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Four Pittsburgh residents earn prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships

Four Pittsburghers were awarded prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships Thursday. They include historian and author Keisha N. Blain, poet Yona Harvey, photographer Ed Panar, and visual artist Alisha B. Wormsley.

The Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded 180 fellowships nationally this year out of some 2,500 applicants. The fellowships go to artists, writers, researchers, scientists and more.

"These successful applicants were appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise," said a statement from the foundation announcing the fellowships. Fellowships include cash awards, but the foundation does not disclose the amounts.

Photographer Ed Panar
Ed Panar
Photographer Ed Panar

Blain, a University of Pittsburgh professor, is known for “Until I Am Free,” her 2021 political biography of civil-rights activist Fanny Lou Hamer. She spoke with WESA about the book last fall.

Harvey, who also teaches at Pitt, has published books of poetry including 2020’s “You Don’t Have To Go To Mars For Love.” She spoke with WESA about the collection in early 2021. Harvey has also written for comic books in Marvel’s Black Panther universe.

Panar documents the western Pennsylvania landscape in series like “Animals That Saw Me.”

Wormsley, a multidisciplinary artist, is known locally for projects including her billboard reading “There Are Black People In the Future,” which sparked controversy in 2018 when the landlord of the building it was on ordered it removed.

The one-year fellowships are awarded after an application process, and usually for a specific project.

In an emailed statement, Blain said her fellowship will support the research and writing of her next book, tentatively titled "A Global Struggle," and described as "a major new history of human rights framed by the ideas and activism of Black women in the United States from 1865 to the present.”

Harvey plans to write a new series of poems and to visit Japan and collaborate with artists as part of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Fellowship.

Panar said he intends “to use the support from the Fellowship for my ongoing photography practice in general and to focus on two current projects in particular — "Winter Nights, Walking" (night photographs made in Pittsburgh over the past ten winters) and "Walking Home" (a long term documentation of my hometown of Johnstown over the past twenty+ years).”

Wormsley did not respond to a message by press time.

A complete list of 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship winners is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: