FilmNorth is pleased to announce the four artists selected to receive the 2017 McKnight Fellowships for Media Artists. This year’s fellows are Rini Yun Keagy of St. Paul, Naomi Ko of Savage, and Keri Pickett and Brennan Vance of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Out of a field of 61 applicants, the four fellows were chosen by a national panel of media artists and curators: documentary filmmaker Selina Lewis Davidson, from San Francisco; television writer Dawn Comer Jefferson of Los Angeles; and film curator Dean Otto, of the Speed Museum in Louisville.

“Every year the panelists tell us that they are impressed, and even surprised, at the high quality of the work that comes out of Minnesota, and this year was no exception,” said Andrew Peterson, FilmNorth’s Executive Director. “The work from these four fellows is rich and varied, from dark comedy screenplays to political documentaries to metaphysical narratives. I’m also excited that, for the first time, three of the four fellows are women, underscoring the strength and depth of Minnesota talent in an industry, which has long been dominated by men.”

McKnightThe McKnight Fellowships for Media Artists support mid-career artists residing in Minnesota whose work is of exceptional artistic merit. The $25,000 fellowships will enable these four artists to study, reflect, experiment, and explore over a twelve month period with support and assistance from FilmNorth and the McKnight Foundation.

In addition to the cash award, the program supports its fellows by creating opportunities to meet with local and national art professionals, by organizing a year-end McKnight Retrospective featuring the fellows, by providing assistance to attend the annual Film Independent Forum in Los Angeles, and by offering special class and workshop opportunities through FilmNorth.

The fellowships are funded by a generous grant from The McKnight Foundation and administered by FilmNorth.


2017 McKnight Media Artist Fellowship Recipients

Keagy_McKnight_headshotRini Yun Keagy is a filmmaker and interdisciplinary artist based in the Twin Cities. Her moving image practice in video and 16mm film is multimodal and research-based. Drawn to philosophical questions, Rini investigates race and labor, disease, and sites of historical and psychological trauma. Her films are crossovers between cinema and art, fiction and documentary, narrative and non-narrative, abstraction and representation. Rini received her MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and has taught filmmaking at University of California Santa Cruz, University of the Arts, and Carleton College. Screenings and exhibitions of her work include: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow; Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Film Festival, Cellular Cinema, Flaten Art Museum, Minneapolis; REDCAT Gallery, Los Angeles; Souvenirs from Earth International TV Project, Cologne; Light Industry, Brooklyn; Raum für Projektion, Bergen, Olso, Buenos Aires; Mind TV/Media Independence, Philadelphia Film Festival, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Wits School of the Arts, Johannesburg; Festival Images Contre Nature, Marseille; Berlinale Talent Campus Editing Studio, Berlin.


KoNaomi_HeadshotNaomi Ko is a filmmaker, actor, and storyteller. She is a Moth StorySLAM winner, a featured performer for Mortified, and producer of The Comedy Comedy Festival: A Comedy Festival. In addition, Naomi writes for the stage and screen (and has ghostwritten the occasional romance novel.)  Her work has been supported by the Knight Foundation, the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, and the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans. Currently, Naomi is in development for multiple projects. One will premiere at the end of 2017.



Keri_Pickett_by_Karen_Einstein_CROPKeri Pickett is a producer, director & director of photography whose work focuses on family and community documenting those who seek to right a wrong, sharing stories of how one person can make a difference. Her award-winning documentary feature film FIRST DAUGHTER AND THE BLACK SNAKE documents environmental activist Winona LaDuke, her family and communities’ efforts to keep oil pipelines out of their sacred wild-rice lakes in Northern Minnesota. Her award-winning documentary THE FABULOUS ICE AGE is available streaming on Netflix, sub-titled into ten languages. Virgil Films & Entertainment distribute in all media DVD, Amazon, iTunes. Her short documentary film, ‘STEEL // SPIRIT features Movement Artist Yves Musard interacting with Richard Serra’s “Inside, Outside, 2013” at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City, NY.


vance_headshotBrennan Vance is a filmmaker based in Minneapolis. He recently served as cinematographer for Cecilia Aldarondo’s Memories of a Penitent Heart [Tribeca ’16] and The Weinstein Company’s Robert Klein Still Can’t Stop His Leg [SXSW 2016]. His work as a Director of Photography for Twin Cities PBS has earned him three Emmy Awards. Vance’s feature directorial debut The Missing Sun received a Jerome Foundation fellowship, was selected as part of the 2016 IFP Filmmaker Narrative Labs and recently premiered at the Wisconsin Film Festival and Ashland Independent Film Festival, where it was awarded a special jury prize.



