Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay
Affiliated Writer
St. Paul, MN
Biography

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao American writer. She was born in a refugee camp in Nongkhai, Thailand and immigrated to Minnesota in 1984. Because of her unique background, her work is focused on creating tools and spaces for the amplification of refugee voices through poetry, theater, and experimental cultural production. She is best known for her award-winning play Kung Fu Zombies Vs Cannibals (Theater Mu) and is developing two more plays for the Kung Fu Zombieverse anthology of stage works. Her plays have been presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Theater Mu, Consortium of Asian American Theater Artists, and Theater Unbound. She is a Playwrights’ Center Many Voices fellow, a Theater Mu New Performance fellow, a Loft Literary Center Spoken Word Immersion fellow, a VERVE Grant for Spoken Word Poets recipient, and an Aspen Ideas Bush Foundation scholar. Her work has been possible due to support from the Jerome Foundation, Bush Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Vongsay's work has been highlighted by The New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, City Pages, Vita.MN, Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, WCCO, Minnesota Public Radio, KFAI, Candy Fresh, TPT's TV Takeover and Giving Thanks programs, the U of Minnesota's Immigration History Research Center's Immigrant Stories project, and more. 
Check her out on Minnesota Public Radio News' The Interpreters podcast (archived) and get to know her at www.saymoukdatherefugenius.com and follow her on social media platforms Twitter and Instagram @REFUGENIUS

Successes

ST. PAUL, MN, January 27, 2021— The Jerome Foundation is pleased to announce the 2021 grant recipients in the second round of the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowships program. 60 Fellowships are being awarded (10 each in the disciplines of dance, film/new media, literature, music, theater/performance/spoken word, and visual arts) to early-career artists based in Minnesota and New York City, with 84 additional awards to finalists and alternates.

Two-year Fellowship awards total $3 million. Each award is $50,000 over two years ($25,000 per year) in direct support to artists to create new work, advance artistic goals and/or promote professional development.

Applicants applied either individually or jointly to share a single award as part of a sustained collaborative. Discipline-specific panels, composed of artists, curators, artistic leaders and arts administrators, reviewed a total of 820 applicants before identifying 144 as finalists for fuller discussion in advance of recommending a slate of Fellows to the Jerome Board of Directors for approval. In their deliberations, panels considered applicants’ samples of past works, additional past artistic accomplishments, the potential impact of a fellowship on their careers and their artistic field, their readiness to take maximum advantage of support and their alignment with Jerome’s values of innovation, diversity and humility. In reaching the final roster of Fellows, panels were charged with recommending to the Jerome Board a cohort that collectively captures the energy and diversity of their respective fields.

At their meeting on December 6, the Board unanimously and enthusiastically approved the recommended 27 Fellowships supporting 27 artists from Minnesota and 33 Fellowships supporting 35 artists (two 2-person collaboratives) for artists based in New York City.

“This year’s cohort represents an extraordinary social and aesthetic range, advancing their practices and engaging their community in exciting ways, even in these difficult and unprecedented times. It also exemplifies Jerome Foundation’s commitment to diversity and the diversity of artists across all disciplines with 85% of the Fellows identifying as Black, Native American, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian or Arab American or as Artists of Color. The work of all of these artists in binding our communities together and in stimulating our imagination has never been more important,” said Board Chair Linda Earle of New York City. Jerome Board members also include officers Kate Barr of Minneapolis (Vice-Chair), Daniel Alexander Jones of New York (Secretary), and Rick Scott of Minneapolis (Treasurer); Minnesota Directors Sarah Bellamy (St. Paul) and Sanjit Sethi (Minneapolis); New York City Directors Thomas Lax and Elizabeth Streb; and South Dakota Director Lori Pourier (Rapid City).

Fellows are also offered individualized professional development guidance through The MAP Fund of New York’s Scaffolding for Practicing Artists (SPA), designed to help artists individually and collectively consider, invent and co-devise solutions tailored to their specific practice and aesthetic ambitions.

Program Director, Eleanor Savage observed, “Fellows in the first round of this program told us how transformative this approach of direct support and individualized guidance can be.  By providing a sustained source of flexible funding over the course of two-years, in combination with this individualized professional development through The MAP Fund, Jerome Foundation hopes to offer artists the resources to be adaptive in their approaches to vibrant and sustainable careers.”

The Jerome Board also agreed to award one-time grants of $5,000 each to the 60 additional finalists and $7,500 each to the 24 additional finalist applicants designated by panels as “alternates” in the event that a recommended Fellow had been unable to accept the award. “Given the extraordinary promise of the applicant pool and the unprecedented challenges facing artists in this moment, the Foundation felt it was essential to expand the Fellows program with additional smaller grants to all the finalists that the panels had discussed at their meetings. All of us are deeply inspired by these artists and are honored to support them as they move forward.” said Jerome Foundation President Ben Cameron.

These additional smaller grants, totaling $480,000, bringing the total direct investment in individual artist to $3.48 million and the total program support, including the individualized professional development support, to more than $3.8 million.

Through HowlRound and the Mellon Foundation National Playwright Residency Program, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay will be Theater Mu's playwright in-resident.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is the recipient of an Emerging Artist Project Grant from Forecast Public Art for their project IN THE CAMPS: A REFUGEE MUSICAL, which follows the lives of Laotian families who have escaped communist Laos and await resettlement approvals in Saint Paul, MN. More info.

In the Camps: A Refugee Musical has been selected as one of the winners in the 2017 St. Paul Knight Arts Challenge. The show will tell the story of the Lao people who resettled in St. Paul through a musical with traditional folktales and songs informed by 1970-1980s Thai and American pop.