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2021 FORGE Fellowship

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Jen Anaya (they/them) is a theater/music/art/ritual space maker, doula, energy healer and baby whisperer born and raised in the desert of Yavapaiv Apache, Cocopah and O'odham land. A proud jack of all trades, they have performed in rock bands, web series, art installations, plays, operas, films, solo shows, healing rituals and musicals throughout NYC, the country and the world. From La Mama to The Kitchen, Harvard Art Lab to Radio City Music Hall, the mountains of Greece to Harpa in Iceland. A founding member of Constellation Chor, Jen has been weaving music, theater, art, movement and healing together every chance they get. Pre-covid, Jen was honored to inhabit the role of Mariposa in En Garde Arts' Fandango For Butterlies (and Coyotes) at La Mama. A love letter to their immigrant parents and those currently suffering the horrific consequences of a cruel and broken immigration system. Post-covid they've done the zoom dance as an actor, singer, instrumentalist and sound healing practitioner with San Diego REP, San Francisco's PlayGround, Rhinebeck Writer's Retreat, The Tank and Broadway Advocacy Coalition. They are a certified Reiki and 13th Octave La Ho Chi practitioner. Jen is currently working on a script for a children's show, an EP, and an immersive mutli-disciplinary piece that focuses on the possibilities of healing intergenerational trauma. AEA SAG-AFTRA                                   

                                                                                                        Photo by Tia Byington

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Esteban Bailey (he/him) is a Puerto Rican filmmaker and NYU Tisch graduate. In 2019 he was chosen to be apart of NYU’s Production Lab Development Studio, where he wrote a Puerto Rican horror film titled “The Maboya” that received an 8 from a Black List evaluator and subsequently trended on the platform. He has been as an associate producer/script consultant on several feature length documentaries, while also working in the digital media space as a freelance video editor. He has also worked for Martin Scorsese and Darren Aronofsky as an intern in their respective production companies.

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Zeelie Brown’s first art museum was the pine woods in Alabama. She makes Black, queer refuges called "soulscapes", borne from this sense of wilderness. Soulscapes are a gumbo melding sound, cello performance, installation, electronic, culinary, textile, process and performance art. These media, these soul-foods simmer together with the Alabama folk arts they learned as a child on their rural homestead to, somewhere deep within the viewer, lay a road down home.


Soulscapes are refuge: refuge from centuries of state ordained theft and genocide sculpting, financing, and informing the very concept of art; refuge expressly for Black, queer people; refuge from hatred and ignorance that threatens to drown the land her ancestors are buried on; refuge from those whose wallets grow fat from selling black communities downriver; refuge.


Soulscapes live in-between the river and the sea, in rage, in salvation, in domesticity, in the blues, in creoles, in sweet lies told with a smile and crooked teeth, in gris-gris and mojo hands. Soulscapes live at dangerous, shifting crossroads because when you are born Black in America you are born nailed to the cross.


Soulscapes do a whole lotta shit cuz they have to.


Soulscapes live in the break.


Zeelie makes music that lives in the break, too.

Raul Ayala (photo by Fernanda Espinosa).
Fernanda Espinosa (photo by Fernanda Esp

Cooperativa Cultural 19 de Enero (CC 1/19) is a wandering art and oral transmissions collaboration committed to generating spaces that document and circulate the voices at the margins of colonial grammar. As a multidisciplinary project, our call is to intervene spaces through memories that are born in orality and seldom make it to circulation beyond geopolitical, epistemic, ontological, and embodied borders. We recognize the different ways of communication that were oppressed and excluded by and in favor of the colonial enterprise. To us, that means centering the experience, knowledge, and ways of those navigating from the margins as a result of these historic injustices, circulating perspectives of those moving through rural to urban spaces, and from the global south to the global north.

