Melissa Messina

In residence March 19 - March 24, 2018


Melissa Messina is a nationally recognized arts professional who has developed thought provoking exhibitions, dynamic site-responsive projects, and engaging educational public programming both independently and in leadership positions at museums and non-profit arts organizations. For over 15 years, her work with regional, national and international artists has been presented in the U.S., in Atlanta, Kansas City, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Richmond, Savannah, and Washington, D.C., and abroad in France and Hong Kong. She has lectured extensively, published widely, and her research and curatorial work has been funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation, among other granting organizations.

Her recent exhibition Magnetic Fields, Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today, co-curated with Erin Dziedzic, opened at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, and traveled to The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. In 2016-17 she was the guest curator for several group and solo exhibitions at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, and also served as the first Artistic Director of Flux Projects in Atlanta. Messina was recently selected as the co-curator of the 2018 Bermuda Biennial. In addition to serving select public and private clients, she is the curator of the Mildred Thompson Legacy Project.

Lauren Jefferson

In residence May 7 - May 14, 2018

Lauren is a recipient of a Focus Fellowship Alumni Pay-It-Forward Residency. 


"I'm a native born Georgia artist. Who just enjoys creating. I don't always make things that make sense to other people and sometimes they don't even make sense to me. But it's the act of doing something that I'm most intrigued with. It's the struggle of trying to convey something from within like breaking through the walls on a maze. To get to the heart of things one generally has to go through some stuff. Through my work I hope to convey that satisfying search to welcoming that deep and rich place within."

Sarah Hobbs


Sarah Hobbs’s work is an ongoing exploration of the neurotic tendencies that exist in us all. She grew up in Columbus, Georgia and holds a BA in Art History and an MFA in Photography from the University of Georgia, Athens. She lives and works in Atlanta. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Sir Elton John Collection, among others. Hobbs’s work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Knoxville Museum of Art as well as Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work has been included in several group shows across the country. Her first monograph, Small Problems in Living, was published in 2012.

Iman Person

In residence May 25 - May 29, 2018

Iman is a recipient of a Focus Fellowship Alumni Pay-It-Forward Residency. 


Iman Person serves as WonderRoot’s Arts Innovation Specialist. She is a native Georgian with a background in arts administration, gallery development and arts education. In 2010 she received her B.F.A from Georgia State University in Studio Art and has become a noted figure in the local arts community.  Previously she has held positions at The  City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs as their Social Media Administrator, and the Interim gallery Coordinator for Gallery 72. She also currently holds a place on the performance committee at Eyedrum Gallery.

Iman’s passion for arts activism comes from her love of working as an advocate and mediator between artists and communities through public experience. Iman believes that, “Art shuts no doors,” and that creativity harnesses the ability to break through diversity and create a new language for change. She also endorses art’s ability to tackle bigger and more controversial topics, while still remaining ever expansive and approachable to all people.

She loves to spend her free time visiting nature sites around Atlanta, going to local art events, traveling, dabbling in poetry and lounging around with her cat at home. 

Jéhan Òsanyìn

IN residence December 6 - December 20, 2018

Jéhan Òsanyìn is part of Creativity Connects Residency with Wolftrap and Institute for Child Success

Jéhan Òsanyìn.png

Jéhan Òsanyìn is a Seattle based storypoet and performer.  Yankee Pickney, where Jéhan was the playwright and solo performer premiered in March of 2017 at Theater Schmeater and as subsequently nominated for a Gregory Award.  Though it didn't win Jéhan took that as a sign that playwriting, performing, and producing their own work should remain a large part of their lives, and it has.  Current projects include: Obeahmxn (A commissioned story of West Indian sorcery, grief, and what lies beneath the misguided lies of previous generations), A Prisoner (a play loosely based on Alexander Pushkin's narrative poem A Prisoner in the Caucasus), The Theatre of Race: Performing Blackness which is a collaborative project based on the life of Joseph Bologne Le Chevalier de St. Georges, and finally a daily project of being an artist and human who leaves the house.  Sometimes it's a struggle. But that's ok. 

In 2013, Jéhan founded Earthseed a community development cooperative that uses theatre in Wild spaces to decolonize those spaces and the bodies that pass through them.  Currently she is exploring what it means to administrate a dream, but not facilitate it. That's an interesting process. 

In 2017 Jéhan was awarded GAP funding from the Artist Trust in order prepare Yankee Pickney for it's 2018-2019 tour of the US.  Jéhan was also awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Creativity Connects Performing Artist Fellowship for Seattle.  During the 2-week Artist Residency that is a part of that award Jéhan will develop a theatrical work that facilitates difficult conversations between families and their young children in community over a meal.

