Introducing the 2021 Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellows

It is with great excitement that we introduce the 2021 Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellowship recipients, at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA). The Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellowship is a fund that gives Stanford Undergraduates the opportunity to spend a summer working full time in the arts with a focus on racial/social justice. This program is named and funded in memory of Lyric McHenry, Stanford class of 2014. While at Stanford, Lyric interned at IDA, majored in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and performed in and directed a number of theater productions. Lyric’s appreciation for the effect of the arts in the fight for social justice propelled her dedication to writing and producing. 

We are excited to introduce IDA’s cohort of 2021 Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellows. Please join us as we celebrate Tyra Blackwater (’22), Alexander Feliciano Mejía (’22), Sierra Porter (’22), Doris Rodriguez (’21) and Benny Siam (’21). We wish them great success in their summer internships. Please read below for more!

Tyra Blackwater (she/they) is a multidisciplinary creative whose work includes film, beading, acting and sculpture. They are from the Navajo Reservation and are inspired by their relations and love for their homelands. Tyra is a community based artist and openly shares the knowledge she has learned in community with others.

Tyra will use the Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellowship to work with Indigenous Goddess Gang, an online community platform and magazine which shares medicine through poetry, food, seed knowledge, herbalism, music and more. The organization works to reclaim knowledge from an Indigenous femme lens, and Tyra will help to develop and steward that knowledge using the organization’s online magazine to provide visibility for this crucial work. In addition, Tyra also co-curates a column called For Our Relatives which showcases Indigenous, queer and/or two spirit art, existence, and beauty.

Alexander Feliciano Mejía (he/they) is a doctoral candidate in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) program at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. His research interests are centered on language, identity, diaspora, and labor. His guiding research question has been: How do Indigenous Guatemalan youth develop language and identity at school, at work, and in the neighborhoods of East Oakland? While Alex’s research started off focused on language, education, and identity, questions of everyday aesthetics, sound, and dance have emerged as central to answering that question. As part of the Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellowship, Alex will be collaborating with the community based Indigenous cultural organization Movimiento Cultural de la Unión Indígena, with the collaboration of Henry Sales, leader in the Maya-Mam community in Oakland. The two will work together within the community to create film and installation based works amplifying Maya-Mam cultural practices in the diaspora.

Sierra Porter (she/her) is a producer, dramaturg, and performer majoring in Human Biology. Her portfolio includes the TAPS production of To Wake the Air, Revival , StageCast, and Godot Has Come, and Ram’s Head’s Spring Show production of Heathers: The Musical. This summer she will be working with The Fire This Time Festival, an Obie Award winning festival for Black playwrights. Since 2009, The Fire This Time Festival has produced the work of close to 100 Black playwrights—for many this was their irst production ever. The festival’s core mission is to expand awareness of the vast spectrum of the Black experience. Working with professional creative directors, producers, and writers, Sierra hopes to develop her professional skills, collaboration skills, and writing. She will receive playwriting mentorship from the festival and will work to develop a new play. Sierra’s goal is to develop a work that can be produced at Stanford and beyond. Through the Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellowship, Sierra hopes to support Black creatives as they share their art and stories, and pursue a career full of passion and love.

Doris ‘Dory’ Rodriguez (they/them) is a designer and visual artist majoring in Science, Technology and Society. Their fashion designs exist at the intersection of gender inclusion, sustainability and queer joy. As a former FSI Global Policy Fellow at the Habibie Center in Indonesia, Dory has experience researching human rights with a focus on the fashion industry. They learned about how fast fashion utilizes environmental racism— through the pollution of rivers by factories, and exploitative labor practices— to create the world’s clothing in such excess. During their fellowship, Dory will apprentice with a group of local seamstresses to help develop their skills in garment construction and sewing. They will also conduct oral interviews, learning more about the working conditions, wages and overall life of garment factory workers in Miami. Dory will use their skills in the social sciences to conduct a thematic analysis of the interviews, and then will create a final visual art project of textiles and garments created alongside visual collages of quotes and pictures of them in the process of creating. Dory’s work will highlight seamstresses as artists in the community and the racialized discourses of how certain labor is valued.

Benny Siam (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist dedicated to the transformative potential of decolonization, radical love, and abolitionism. They are majoring in Art Practice and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, with a minor in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Through photographic intervention, photo collage, and abstract painting Benny explores the deeply private yet simultaneously public act of being non-binary. Benny is interested in creating community especially amongst trans/queer people of color through the workshop and gallery spaces. This summer as part of the Lyric McHenry Community Arts Fellowship, Benny will be receiving mentorship from LA-based trans artist Cassils, a former Stanford Visiting Artist, whose work is rooted in an analysis of physicality and the material of performance. Benny will be a studio assistant supporting the artistic and administrative tasks of the studio. While there, they hope to gain a better understanding of what work as a professional artist looks like, how to secure grant funding, and other pedagogical principles rooted in the artist’s social practice.