Raul Ayala (he/him) is a visual artist and educator working primarily in public spaces and usually aiming for collaborative and co-creative processes. Since 2006 Ayala has been drawing, painting, creating installations and public art with an array of different materials and mediums, reflecting and questioning hegemonic regimes of history and colonialism. Ayala is the recipient of the 2013 Create Change Fellowship of The Laundromat Project, the 2014 NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and had a full merit scholarship in the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, where he was awarded a Master of Fine Art degree in 2020 and continues to teach. As part of his process as an artist/educator, Ayala has been part and co-founded collectives in Ecuador and the US. With those collective efforts Ayala have been the recipient of the 2015 Create Change Commissions Artist award of The Laundromat Project, the 2016 Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Grant and Residency and the 2020 MDOCS Storyteller Institute Residency.


Fernanda Espinosa (she/her) is an oral history-based practitioner, independent oral historian, and cultural organizer based in the New York area and in Ecuador. She approaches storytelling as one of the many ways of transmitting knowledge and her analysis and practice are deeply embedded in interrogating colonial standards, including story forms and language. Since 2014 she has been generating, listening to, and interpreting oral histories to inform creative public interventions that aspire to act as platforms for resistance and dialogue. Fernanda holds a degree in Oral History from Columbia University, where her thesis was awarded the 2018 Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Award, she has worked leading community partnerships with StoryCorps, and interviewing for projects at the Smithsonian and at Columbia University. Fernanda is the co-founder and coordinator of Cooperativa Cultural 19 de enero (CC 1/19), a wandering art and oral transmissions collaboration, recipient of a 2015 commission and a 2020 Creative Fund Award by The Laundromat Project, and of the 2020 MDOC Storyteller's Institute Fellowship.                                                         

                                                                                     Photos by Fernanda Espinosa

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Abdul Goler (he/him), sometimes referred to as Abdul Michael Goler (AMG) is an educator and life-long learner, trained museum professional, writer and critical thinker, and certified Project Management Professional. Above all else AMG is a storyteller and collector of ephemera with a deep interest in historical processes and digging through archives. As a curriculum designer the materials collected act as a means to creatively tackle difficult subject matter in concrete form and is often used to actually create the works of art. Most of the collaborative work done in schools used primary materials as the fulcrum to investigate historical events.









Britt Elizabeth Verstegen (she/her) is a creator, a translator, an integrator, and an explainer. Currently, she works as an online ESL teacher to adult students around the world while completing a master’s degree in addiction counseling. Britt enjoys taking the stories and concerns of others and crafting them into forms that can be easily understood by people of dissimilar backgrounds. In her process, Britt uses poetry, prose, interviews, graphic design, photography, drama, music, humor, and role-playing. She values the contributions of others and she is passionate about helping people find their voice. Her life mission is to help people unveil their own innate capacity and contribute to the greater conversation.  

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Esco Jouléy is an actor, singer, dancer, clown, movement artist, and creator located in New York City. Esco is a Penn State University graduate with a BA in Integrative Arts and a minor in Dance. Esco also graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. Esco was awarded the Robert J. Prindle and Doris P. Prindle Memorial Award and the Lauren M. Becker Memorial Award in creative art. Esco was a resident actor at the historic Barter Theater for three and a half years. Since moving back to New York in 2015, some of Esco's credits include: Sundance TV (State Of The Union), Starz (BlindSpotting), McDonalds National Commercial, HBO (High Maintenance), Netflix (Inventing Anna,) Bravo (In A Mans World- Movement Coach, ABC (Showcase NYC), Interstate (Carly), Runaways (Esco), Galatea (Chorus), The Demise (Magic Theater Player), Beowolf (Warrior). As a movement artist, Esco is the creator and performer of “One”, a mute character that lives in the same world as the great artists Charlie Chaplin, Burt Williams, and Harpo Marx. Esco has used this character to explore the language of movement and how one would communicate with people if one could not speak. More information about Esco and their work can be found at, @escojouley,, and @onezlife.                                   