You may have seen Jéhan onstage as Clarice in Seattle Public Theater's The Liar, in Strawberry Theatre workshop's Rhinoceros,  as a Featured Poet at Rain City Poetry slam, storytelling with Ampersand Live! at The Moore, or writing at The Station coffee shop on Beacon Hill.  There's a project that Jéhan is thrilled about but can't discuss openly yet. Stay tuned for that.  

The Bitter Southerner

In residence February 6, 2018


The Bitter Southerner is a multimedia web magazine gathering stories from all over the South. 

"If you are a person who buys the states’ rights argument … or you fly the rebel flag in your front yard … or you still think women look really nice in hoop skirts, we politely suggest you find other amusements on the web. The Bitter Southerner is not for you.

The Bitter Southerner is for the rest of us. It is about the South that the rest of us know: the one we live in today and the one we hope to create in the future."


In residence January 29 - January 31, 2018


WonderRoot is an arts organization that works to improve the cultural and social landscape of Atlanta through creative initiatives and community partnerships. The anchor of our organization is our Arts Center - a full-service facility that supports artists, offers public programming and brings diverse voices together to envision and activate a stronger Atlanta.

John Kessler


Kessler enrolled at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda and soon found jobs in kitchens, first in D.C. and then in Denver, where he and his wife moved in 1988. It wasn’t long before Kessler grew dissatisfied with Denver’s culinary scene, which was leagues behind D.C.’s, both economically and creatively. In 1990 he took up writing for Westword, the city’s alternative weekly, as its food critic. He’s been writing observations from the dining room ever since.

Over 18 years at the AJC, Kessler has written, by his count, 750 reviews. He helped champion the overlooked ethnic haunts along Buford Highway and called out chefs whose toques needed downsizing (in an open letter to the city’s chefs in 2011, he challenged all of them to up their game).

John is a four-time James Beard Award nominee and one-time winner.

Rubens Ghenov

In residence February 8 - February 22, 2018

Rubens is a 2018 artist-in-residence with Fuel & Lumber Project Residency, which will provide The Fuel & Lumber Company founders, Amy Pleasant and Pete Schulte—and a set of artists they select—the time and space needed to develop an exciting new exhibition to be installed in Whitespace Gallery in July of 2018. This Project Residency, designed to bring production and presentation together in one season, offers a rare opportunity to support artists and curators (and artists who are also curators) and to directly link our residency program with an Atlanta gallery.


The work of Rubens Ghenov lies at the intersection of fact and fiction where painting, storytelling and sound comprise the preponderance of his work. Both their vernacular and potential inexorably constitute the architecture of his praxis. As an immigrant turned naturalized citizen, Ghenov has become accustomed in localizing the past and the present in this precarious juncture where fact coupled with memory compose fiction. 

Within this nebulous triad, the work takes its form attempting to procure a form of poetry where all interests collide, conflate and concoct a work where the familiar assimilates and deliquesces into the abstract, and vice versa. A metabolism where fact slowly coalesces with or into fiction and the latter disassembles itself in verisimilitude and the invented. The vocabulary of self portraiture, still life and abstraction amalgamate, although remaining somewhat undissolved in the work to form another type of idiom, a kind of broken bilingual language.

Rubens Ghenov was born in São Paulo, Brazil and immigrated to the US in 1989. He received his MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2010. Ghenov has shown nationally in both solo and group exhibitions at Morgan Lehman Gallery (NY), Geoffrey Young Gallery (MA), TSA Brooklyn (NYC), Woodmere Art Museum (PA), and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA). In 2013, he co-curated with Dona Nelson the 72nd Annual Juried Exhibition at the Woodmere Art Museum. Ghenov has been featured in The Village Voice, Bomb Magazine, Title Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fuel & Lumber Company

In our collective past, most American towns had a fuel and lumber company to provide basic goods and services.  Believing art and culture to be among the needs vital to the health of any community, artists Amy Pleasant and Pete Schulte founded The Fuel And Lumber Company in Birmingham, Alabama to facilitate exhibitions and related programming in the Southeast and beyond. The Fuel And Lumber Company is an idea, not a traditional brick and mortar space, dedicated to contemporary art and community engagement.

Louisiana Pettway Bendolph

In residence July 5 - July 19; August 13 - August 27

Louisiana is the recipient of the 2018 Fiber Forward Focus Fellowship, awarded to an artist working in textiles.


