Three JP Artists Receive Mayor’s Artist Fellowship Award

Three residents of Jamaica Plain were among five artists selected as recipients for the City’s second round of Artist Fellowship Awards.

Shubha Sunder, Billy Dean Thomas, and Paloma Valenzuela each received a $10,000 unrestricted grant from the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture to advance their careers. They will also have their work showcased at a public event. The selection committee of highly qualified artists received 192 applications from Boston-based artists of all disciplines. 

Thomas, also known as The Queer B.I.G., is a Harlem-raised hip-hop artist whose provocative rhymes tackle issues like feminism, social justice and urban struggles. Thomas was featured on ABC’s The View and is currently releasing an EP. They have performed at diverse venues and have been nominated for prestigious music awards. 

Thomas said they chose to move to JP because of its ethnic food options and its thriving art community.

“Living in JP as an artist has been great for me because I have been able to find a music house that has been a home for bands for over a decade,” Thomas said. “It has also been a neighborhood where I have been able to meet other queer artists of color who have become some of my main collaborators.”

Sunder is a writing instructor whose prose has appeared in The Bare Life Review, Crazyhorse and Lenny Letter. She was named a Mass Cultural Council Fellow in 2016, and has been the recipient of numerous fiction prizes.

“I love living in JP among artists working across so many disciplines,” said Sunder. “There’s something very special about living in close proximity to talented people who make time and space for their art.”

Valenzuela, who grew up in JP, is a Dominican-American writer, director and actress. Featured in Boston Magazine, she is the creator of “The Pineapple Diaries”, a comedy web series in its third season. She is also the creative director of La Gringa Loca Productions.

“Growing up in JP is such a big part of me,” said Valenzuela. “I wanted to create a show that was set in the very streets and businesses and special spots in my neighborhood.” 

The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture aims to increase access to the arts for all residents while also supporting individual artists.

Mayor Walsh said that those chosen in the last round were a strong representation of Boston’s diversity in the arts.

“Boston is home to so many talented individuals,” he said. “We’re excited to recognize their contributions to our city.”

Learn more about the Artist Fellowship Award at the City of Boston website.

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