                                                                                                        Photo by Iris Aperture


Born in India, brought up in New York, Barkha Patel (she/her) stays deeply connected to her cultural roots through her artistic practice as a kathak dancer, choreographer, educator, and the Artistic Director of Barkha Dance Company. She has trained in kathak both in India and New Jersey for over two decades with renowned kathak maestros and has a Master’s in Performing Arts from Kalidasa Sanskrit University.


A touring artist, Barkha has performed at dance festivals in India to the U.S. Barkha recently created an ensemble work called Mukta, A Woman Liberated, which was in residency at the Center for Flamenco Arts and has presented at numerous festivals in NYC. She has been nationally recognized for her work: she completed a choreographic fellowship with the N.J.P.A.C., received a 2020 Fellow with the N.J. Council on the Arts, and is Dance/USA Institute for Leadership mentee.


Barkha teaches young and adult students. Acknowledging the lack of community for kathak dancers in NYC, Barkha co-founded a kathak meetup group. The meetup started in January 2020 as an inclusive space for kathak dancers to practice and discuss crucial topics to the art form.

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Amanda Wenger (she/her) is a Houston-based writer, comedian, and oral storyteller with a background in critical care nursing. Pre-COVID, she was a fixture at The Moth Live: StorySLAM and a guest storyteller on local KPFT radio program “So What’s Your Story?” She has performed standup comedy sets at the Houston Fringe Festival and the Queer Narratives Festival hosted by No Divide Kansas City. Amanda has attended creative residencies at the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences and the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods to work on her first young adult novel; she will attend upcoming residencies at Greywood Arts, Wildacres Retreat, and In Cahoots. Her accolades include the Gulf Coast Community Award from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Yuyi Morales Diversity Scholarship from the Children’s Book Academy, and a Joan Lowery Nixon Award nomination. She is a current Writers’ League of Texas Fellow and a graduate of both Artist INC and The Writing Barn’s Rainbow Weekend Workshop. Her novel manuscript was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Writers’ League of Texas Manuscript Contest. Connect with her at or via @wengerwrites on Twitter and Instagram.

                                                                                                   Photo by Payton Hartsell


Courtney Young (she/her) is a writer and entrepreneur from Southwest Louisiana. Her work has been published in the Jellyfish Review, The American Prospect and the Nation. She is the founder of Think Young Media Group, a boutique firm that creates film, TV and documentary projects. She is also the founder of the Mae Fellowship, a virtual accelerator, incubator and residency that provides financial and professional support to women seeking to publish their first book. She is a graduate of Spelman College and New York University. She is highly proficient in French.



Twitter: @cocacy. @thinkyoungmedia

Instagram: @ccarlissyoung


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Trevor Zhou (he/him) is a writer/director/actor living in LA. Made in China and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he found solace in the arts and rebelled against his parent’s stereotypical encouragement toward medicine. He studied Chinese Studies, Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Michigan. It didn’t make his parents proud but it did arm him with the foundational tools of storytelling and the curiosity to examine the world around him.


He got into acting when he was serendipitously cast as a "real person" in a national commercial saying the word "trains." Reviews of his performance were favorable. Having successfully avoided fame and fortune thus far, he’s instead found a love of storytelling and has been using his own experiences to create very personal stories.


His most recent short thriller/horror, Out of Order, is currently on the festival circuit, enjoying its world premiere in Bali and selected as a semi-finalist at the Burbank International Film Festival. He's also the cinematographer for the documentary, Charivari: A Fashion Uproar. Trevor is currently working his directorial feature debut, Ann Arbor, a bittersweet love letter to his home town.


Other things he's gotten into during the quarantine: coffee roasting, writing letters with fountain pens, developing photos in the darkroom, solo dance parties, collecting houseplants and coming up with great dad jokes like the one below:

Q: Why do cows have big butts? A: Because of the dairy air.

                                                                   Photo by Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

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