Louisiana Bendolph is among the younger generation of quilt makers whose work was included in the national touring exhibition Gee’s Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt. She starts her process with a sketch and then moves into improvisation and innovation using bright, new fabrics. The resulting quilts are stunning abstractions. She has exhibited at the Addison Ripley Gallery in Washington D.C. and Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, Washington. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the U.S. Department of State, and the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies.

Jeff Whetstone

In residence august 5 - september 5, 2018

Jeff is the recipient of the 2018 CoEsistere Focus Fellowship, awarded to an artist of any discipline whose work explores human population growth and its impact on wildlife.


Jeff Whetstone was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and has been photographing and writing about the relationship between humans and their environment since he received a Zoology degree from Duke University in 1990. Whetstone received his MFA in photography from Yale University in 2001, and since then his work has been exhibited internationally. In 2007, Whetstone was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a body of photographs entitled New Wilderness. The following year he received the first Factor Prize for Southern Art. Since 2008, his work has been reviewed in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New Yorker Magazine, Time Out New York, Village Voice, and Art News, just to name a few. Whetstone first exhibited his video work in 2011 when his experimental narrative short, On the Use of Syrinx, premiered at the Moving Image Festival in New York. A second exhibition in 2011 at Julie Saul Gallery entitled Seducing Birds, Snakes and Men introduced Whetstone’s work in animation, 16mm film, and video to a wide audience. Whetstone is a 2012 recipient of a North Carolina Arts Fellowship in film and is a professor at the Art Department of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Mark Buller

In residence July 28 - August 11, 2018

Mark is the recipient of the 2018 Seikilos Focus Fellowship, awarded to a composer. 

Mark Buller 2.jpg

The music of composer Mark Buller has been performed around the country and internationally, in a variety of venues: Carnegie Hall, the Wortham Center (Houston), and Movimento (Munich), as well as further locations in Europe, South America, and Asia. He has been commissioned by a wide range of organizations, including Houston Grand Opera (for two 45-minute operas, as well as numerous art songs), the Houston Symphony, the AURA Contemporary Ensemble, Liminal Space Contemporary Ensemble, and Diverse Works ArtSpace. Buller was for two years a member of the Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program, for whom he composed around a dozen chamber works.

Buller was the winner of the 2010 Vanguard Voices Choral Composition Competition; the winning work, Sicut Cervus, is now published by Hinshaw Music and has been performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall. In 2014 Buller won the Sarofim Composition Award, for his third string quartet.

Recent performances include the premiere of his first opera, The Pastry Prince, commissioned by Houston Grand Opera; an arrangement of a Chinese song for pipa and string octet, commissioned by the Houston Symphony; Of Shrapnel and Blood, a war oratorio, by the Greenbriar Consortium; The Revolution Will Not be Televised, for percussion and piano, by the AURA Contemporary Ensemble; and the Concerto for flute, strings, percussion and celesta by flutist Aaron Perdue at Rice University.

Buller is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at the University of Houston, where he has studied with Marcus Maroney and Rob Smith. He previously studied with choral composer Dan Forrest.

Kate Hoefler

In residence June 16 - June 30, 2018

Kate is the recipient of the 2018 Little Shop of Stories Focus Fellowship, awarded to a picture book artist.

kate h.jpg

Kate Hoefler received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan, where she studied as a Colby fellow. She has taught writing courses at the University of Michigan, as well as at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kate's newest book, Great Big Things, a powerful tale about courage, determination and the wisdom to recognize the truly big things in life, is available through HMH Books for Young Readers. 

Jason Reynolds

In residence June 7 - June 21, 2018

Jason is 2018 Mulberry Street Focus Fellowship recipient, awarded to an artist whose work explores the experience of childhood and growing up.


Jason Reynolds was tricked into being a writer. For years his aunt would only give him books for Christmas, ranging from Huck Finn, to Moby Dick. Year after year she’d disappoint him with a gift-wrapped book. He’d force a smile, and when no one was looking, Jason would toss that year’s “bad gift” on the shelf with the rest of them. Until the sixth grade, when he discovered poetry. It was then that his world was opened, and he went back and started tearing through all the dusty, stiffened books his aunt had given him, suddenly grateful for every page. 

Jason went on to study at the University of Maryland where he earned a degree in English, with a concentration in Writing and Rhetoric. During his graduation, the commencement speaker made it clear in his speech that with an English degree, you could only teach or go to law school, but to be a writer was as far-fetched as they come.

