The Kennedy Center

2017/2018 Citizen Artist Fellows

  • Hakim Bellamy

    Hakim Bellamy, a native of New Jersey, lives in Albuquerque. Bellamy is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, Swear (West End Press) and was Albuquerque's inaugural Poet Laureate from 2012-2014. His poetry is published at the Albuquerque Convention Center and in Alternet, TruthOut, Counterpunch, and in many other media. Bellamy has shared the stage with Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, and the Dalai Lama. He has been a featured guest on The Tavis Smiley Show and is the host of the arts program Colores on New Mexico PBS.

    Bellamy's honors include the Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing from the Working Class Studies Association, a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Fellowship, honorable mention for the University of New Mexico's Paul Bartlett Ré Peace Prize. He holds an M.A. in Communications from the University of New Mexico and is the founding president of Beyond Poetry LLC.

    To learn more about Hakim’s work, please visit

    Hakim Bellamy

  • Vijay Gupta

    Vijay Gupta is a violinist, speaker, and advocate for the power of music to change lives. Gupta joined the LA Philharmonic at 19 after completing a masters in violin performance from the Yale School of Music and a bachelors in biology from Marist College. As a 2011 TED Senior Fellow, Gupta founded Street Symphony, a musical engagement initiative bringing live musical performances and dialogue to communities experiencing homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles County. Gupta believes that musical engagement reconnects us to our shared humanity across vast divides and ultimately impacts social justice.

    To learn more about Vijay’s work with Street Symphony, please visit

    Vijay Gupta

  • Ekene Ijeoma

    Ekene Ijeoma is an interdisciplinary artist and designer exploring the intersections of social issues, data studies and life experiences. He creates websites, apps, installations, and performances to translate overlooked facts into informed feelings. Through these multisensory experiences, he hopes to expand people's thoughts and engage them in imagining change. His work has been exhibited at galleries and museums including Annenberg Space for Photography, Neuberger Museum of Art, Storefront for Art and Architecture, Istanbul Design Biennial and Design Museum. He's presented at events and spaces including Design Indaba, Neuberger Museum of Art, Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum, Chicago Architecture Biennial and International Center for Photography. Ekene's a NYFA Fellow and New Lab/Simons Foundation Fellow.

    To learn more about Ekene’s work, please visit

    Ekene Iejoma

  • De Andrea Nichols

    Through a multi-disciplinary design practice, De Nichols helps changemakers nationwide actualize creative solutions to issues that matter most to them and their communities. Based in St. Louis, she serves as Director of Civic Creatives, a social design organization that organizes interactive experiences to help community members, creative changemakers, and civic organizations connect and resolve critical social challenges. Nichols serves as a Board of Directors member for Forward through Ferguson and chairs the Board of Directors for Creative Reaction Lab. She is a nationally recognized public speaker on designing for civil rights and social justice, and she is a recent recipient of the St. Louis Visionary Award for community impact in the arts.

    Nichols is an alumna of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, where she specialized in communication design, social entrepreneurship, and socio-economic development. She is a John B. Ervin Scholar, Brown Scholar, and Enterprise-Rent-a-Car Scholar. Her works have been supported by the Smithsonian National Museum for African-American History and Culture, Clinton Global Initiative, Women's Caucus for Art, Gephardt Institute for Public Service, Ideas that Matters, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, StartingBloc Fellowship for Social Innovation, Points of Light, and AshokaU Changemakers.

    To learn more about De’s work, please visit

    De Nichols

  • Michelle Angela Ortiz

    Michelle Angela Ortiz is a visual artist/ skilled muralist/ community arts educator who uses her art as a vehicle to represent people and communities whose histories are often lost or co-opted. Through painting, printmaking, and community arts practices, she creates a safe space for dialogue around some of the most profound issues communities and individuals may face. Her work tells stories using richly crafted and emotive imagery to claim and transform spaces into a visual affirmation that reveals the strength and spirit of the community.

    For over fifteen years, Ortiz continues to be an active educator in using the arts as a tool for communication to bridge communities. As a highly skilled muralist, Ortiz has designed and created over 50 large-scale public works nationally and internationally. Since 2008, Ortiz has led community building and art for social change public art projects both independently in Costa Rica and Ecuador and through the United States Embassy as a Cultural Envoy in Fiji, Mexico, Argentina, Spain, Venezuela, and Honduras. In 2016, she completed the first U.S. State funded public art project since the re-opening of the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba.

    Ortiz was awarded the Americans for the Arts' Public Art Year in Review Award which honors outstanding public arts projects in the nation. She is a fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Fund for the Arts, recipient of the Leeway Foundation Transformation Award and Art & Change Grant.

    To learn more about Michelle’s work, please visit

    Michelle Ortiz

  • Katie Wyatt

    Katie Wyatt is an accomplished musician, executive and innovator in social change through music. In July 2016, Mrs. Wyatt became the first Executive Director of El Sistema USA, the national network supporting the U.S. movement of El Sistema, and established a new headquarters at Duke University. Mrs. Wyatt is a national leader in creating programs for access and opportunity through the transformative power of music. She enjoys teaching “Social Entrepreneurship and the Arts” as adjunct faculty at Duke University, is a national consultant and speaker in the arts for social change, and as a violist has performed with chamber groups, opera companies, and orchestras around the world. Mrs. Wyatt was recently honored as a Kennedy Center 2017-18 Citizen Artist Fellow, a national award recognizing her work in citizen artistry and community development through the arts. Mrs. Wyatt co-founded the first El Sistema-inspired program in North Carolina, Kidznotes in Raleigh-Durham, and served as the founding Executive Director from 2010-2017. She speaks Spanish and French and holds advanced degrees in Political Science and Viola Performance from Indiana University and the Cleveland Institute of Music. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, jazz musician Dr. Aaron Vandermeer, and their dog, Bear.

    To learn more about El Sistema USA, please visit

    Katie Wyatt

  • Reena Esmail

    Indian-American composer Reena Esmail brings communities together through the creation of equitable musical spaces. A graduate of Juilliard and Yale School of Music, and a Fulbright grantee to India, her work lives between Western and Hindustani classical music. She is also the Composer-in-Residence with Street Symphony, where she works in communities experiencing homelessness and incarceration. Her music has been performed throughout the United States and India, and around the world. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

    For more information about her work, please visit



The nomination period for the 2019/2020 Citizen Artist Fellow cohort will be from October 1, 2018-December 22, 2018.