Boston University College of Fine Arts presents three students with prestigious Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Awards

in CFA, CFA Newsmakers, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts
May 1st, 2014

Boston, MA – Boston University College of Fine Arts is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Award: Beth Willer from School of Music for choral conducting, Kayleigha Zawacki from School of Theatre for lighting design, and Hoda Kashiha from School of Visual Arts for painting. The winners each received $10,000 grants to help them transition into artistic careers following their graduation later this month. The awards were presented on Friday by Benjamín Juárez, Dean of Boston University College of Fine Arts.

Beth Willer plans to use the award money to design innovative programs that bring new relevance to existing art through the energy of contemporary perspective. Willer attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Music Education and Trumpet Performance. While at BU, Willer’s skills as conductor and educator served her well as Founding and Artistic Director of the Lorelei Ensemble, a professional vocal ensemble in Boston focused on performing new and early music for women’s voices. With the Lorelei Ensemble Willer works to create ground-breaking artistic projects for singers and audiences that are rooted in awareness of community and social issues or needs, and are propelled by a collaborative spirit. In addition to spearheading the ensemble’s programming, Willer conducts collegiate ensembles at Harvard University and The Boston Conservatory, and has prepared choruses for the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Kayleigha Zawacki plans to use the award money to establish an artistic practice stemming from her thesis, Light Conversations, creating large-scale pieces using lighting technology, as well as sculpture, photography, audio, and more, to generate conversations about contemporary society. Inspired by the 1980s gay artist, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Zawacki plans to open a gallery space for the exhibition of these pieces and the work of other artists whose practices are similarly geared toward constructive social change. A 2014 Bachelor of Fine Arts candidate, Zacwacki served as this year’s lighting director for the American College Dance Festival Association New England Regional Conference. Also, while at Boston University, Zawacki has worked with numerous professional and youth theatre and dance companies including the Boston Center for American Performance, the professional extension of the School of Theatre at Boston University, as well as Cambridge Youth Dance, the Boston Community Dance Project, Dance2Save, Dheem, Tribe – The Dance Company, Boston University Academy, and the Massachusetts Dance Festival.

Hoda Kashiha plans to use the award money to establish a professional artist studio in New York City to encourage her mind to move beyond its own borders and fly to patterns of contemporary social issues which are the main aspects of her work. As an Iranian artist, Kashiha struggles with the balance of how much she should be loyal to her culture, and how much she should consider herself part of the global art world. The Kahn Award will bring Kashiha beyond the zero point, helping her join a community of different voices from different cultures; it will help Kashiha see the world of other artists and discuss the disturbances of their minds in order to experience new concepts in her own life and work. Originally from Iran, Kashiha earned her Bachelor of Arts in Painting at the University of Tehran before working towards her MFA in Painting at Boston University. While at Boston University, Kashiha has been included in several group exhibitions at Emerson College, the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, and the Boston Young Contemporaries Competition. Her work has been shown globally at the Unexposed, Tour & Taxis show in Brussels, Belgium (2012), Over A Line at Homa Art Gallery in Tehran (2011), and Speak Farsi Greek at the ICC in Athens, Greece (2010).

The Esther B. and Albert S. Kahn Career Entry Award Fund was established in 1985 with an endowed contribution of $1 million from Esther Kahn (SED ’55, Hon. ’86). Each spring, students completing their last semester of graduate or undergraduate studies are eligible to compete for the award. Deborah Kahn and Linda Green, the daughters of the late Esther and Albert Kahn, along with a faculty panel from CFA, selecte winners from through CFA to be awarded grants of $10,000. Kahn Award recipients have gone on to enjoy successful careers including singers, Stephen Salters, Dominque LaBelle, and Kelly Kaduce; violinist Mira Wang, actors Russell Hornsby and Ellen Harvey, scenic designer Antje Ellerman, designer Bethany Shorb, and painter Nicholas Lamia.