May 14, 2012

University of Chicago Arts Council announces finalists and recipients of annual Claire Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists.

The results are in for the 2012 Claire Rosen & Samuel Edes ​Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. Two runners-up, writer Tasha Matsumoto, AB'07, and composer Simon Fink, PhD'10, will each receive $1,500 to help them refine and expand their artistic practice. The main, much sought-after $30,000 grant will go to David Milton Brent, AB'09, and Jack Lawrance Mayer, AB'10, marking the first time that a pair of collaborators, rather than a single artist, has won the prize.

The Edes Foundation, which funds similar prizes at small number of other higher education institutions in Chicago, intends for the award to stimulate the careers of promising artists by providing support sufficient to allow them to devote a full year to their arts practice.

In 2010, Mayer applied individually for the inaugural Edes Prize. “I applied because I wanted to be an independent filmmaker, and I had a pretty good script,” Mayer recalls. “I didn’t get it, but I did get some good feedback from the jury.” To hear him tell it, Mayer was disappointed without being the least bit surprised. Even at the time, he knew that that project he was proposing was somewhat unformed, somewhat unfocused, and in need some additional thought, which the jury’s feedback helped to engender.

Mayer didn’t apply for the 2011 Edes Prize, which ended up in the hands of his good friend and close collaborator, Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman. “Jacob is one of my oldest friends from the University of Chicago,” Mayer explains. “I was [the director of photography] on his first student film, and we’ve co-written and co-directed a web series together.” 

For Hurwitz-Goodman, who was then working on a documentary about an urban paramilitary organization in Detroit, the Edes Prize represented freedom from the potentially debilitating dual constraints of time and money. “The projects that I’m working on are fairly low-budget, and the budget hasn’t changed that much since I’ve gotten the Edes award,” Goodman reflects. “But the gift that it’s given me is time, and that’s priceless. Beyond any question of buying fancy cameras or fancy equipment, it’s how I’m able to relax and use my time that makes a difference in the end.”

Winning the prize also meant that Goodman was well equipped to help Mayer re-apply the following year. Goodman stressed the importance of the project itself, as opposed to the ultimate intent of the artist—the importance of presenting not just a potentiality compelling project but a specific and fully formed plan. In his collaborations with David Milton Brent, Mayer felt that he had finally found just such a project and just such a plan.

“I was actually at [Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman’s] house, sitting in his living room, when I found out I won,” Mayer says. “It sounds insane, but I knew [David and I] were going to be finalists this year. I knew it, because this project was so right. It was so organic, [and] the audience response was so good. We knew deep down we were doing something right, and that all we needed was a little bit of help. That’s what the prize is there for, and that’s what the prize answered.”

Year One

Brent and Mayer’s “live movie events” combine projected, pre-recorded cinematic content with live actors and live music. The resulting experience is somewhere between a screening of a film and a performance of a play, but as Brent describes it, ideally “closer to the latter. I think the model is that it’s more like a theater run, where every night is different. [On different nights, we’ll] have different bands playing. The whole point of it is that a live event creates a sort of spectacle nature, where the audience is engaging with the process in a way that they can’t engage with a screening of a pre-existing film. The idea is that every night will inevitably be different.”

Mayer and Brent saw great potential in this format, but found themselves hamstrung by the considerable expense involved. “It’s sort of an interesting project, because it has all the costs of doing a low budget film, but then also all the costs of doing a storefront theater run,” Brent explains. “Both of those things require time, and energy, and money, and resources—which is why, until now, we’ve only been able to do one-night-only events. And that was going to be true for a while, unless we really cut back on production costs, below where they already are, which is pretty low,” he adds, laughing.

Mayer had been thinking along similar lines, worrying that “there’s no way to build upon success if you’ve only rented a space for a night.” But with the Edes Prize to back them, Mayer and Brent can now think in terms of weeks-long runs, extending into in full three-show seasons, thereby allowing the individual works to grow and mature, and just as importantly, giving press and word of mouth the opportunity to help the artists build something repeatable and sustainable. “Now,” says Mayer, “we’re in Year One Mode rather than Year Zero Mode.”

To any alumni-artists hoping to reach their own Year One by means of the next Edes Prize, Mayer and Brent would pass along this simple advice, which Hurwitz-Goodman, in his turn, passed along to them: Try to get something out of the application process itself.

Brent explains, “If you’re really serious about your work, you want to be challenged on it. You want to have to explain it to people, because [that] makes you a more rigorous thinker. That makes you a more rigorous artist. That’s kind of the UChicago philosophy, I think,” and being given the chance for that process to refine your work “is an immensely valuable resource, in itself, to have at your disposal.”

By Drew Messinger Michaels AM’10

Work by finalists and recipients of the 2012 Clare Rosen & Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists

Recipients Jack Lawrence Mayer, AB'10, and David Milton Brent, AB'09

I AM A ROCKET SCIENTIST (Recorded March 24th 2012 at The Den Theatre)

Teaser Trailer 1

Teaser Trailer 2


Finalist Simon Fink, PhD'10

Dock and Load (2011) 

Music by Simon Fink; Design by Gideon Fink Shapiro

Medium: Concert Installation for 4 trombones, electronics, moving truck, moveable stages, etc.

More audio by Simon Fink


Finalist Tasha Matsumoto, AB'07

Twelve Steps