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Writer Dariel Suarez' days are long. He helps mentor young writers and educators, and sometimes takes extra teaching gigs to make additional money. In his free time, he works on his second novel. He's hoping the award he received from the city of Boston on Wednesday will ease the need to take extra jobs.
Suarez is one of five local artists awarded $10,000 each from the city for its first Artist Fellowship. More than 300 artists applied for the grant and a panel of local arts leaders reviewed the applications.
"It was an honor to serve on this jury," said playwright and actor Melinda Lopez. "Our exposure to the breadth of talent in this city was inspiring. We hope to celebrate our fellowship artists, as well as the deep pool of applicants."
The winners include Jamaica Plain-based performance artist Marilyn Arsem, Back Bay documentary filmmaker Mary Jane Doherty, Roxbury conceptual artist Michelle Fornabai, Roslindale musician Jason Palmer and Suarez, who immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba in 1997 and now lives in Brighton.
Suarez said he is glad the city recognizes the contributions of artists, including immigrants like himself.
"Given the political climate, I think it's important to show that not only is there a place for us, I mean this country was obviously built on immigrants coming here, but to show that we are here to contribute in many different ways," he said. "In my case — through writing and teaching."
With the fellowship, Suarez plans to focus less on side jobs and more on his passions.
"This money helps make sure that I can minimize some of the extra work that I usually do in terms of teaching load and things like that, and I can maximize some of my writing time for the next year so I can finish my second novel," he said.
In an effort to be inclusive, the city accepted applications in four languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole and Vietnamese. The fellowship program grew out of Boston Creates, the city's 10-year cultural plan put in place by Mayor Marty Walsh.
Michelle Fornabai, one of the winning artists, said she was impressed with the city's "no strings attached" approach to the monetary award.
The $10,000 is an unrestricted award meant for use at the artist's discretion. Boston's Chief of Arts and Culture Julie Burros said the only loose requirements are that the artists collaborate with the city to showcase their work and be mentored by other artists.
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