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COLUMBUS, Miss.-- The Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) recently awarded $5,000 fellowships to Mississippi University for Women’s Dr. Julia Mortyakova and Thomas K. Lee as well as a grant to support the 2022 International Annual Music by Women Festival.

“The state’s arts community has displayed such resiliency during tumultuous times, and we are very pleased to provide grants to these worthy artists,” said Sarah Story, executive director of MAC. “Mississippi’s artistic legacy was built through the talents of its exceptionally creative citizens. These funds help support the next generation of amazing artists and ensure that the story of artistic excellence in our state lives on.”

The financial awards are part of more than $1.4 million in grants the MAC distributes in Fiscal Year 2022. Funding from the Mississippi State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts makes the grants possible.

This is the first time Mortyakova, who received a Performing Arts fellowship for piano, and Lee, who received a Literary Arts Fellowship for playwriting, have received individual artist fellowships from the MAC. It is the fifth year in a row that the annual International Music by Women Festival, which Mortyakova founded and directs, has received a grant from the MAC.

“The fellowship is highly competitive and serves as an important recognition of my work,” said Mortyakova, who is professor and chair of The W’s Department of Music. “I am the only instrumental/piano performance recipient of the fellowship this year, which is truly humbling. I am honored to be recognized by MAC for my artistic contributions, particularly in advocating for women composers from the stage.”

The fellowships include cash awards of up to $5,000. Mortyakova said she will use the money in the fellowship to support her concert and recording activities and to support and spread the work of women composers to new audiences around the world.

Lee, who is an assistant professor of English and creative writing, said the fellowship validates his compelling notion to tell the stories of the state of Mississippi.

“It’s so much more than just financial support – and that’s simply one leg of such support that comes with this grant,” said Lee, who was the only playwright to receive a fellowship this year. “It’s validation, I suppose, and I guess, a tacit permission, to keep on, that I’m doing something that matters, which is all any artist really wants to be told, I’d warrant.”

Lee also hopes the recognition that comes with receiving the fellowship will enable him to create a more visible community with his fellow artists and to discover where his voice fits with the “amazing and talented artists” in the state of Mississippi.

“I think that creating opportunity for further discourse, and the many channels of such that MAC already offers, is essential in paving the way for other aspiring artists, writers or not,” Lee said. “It sets not only a standard but an example to follow.” 

The MAC also awarded a $4,500 grant to Lowndes County for its Tennessee Williams Tribute. The W is involved with the annual event.

The MAC’s Artist Fellowship program is focused on honoring Mississippi artists who demonstrate the ability to create exemplary work in their chosen field. The agency awards fellowships of up to $5,000 in several categories each year. The program doesn’t require a cash match. Professional artists living and working in Mississippi are eligible to apply.

The MAC is a state agency that serves more than two million people through grants and special initiatives that enhance communities, assist artists and arts organizations, promote arts education and celebrate Mississippi’s cultural heritage. The Mississippi Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mississippi Endowment for the Arts at the Community Foundation for Mississippi and other private sources fund the MAC. For more information, please visit

For information about the MAC, contact Anna Ehrgott, communications director, at (601) 359-6546 or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



July 19, 2021
Contact: Adam Minichino
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