Theatre Alumni and Faculty Receive 2022 Artists 360 Awards

Clockwise from top left: Kholoud Sawaf, Na'Tosha De'Von, John Walch and Karen Castleman.
Courtesy of Artists 360

Clockwise from top left: Kholoud Sawaf, Na'Tosha De'Von, John Walch and Karen Castleman.

The Mid-America Arts Alliance recently announced the recipients of its 2022 Artists 360 Awards, recognizing 26 top performing, visual and literary artists from across Northwest Arkansas — including Department of Theatre alumni Kholoud Sawaf and Na'Tosha De'Von, and faculty members Karen Castleman and John Walch.

Artists 360, a program of Mid-America Arts Alliance, made possible through the support of the Walton Family Foundation, provides grant funding and professional development opportunities to individual artists of all disciplines in the greater Northwest Arkansas area.

Grants include learning opportunities to develop entrepreneurial skills and build sustainable careers, creating a network of leading regional artists.

Each year, one $25,000 Creative Impact Grant is also awarded to an exceptional artist who has "contributed to and nurtured the region's cultural ecosystem." This year's recipient is Kholoud Sawaf, an M.F.A. in directing alumna.

"For Kholoud to be the recipient of the 2022 Artist 360 Creative Impact Award is yet another phenomenal example of the outstanding work being done by the alumni, students, faculty and staff at the University of Arkansas," said Michael Riha, chair of the Department of Theatre. "We are so proud of her and all she has accomplished and can't wait to see what she will achieve next."

Sawaf has worked in theatre and television in Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. Her career is built on telling stories on stages, on film, in museums and site-specific work. 

The Artists 360 Awards site says Sawaf and her work have "had a considerable impact on our community both in Northwest Arkansas and beyond … From her devised original theatre work, 10,000 Balconies, created and produced under a $250,000 grant from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, to her immersive, social practice work at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art with the Marshallese community, to her partnership with ArkansasStaged in bringing Curbside Theatre to the people during the pandemic."

Sawaf told the Artists 360 Awards team that "as storytellers, we are the voice of many silenced people, we are the interpreters of lost songs and forgotten lullabies, and that puts us in a place of huge responsibility and huge privilege."

Acting M.F.A. alumna Na'Tosha De'Von was named an Artists 360 Project Grant recipient, receiving a $7,500 grant to help complete her work-in-progress, Ain't I a Woman, a one-person show about a young Black woman named Nia and the emotional rollercoaster of the ebbs and flows of her life.

Department of Theatre playwriting head John Walch was also named an Artists 360 Project Grant recipient, receiving $7,500 to help fund his work on a new play that will explore failed mid-1970's government initiatives including the "Metric Conversion Act of 1975" and "Voluntary Desegregation."

Department of Theatre dance instructor Karen Castleman also received a $15,000 Community Activator Grant for her project, Dance Chance NWA Season 2, which gives emerging and established choreographers in Northwest Arkansas a platform to present new works. 

"I am thrilled for Na'Tosha, John and Karen," Riha said. "They, too, are incredibly talented, and their projects are bringing attention to much-needed topics and community projects. The Artists 360 Awards and funding are doing incredible things to grow our region's arts community and to make it a place where more artists than ever can thrive, and we could not be more grateful for that."


Ash Micheel, theatre publicity manager
Department of Theatre


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