McKnight Media Artist Profile Films


2017 McKnight Fellowships for Media Artists Selection Panel
There were three professionals who served as panelists, selecting four fellows from 61 total applicants.

Selina Lewis Davidson Co-founded GreenHouse Pictures, a documentary production company dedicated to telling diverse stories from a variety of perspectives that enlighten, educate and entertain. She has produced many theatrically released and nationally broadcast documentaries exploring a wide range of topics. Her films include: Hard Road Home (director: Macky Alston), which premiered on PBS, Independent Lens, and was nominated for an Emmy; Occupation: Dreamland (directors: Garrett Scott and Ian Olds), which won the Independent Spirit Truer than Fiction award, and aired on the Sundance Channel; George Ratliff’s critically acclaimed Hell House, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, won the San Francisco International Film festival, and was released theatrically by Seventh Art Releasing; Macky Alston’s Questioning Faith which aired on Cinemax/Reel life; and Family Name (director: Macky Alston), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Freedom of Expression Award. The film was also nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Programming after it aired nationally on the POV/PBS. Selina recently joined the board of directors for Loteria Films, producers of award winning documentaries including, Monumental, Better this World and The Return. Selina is currently consulting producer for Maya Washington’s Through the Banks of the Red Cedar and James Weeks’s Across The King’s River.

Dawn Comer Jefferson is an award winning writer, best known for the Fox animated family film, Our Friend, Martin, starring James Earl Jones, Oprah Winfrey, John Travolta and Susan Sarandon. Dawn started her career on the CBS family drama, Judging Amy, has freelanced on the highly rated NCIS, served as writer/consulting producer on MTV’s cult teen hit, South of Nowhere, and developed a drama pilot at NBC Universal Studios. For the last six years, Dawn has written Emmy winning live arts programming for PBS. In national print and online media, Dawn has written about children, families, and public policy issues for Garnet News, Working Mother Magazine, Fit Pregnancy Magazine, and MomsRising. She is co-editor of the nonfiction anthology, Three Ring Circus: How Real Couples Balance Marriage, Work, and Family, and co-wrote the African American historical children’s fiction, The Promise.

Dean Otto is the founding Film Curator at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY where he launched a new film department and oversaw the opening of a 142-seat state-of-the-art cinema in 2016. Prior to the Speed, he worked at the Walker Art Center for over 24 years in various positions from Program Manager to Associate Curator, Film/Video. In his 21 years in the Walker’s Moving Image Department he co-curated the exhibition The Parade featuring the work of Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg which toured to the New Museum and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, managed the international tour of the series Magnetic North at 17 sites, and coordinated the residencies of Arthur Dong, Cheryl Dunye, Christian Marclay and Craig Baldwin. He co-curated the Expanding the Frame series at Walker introducing audiences to new work by Bruce McClure, Daniel Barrow and Ben Russell and co-curated the Artists’ Cinema series which brought artists and curators to the Walker such as Gillian Wearing, Michael Robinson and Ed Halter. Otto organized many interdisciplinary programs such as the Summer Music & Movies series which has involved commissioning local bands to create new scores for silent films. He also created a number of partnerships with area universities to deepen the audience engagement with film. In addition, Otto co-curated MNTV, an annual series of work by Minnesota-based on Twin Cities Public Television. He curated the Walker’s Queer Takes program after serving as the programmer for the Minneapolis/St. Paul LGBT Film Festival for several years for Minnesota Film Arts.

About The McKnight Artist Fellowships
Founded on the belief that Minnesota thrives when its artists thrive, The McKnight Foundation’s arts program is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the country. Support for individual working Minnesota artists has been a cornerstone of the program since it began in 1981. The McKnight Artist Fellowships Program provides annual, unrestricted cash awards to outstanding mid-career Minnesota artists in 10 different creative disciplines. Program partner organizations administer the fellowships and structure them to respond to the unique challenges of different disciplines. Currently the foundation contributes about $1.7 million per year to its statewide fellowships. For more information, visit

About The McKnight Foundation
The McKnight Foundation, a Minnesota-based family foundation, seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations. Through grantmaking, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform, we attend, unite, and empower those we serve. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the foundation had assets of approximately $2.2 billion and granted about $87 million in 2016, of which about 11% was directed to support working artists to create and contribute to vibrant communities. Learn more at, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.