The Arkansas Arts Council and the Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism has selected Kensuke Yamada, an assistant professor of ceramics at UA Little Rock, as a recipient of the 2021 Individual Artist Fellowship Award.
Individual Artist Fellowship awards are unconditional, non-matching awards made directly to individual Arkansas artists. An independent panel annually selects nine artists in rotating categories to receive fellowships of $4,000 each.
“Being selected for the Arkansas Arts Council fellowship is an absolute honor,” Yamada said. “I’ve spent about seven years working and living in Arkansas. This fellowship makes me feel like I’m a part of the Arkansas arts community, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
This year, artists from around the state submitted applications for the fellowships in three categories: cinematic arts, poetry and contemporary crafts. Yamada, of Little Rock, earned a fellowship for contemporary crafts. The Arkansas Arts Council honored the fellowship recipients during a virtual evening program on Oct. 6 in conjunction with ArtLinks 2021, the virtual, statewide arts conference sponsored by the Arkansas Arts Council.
“Arkansas Arts Council fellowships showcase the wide range of arts our state has to offer,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the department. “From music and dancing to painting and sculpture, art is a driving economic force in Arkansas, and we take pride in knowing that these grants help artists pursue their projects, which in turn enhance the lives of all of us.”
A native of Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan, Yamada earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and a master’s degree in studio art at University of Montana, Missoula. Originally, Yamada took a very different path from art.
“When I was in Japan, I studied speech pathology, and I did a residency at a hospital for a year,” Yamada said. “I was so young to commit my life to one job, and I came to America to try to find what I liked to do. I took a ceramic class, and I had a great teacher, and I got hooked. I used to be the kind of person who didn’t want to wake up to go to school in the morning. With ceramics, I feel like I found something. From the very first time, I felt like I was so excited that I just wanted to create.”
Before joining UA Little Rock in 2018, Yamada previously worked as a visiting artist at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and Center College in Danville, Kentucky. He has exhibited his work extensively throughout the United States. He has participated in artist residency programs at The Archie Bray Foundation, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Oregon College of Art and Craft, and was an invited guest to make a sculpture at Chihuly, Inc. and Ox-Bow.
His most recent exhibit, “Collectively Alone,” was displayed earlier this year at Historic Arkansas Museum. The work of Yamada and UA Little Rock photographer Ben Krain converged around the artists’ observations and thoughts surrounding the loneliness of creating during the COVID-19 era.
Yamada is currently working on a ceramic sculpture for the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill in Massachusetts that will be completed in summer 2022.