2022 Fellowship Recipients

Keith Thompson
Justin Evan

Performing Arts


Literary Arts


Raja Rahman is a prize-winning graduate (BM, MM) of The Juilliard School, pianist Raja Rahman has performed worldwide with the likes of Sir Georg Solti, Valery Gergiev, and Iona Brown. Winner of several concerto competitions, Juilliard! competition, and numerous other awards, Raja! s Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship, Artists Internationals career has taken him all over the world in concert as both soloist and chamber musician. Collaborations have included performances with members of the Juilliard String Quartet and the San Francisco Symphony. Mr. Rahman Carnegie (Weill) Hall debut took place while still at Juilliard, followed by his Lincoln Center debut (Alice Tully Hall) shortly thereafter. In 2018, Mr. Rahman made his Moscow Conservatory debut. s major teachers have included Seymour Lipkin, Jerome Lowenthal, Lev Vlassenko and Byron Janis. rajarahman.com

Jacqueline Straughan is a Las Vegas-based freelance dancer, writer, and certified ballet educator. Formerly a Principal Dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre, Ms. Straughan has danced professionally for over twenty years and performed to critical acclaim with Ballet West, South African Ballet Theatre, and the National Ballet of Canada. jacquelinestraughan.com

Annamarie Cavallone was born in Santiago, Chile, in 1973, where she grew up and received a degree in Communications and Theater; she migrated to Reno, Nevada in 1999. In 2003, she co-founded Brown Eyes Theater, the first Latinx theater group in Nevada. In 2010 she co-founded Latino Arte and Culture, now a 501 c3 organization. She has directed, produced, or acted in more than 40 theatrical presentations in the last 18 years; and she has trained and supported more than 200 Latinx artists. In 2006 she created a Latina Women’s support group after a noted need of emotional and psychological support.

Justin Evans was born and raised in Utah. After high school, he joined the U.S. Army, serving from 1988-1992, including being stationed in Texas, Germany, Operation Desert Storm, and North Carolina. After, he returned to Utah for his education where he earned a Baccalaureate in History and English Education from Southern Utah University. Soon after, he moved to West Wendover, Nevada, with his wife and sons, where he has taught history, English, honors Government, College Prep Writing, ACT Prep, and many other classes for the past 23 years. Shortly after beginning his teaching career, he earned a Master’s Degree in Literacy Studies from The University of Nevada, Reno. Justin has published four chapbooks and six full-length collections of poetry. His most recent books are Cross Country (WordTech, 2019), which he wrote with the poet Jeff Newberry, and All the Brilliant Ideas I’ve Ever Had (Aldrich Books, 2020). evjustin@yahoo.com

Ben Rogers is the author of the novels The Flamer and The Heavy Side, and the short story collection The Mayfly. He is also the lead author of Nanotechnology: Understanding Small Systems, the first-ever comprehensive textbook on nanotechnology, and Nanotechnology: The Whole Story, both of which earned the CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award from the American Library Association. He lives in Reno with his family. readrogers.com

Josh Webster is a playwright, fiction writer and professor currently living in Pahrump, NV.  He grew up in Jackson, MI, and received an M.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Wayne State University and a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in creative writing from The Center for Writers at The University of Southern Mississippi.  After serving as a lecturer at North Dakota State University in Fargo, he has since worked as an English Professor at Great Basin College in first Elko and then Pahrump where he teaches composition, creative writing, literature and film courses.  jvwriter@gmail.com

Keith Thompson is an award-winning musical director, arranger, and composer. He is the founder and host of The Composers Showcase, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides a platform and forum for composers and songwriters to share their original musical creations at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas. He created, directed and produced The Cocktail Cabaret at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Professional credits include musical director for the Las Vegas companies of Jersey Boys, The Producers, Hairspray, and the North American premiere of We Will Rock You, the QUEEN musical, as well as first national tours of Mamma Mia! and Cabaret, for which he won Canada’s 2000 Dora Award for excellence in Musical Direction. Keith is co-composer of IDAHO! The Comedy-Musical won “Best in Fest” at the New York Musical Theatre Festival and was presented in first-class production at The Smith Center. Keith was vocal director and arranger for RoundHouse, a Television series that premiered on the Nickelodeon Television Network and continues to air in syndication worldwide. thecomposersshowcase.com

Pierce Kagari Emata has thrilled audiences in the US and abroad with his reimagined solo concerts, delivering a delightfully eclectic repertoire ranging from the standard repertory to 21st-century works, plus the luxurious arrangements of Bill Evans. He has performed with orchestras, and his concerts have been broadcast by National Public Radio, including the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series in Chicago.  Mr. Emata was trained at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, coaching with international artists such as Gyorgy Sebok, Alfonso Montecino, and John Ogdon. He also coached with the famous Hungarian concert pianist Istvan Nadas, Loran Olsen, and performed in masterclasses under Garrick Ohlsson, Bela Nagy, and William Doppman. Mr. Emata has served on the summer piano faculty at the world-renown Interlochen Center for the Arts, which brings together 2500 talented students from 45 countries annually.

Brittany Bronson is a writer based in Las Vegas, NV. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Desert Companion, F(r)iction, Paper Darts, and The New York Times, where she contributed as an opinion writer from 2015-2020She has received awards and recognitions from the Pinch Literary Awards, the Nevada Arts Council, and TalkPoverty.org. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2014. She is at work on a novel and a collection of short stories. brittanybronson.com

Heather Lang-Cassera is Clark County, Nevada, Poet Laureate Emeritus (2019-2021), a founding Publisher and Editor for the 501(c)(3) small press Tolsun Books, and a Lecturer with Nevada State College where she teaches College Success, Creative Writing, Professional Editing and Publishing, and more. At Nevada State College, she also serves as a faculty advisor for the student Creative Writing club, the Blue Sage Writer’s Guild, and the college’s literary journal, 300 Days of Sun. She was recently awarded the Nevada System of Higher Education Nevada Regents’ Teaching Award.  Lang-Cassera’s book, Gathering Broken Light (Unsolicited Press, 2021), was written with the support of a Nevada Arts Council Project Grant and has been named an Independent Press Award Distinguished Favorite in the category of Poetry—social/political. All Gathering Broken Light royalties go to the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center. Also anchored in the severity and the beauty of the Mojave Desert landscape, Heather’s current writing projects include a fiction manuscript, Deluge, and a poetry manuscript, Wildfire, both of which whisper to us of the urgency of climate change, asking us to parse out seeming dualities: fire and flood, repetition and redundancy, vulnerable witness and autonomous self. heatherlang.cassera.net

The Artist Fellowship Program was created in 1989 to encourage the pursuit of artistic excellence by providing financial support to outstanding artists. Fellowship grants go to contemporary artists living in Nevada in the literary, performing, and visual arts (including media arts), and can be awarded at any stage of the artists’ career development. By recognizing and rewarding artistic accomplishment, the program promotes public awareness and appreciation of the role of the artist in our society.Click on the artist’s image for contact information.

Past Recipients
Conversations with Artist Fellows