gardens, showcases portraits of the residents, displays artifacts owned by the city’s residents and their families, with curated exhibitions of work by local artists.

Antonio Mendez (Queef Latina) ($8,000) Augmented Drag Reality – Location-specific drag performances in places that hold memories from the author’s past through virtual and augmented reality channels.

Ruben Millares ($10,000) Opposition Camp – A large-scale light sculpture, which replicates an insurgent structure that pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong made from barricades, as a way to stand in solidarity with those who fight injustice.

Aurora Molina ($10,000) Textile Art Biennial – The first textile biennial, which will engage local museums and institutions on experimental emerging textile art.

Samuel “Ness” Murrain Jr. ($12,000) 3 Words Before You Go Left – A three-part short film series that explores the realities of mental health, drug use and social relationships in Black and Brown communities.

Andrea Nones Kobiakov ($5,000) The Grounds Put Together – An urban garden guided by the recipes that immigrants brought to Miami as they settled into their new homes, intertwining cultures and species, learning to grow and adapt together.

Edison Peñafiel ($10,000) Those From The Other Side – A multichannel, immersive film installation that tells the stories of migrant experiences through the metaphor of zoomorphic beings to convey the dehumanizing absurdity of current border policies.

Sandra Ramos Lorenzo ($8,000) Entropydoscopes Lights – An immersive light and video installation showcasing perceptions, feelings, and uncertainties that people experience in the contemporary world by the consumption of digital images.

Jamila Rowser ($25,000) Black Josei Magazine – A collection of comics, essays, illustrations, poetry, interviews, and more, made by and for women of color and non-binary people of color.

Donna Ruff ($10,000) Botany, Taxonomy, and Weed Wagons: John Kunkel Small and Charles Deering – A series of large silkscreens and an installation depicting the discoveries that botanist John Kunkel Small made exploring the wilds of Florida in the 1920’s, his relationship with Charles Deering, and early interest in ecology.

Steve Saiz ($8,000) Dalé Zine Fine Art Book Edition – A series of fine art book editions that highlight minority voices inside Miami’s artistic community.

Gabriela Serra ($6,000) La Casa de la Abuela – A series of public workshops, led by local grandmothers in Miami, about the properties of native and tropical plants and other ancestral wisdom that will result in a songbook presented at a public exhibition.

Anita Sharma ($15,000) Artist as Archivist – Providing support for women and nonbinary artists who are using social practices to document racial and social inequities in society through a multidisciplinary residency platform that examines the relationships between art, activism, and archives.

Juliana Tafur ($6,000) RISE – A verité-style documentary following the shared U.S. experiences of four Americans of different descents – African, Mexican, Asian and Native American.

Roscoè B. Thické III ($5000) 1402 Pork & Bean Blue at The Intersection of Two Deaths -A photographic narrative showing the demise of two monuments in Miami and how the death of one expedited the death of the other. These two monuments being his late grandmother and the Liberty Square Housing Projects.

Miguel Yurrita ($12,000) WE ARE PAN: A Pedro Pan Story – A graphic novel written by Andre Frattino, detailing the events of Operation: Pedro Pan, the exodus of more than 14,000 Cuban children to Miami between 1960 and 1962.

Teacher Travel Grants Winners

Maria Lezcano ($5,000) – To travel to Samoa to explore one of Polynesian culture’s oldest art forms, Siapo.

Ania Moussawel ($5,000) – To travel to Japan to learn the history of Japanese photography, focusing on contemporary works and elements of Japanese aesthetics.

Rebeca Quiroga ($5,000) – To travel to Peru to study Incan culture, pottery, architecture, and history through personalized pottery classes and pottery demonstrations.

Oolite Arts helps Miami-based artists advance their careers and inspires the cultural community to engage with their work. Established in 1984, Oolite Arts is both a community and a resource, providing visual artists with the studio space, exhibition opportunities and financial support they need to experiment, grow and enrich the city. Through its educational programming, Oolite Arts helps Miamians learn about contemporary art and develop their own artistic skills.

Exhibitions and programs at Oolite Arts are made possible with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the Miami Beach Mayor and City Commissioners; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Funding Arts Network, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. For more information, visit Follow @oolitearts on social media.


Media Contacts:
Rachel Pinzur, 305-725-2875 or [email protected]
Andrea Salazar, 954-756-0652 or [email protected]