Now, after having published four critically acclaimed books and co-authored another two, Jason was proclaimed "easily one of the most promising of Young Adult novelists in the market today" by NBC. Besides collecting starred-reviews, he is a New York Times bestselling author and was awarded the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent; was a Coretta Scott King Honoree twice, made it to the Time books of the year list, won the Kirkus Award, was a National Book Award finalist, and, in 2017, was an Odyssey and a CSK Honoree, a recipient of the Schneider Middle Grade award, and was named Indies First Spokesperson of the year.

Jason has been reviewed and profiled in The Washington Post, NPR books, Kirkus, Hornbook, School Library Journal, WNYC, Publisher’s Weekly, Poets & Writers, Gawker, mentioned as a standout in the Wall Street Journal, AM New York and Ebony Magazine. Reynolds is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing For Young People MFA Program, and currently resides in Washington DC. 

Amanda Torres

In residence April 6 - May 6, 2018

Amanda Torres is 2018 SWACC! Focus Fellowship recipient, awarded to a spoken word artist with a commitment to community and collaboration.

Photo by Lauren Miller

Photo by Lauren Miller

Amanda Torres is a loud laughing Mexican­ American writer, singer, teacher, and organizer who loves avocados. She has performed internationally, showcasing the first youth poetry slam in London and performed with such luminaries as Martin Espada. Originally from Chicago, Amanda has been teaching and performing spoken word for over twelve years in schools, juvenile detention centers, libraries, community centers and museums. She is a graduating alumni of Young Chicago Authors and co­founder of L@s Eloter@s, a socially engaged Latinx writing teachers collective. In addition to her teaching and performing, Amanda has led youth spoken word trainings and presentations across the US including the Oklahama Arts Institute and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Convention. She was a member of the Emerging Poets incubator held by the Poetry Foundation and Crescendo Literary. Upon arriving in Boston, Amanda co-­founded the Massachusetts Literary Education and Performance Collective (MassLEAP) which hosts Louder Than A Bomb Massachusetts, the largest youth poetry slam festival in the state, and served as poetry artist in residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston. Amanda is currently MassLEAP's Artistic Director and a Teaching Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Buddy Wakefield

In residence March 3 - March 17; October 21 - November 11, 2018

Buddy is 2018 Frances Focus Fellowship recipient, awarded to a storyteller with deep ties to the American South.

Photo by Kelley van Evert

Photo by Kelley van Evert

Buddy Wakefield is a three-time world champion spoken word artist featured on the BBC, HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, ABC Radio National and signed to Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. In 2004 he won the Individual World Poetry Slam Finals thanks to the support of anthropologist and producer Norman Lear then went on to share the stage with nearly every notable performance poet in the world in over 1500 venues internationally from The Great Lawn of Central Park, Zimbabwe’s Shoko Festival and Scotland’s Oran Mor to San Quentin State Penitentiary, House of Blues New Orleans and The Basement in Sydney, Australia.

In the spring of 2001 Buddy left his position as the executive assistant at a biomedical firm in Gig Harbor, WA, sold or gave away everything he owned, moved to the small town of Honda Civic and set out to live for a living, touring North American poetry venues through 2003. He has not yet stopped.

Having spent most of his career based in Seattle, WA, now claiming Los Angeles, CA as home, Buddy has been a busker in Amsterdam, a street vendor in Spain, a team leader in Singapore, a re-delivery boy, a candy maker, a street sweeper, a bartender, a maid, a construction worker, a bull rider, an incredibly slow triathlete and a facilitator at Quantum Learning Network. He loves peanut butter, power napping, chopping wood and Vipassana meditation. Wakefield is an actor, a writer, elated son of a guitar repair woman, wingman of Giant Saint Everything and pays attention.

An author at Write Bloody Publishing and an original Board of Directors member with Youth Speaks Seattle, Buddy is published internationally in dozens of books with work used to win multiple national collegiate debate and forensics competitions. Wakefield, who is not concerned with what poetry is or is not, delivers raw, rounded, disarming performances of humor and heart.

Adejoke Tugbiyele

In residence March 1 - March 15, 2018

Adejoke is 2018 Cedar Creek Focus Fellowship recipient, awarded to an AIR Serenbe alumni artist who will return for a residency with their family. Adejoke is returning from a 2014 residency with AIR Serenbe.


Adejoke Tugbiyele is an award-winning, queer, black artist and advocate. She was a featured participant in CultureSummit 2017-Abu Dhabi, is a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant, one of 100 Leading Global Thinkers in 2015, and a U.S. Fulbright Student Alumni. While a graduate student at Maryland Institute College of Art, Tugbiyele was awarded the Amalie Rothschild ’34 Rinehart Award in 2012 and the William M. Phillips ’54 Scholarship for Best Figurative Sculpture in 2013. 

