The Lewis Center for the Arts grants totaled $129,000 this summer

Amanda Kural ’23 visited 21 states to collect ideas for a series of short stories.
Courtesy Amanda Kural ’23
Courtesy Vignesh Panchanatham ’22
Inspired by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’ goal to record an album about every U.S. state, Amanda Kural ’23 spent her summer starting an ambitious project: writing 48 folk tales, one for each of the contiguous United States. 

For research, Kural hit the road. She initially planned on driving an RV but instead took trains and buses. At one stop, Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, townspeople told her she was the first tourist in a year.

By August, she’d visited 21 states and written 20 short stories. Her characters include a fake fortune teller who begins to communicate with the supernatural in a retirement home in Florida and a 100-year-old man in Texas who is released from prison after serving 78 years for a murder he possibly didn’t commit.

“I met so many new people,” she said. “I was able to have this amazing experience of the diversity that exists in America.” Because she can “draw from a larger pool of people,” Kural said, her writing now includes a broader range of protagonists.

Kural’s travels were funded by the Alex Adam ’07 Award, created in memory of a talented creative writing and theater student who died of cancer in his senior year. The award, given annually to three students, provides $7,500 to create a new artistic work. It’s part of a larger program of grants from the Lewis Center for the Arts that totaled $129,000 this summer. 

Silma Berrada ’22, who also received the Adam Award, rented an art studio in Miami to create a mixed-media project celebrating Black love. So far, she has created approximately 20 paintings, 15 poems, a full-length play, and an assortment of Polaroid photographs. 

“It’s an exploration [of] the ways in which I or people who look like me can see themselves as lovable,” said Berrada.

Berrada said she felt liberated by the opportunity to create freely and be more experimental in her art.

“This project has given me a lot of confidence, not even as just an artist, but as a person,” she said. “It’s been reaffirming to know that there’s people out there that see the potential [in my work] and want to invest in it.”

Jacqueline Pothier ’22 was awarded funding from the Mallach Senior Thesis Fund and the Berl Senior Thesis Award for her screenwriting thesis in the creative writing certificate program. She is writing two episodes of a murder mystery, “an eight-episode limited series, hour-long drama that is a meeting point between Broadchurch and The Haunting of Hill House.”

Pothier’s series is set in Ireland during the 1980s and invokes local history as well as the supernatural. Her opening scene features the bean-nighe, a variant on the Irish banshee and a death omen, said to wash the clothes of those who are about to die.

“I want to represent this place and this time as best as humanly possible, and I think that sometimes the best way to do that is through these otherworldly interventions and magical versions,” Pothier said.

Pothier had intended to travel to Ireland in the fall for research, but due to COVID restrictions, she now plans to visit Irish historical collections in Boston and New York. She split her time between researching historical context for her series and the cinematic elements of visual horror.

“I’ve been watching a lot of horror because when you read a supernatural story, you skim the page,” said Pothier. “But if you are sitting there [watching], there’s going to be a jump scare. It is impossible to move your eyes from something viscerally awful right in front of you.”