Tugbiyele’s works are charged with symbolic meanings that bridge and layer historical, cultural and political ideas around race, gender and sexuality with that of class, economy, sex-politics and religion. They examine the role of religion in defining the way we view our bodies, as well as the subversive role spirituality can play in reclamation towards healthy forms of self-love and acceptance. Tugbiyele works with a diverse range of materials including wire, natural fibres, fabric and wood to create intricate sculptures, which are on occasion integrated into moving performances. She engages ideas about matriarchal forms, systems and strategies in response to patriarchal frameworks; blurring the lines between the dual nature of masculinity and femininity. The concept of duality resonates strongly in her weaving of natural and industrial materials as it dances around natural and artificial light.

Tugbiyele’s work can be found in the corporate and public collections of Credit Suisse Bank, The Brooklyn Museum, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, The Newark Museum, Sugar Hill Capital Partners and in significant private collections in Australia, China, Germany, Nigeria, South Africa, The United Kingdom and the United States. Her work has been mentioned and reviewed in leading publications around the world and she has sat as a distinguished panelist within reputable institutions in the United States and beyond. In 2002, she received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and in 2013, graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Maryland Institute College of Art.

Nelson Patton

In residence September 5 - September 18, 2018

Nelson Patton are a 2018 artist-in-residence duo with Transient Project Residency, a collaboration between AIR Serenbe and ArtsATL. The Transient Project Residency supports musicians and composers to explore new directions in their work.

Nelson Patton.jpg

Nelson Patton is an experimental duo of looped trombone (Dave Nelson) and drums & Moog bass pedals (Marlon Patton). The result is a sound that is greater than the sum of its parts as the two musicians continue to layer and develop motifs into elaborate textures and interlocking grooves. Nelson Patton's full-length debut was recorded in Dave's personal studio in upstate New York over three days and features Lonnie Holley on vocals. The eleven songs on the album, edited from dozens of improvised pieces, reflect the spirit of their expansive live shows. 

"We stayed true to the improvisatory spirit of the project while making this record, and I'm really glad we did," says Dave Nelson, trombonist of Nelson Patton, about the duo's new album, "Along The Way". "We were able to spend a few days jamming at my studio, freely exploring new sounds and textures, and capturing it all in real time. That type of spontaneous and unfiltered improvisation is our favorite part of what we do live, so we thought 'why not record a bunch of stuff like that for this record?' It's the kind of thing we've been wanting to do for a long time."

That spirit of unrehearsed creativity was continued when the opportunity arose to collaborate with Lonnie Holley. Widely celebrated for his visual art, Lonnie just recently began releasing music even though he's been singing and recording himself for many years. His music and lyrics are improvised on the spot and evolve with every new performance, an approach that works perfectly with Nelson Patton's music. "Lonnie came into the studio and would listen to like 30 seconds of a track and say, 'I've got it!' and then run into the booth and all these beautiful ideas would just start pouring out of him in real time," says Marlon. "It was amazing to watch him work."

Both successful sidemen and session players, Dave Nelson (The National, David Byrne/St.Vincent, Sufjan Stevens) and Marlon Patton (Jim White, Larkin Poe, Lera Lynn) joined forces in 2013 to form Nelson Patton as a creative outlet. Dave’s use of the loop pedal as a minimalistic compositional tool recalls influences of Brian Eno and Steve Reich, and Marlon’s intricate drumming and Moog bass add dynamic punctuation, channelling John Bonham and Max Roach.

Charles Bardes

In residence February 23 - February 26, 2018

Charles Bardes is the winner of the 2018 New Georgia Arts Literary Achievement
Award. The prize honors a writer who exhibits exceptional talent on the printed page, as well as meaningful social commitments on the public stage.

Charles Bardes.jpg

Charles Bardes is a practicing physician whose most recent book, Diary of Our
Fatal Illness (University of Chicago, Phoenix Poets, 2017) is an extended prose poem
that narrates an aged man’s illness and death. Other poems, essays, and ruminations have appeared in Agni, Great River Review, Literary Imagination, The New England Journal of Medicine, Ploughshares, Proto, Raritan, and scattered anthologies. Pale Faces: The Masks of Anemia (Bellevue Literary Press, 2008) is an extended lyric essay on the cultural and mythological underpinnings of a common disease construct.

Bardes is Professor of Clinical Medicine and Associate Dean at Weill Cornell
Medical College. He lives in New York City and Ghent, New York with his wife, the
visual artist Barbara Kilpatrick.