Skip navigation





The Partners for the Arts Emerging Artists Award are meaningful awards that support students wishing to explore uncharted territories. The 2020 Emerging Artist award recipients are:


Anthony Chris BrownAnthony Chris Brown

Media and Entertainment Arts

Chris Brown is a Media and Entertainment Arts (Sound and Recording Arts) major in the School of Communication with a minor in theatre. Brown, a current Ronald E. McNair Scholar, is involved in co-curricular activities and serves in several leadership roles. He is currently the president of the Golden Eagle Sound and Production crew, the secretary of the Southern Miss Association of Black Journalist, secretary of USM Student Media, and is also an active member of Grammy U by The Recording Academy and the Audio Engineering Society.

Last semester, Brown directed, hosted and produced a show called Black People 101. The first episode featured the Hi-Hat Club here in Hattiesburg, which is a musical goldmine where artists such as James Brown, B.B. King, Otis Redding along with many others played. The Hi-Hat Club is also part of The Mississippi Blues Trail, an ongoing project of the Mississippi Blues Commission. Another of Brown's episode featured Miss Osceola McCarty, who is famous for donating her life savings to our University and was nationally recognized for her generosity.

As a McNair scholar, Brown is currently researching blues music. His research topic will be titled, “Is Blues on Life Support?,” and he is starting from the stables in the Mississippi Delta blues with artists such as David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Robert Johnson, and Muddy Waters. From the foundation that these three artists made, he’ll go into depth about how the genre evolved, grew in popularity, and question if it's declining in today’s time. 

Brown said, “I’ve gotten to talk very briefly with blues historian and author, Gayle Dean Wardlow, who lectured at the Mississippi Arts + Entertainment Experience, where he talked about blues artists and how he was one of the people to do in-depth research on their lives.” Adding that he also played songs, as examples to the diverse styles of the genre.



Chase RomansChase Romans


Chase Romans is a Music Education major who grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Chase serves as the head drum major for The Pride of Mississippi (The Pride) and is an active member in the Southern Miss Saxophone Studio. 

“The Pride of Mississippi is by far one of the best organizations I have worked with,” said Romans. “The staff and students in The Pride have created a feeling that I belong at this University and I can call it my home.”

Romans added, “My favorite moments with The Pride have been participating in our football games at The Rock. Performing in the stands and on the field and providing music to the crowd is exciting and it gives the whole band a chance to showcase our work.”

Romans also commended his colleagues, “Not only do I learn more about how to be a good leader, but I also learn much more about the people and the staff I get to work with on a daily basis—many lasting friendships and connections have emerged.”


Danielle WatsonDanielle Watson


Jamaican soprano, Danielle Watson, currently pursuing her Master of Music degree at Southern Miss and studying under the tutelage of Dr. Kimberley Davis, delves into her musical journey and career goals.

“My vocal journey as a soprano at USM has been an enlightening experience,” said Watson. “I have come to discover many unique aspects of my voice and the things I can accomplish using it. With that said, my ultimate goal is to open a music school for the Fine Arts in Jamaica, and create a transfer and recruitment program for those students who like to study abroad, as I have been privileged to experience.”

Watson added, “On the path to my ultimate goal, my aim is to gain as much knowledge and experience touring and performing on a variety of opera theatre stages all over the world.” 

Watson has assumed several roles in USM productions, including Adina in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore and Sophie in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, and has appeared in multiple opera productions done by the Natchez Festival of Music. Watson’s most recent performance was in the dress rehearsal for USM Southern Opera and Theatre Company’s Showbiz: A Century of Showtunes.

Watch her moving duet called “If I Loved You” from the musical Carousel with student, David Walker. 


Matthew SnellgroveMatt Snellgrove


Matt Snellgrove is a junior in the B.F.A. program for Theatre with an emphasis in costume design and technology. Snellgrove aspires to one day pursue his career as an artist in New York City and bring accurate representation to marginalized or underrepresented communities. He is also a staunch advocate for Theatrical Intimacy Education and is interested in how it can be applied to the world of costume design.

“I have goals of completing my studies at USM and finding work with a professional company for a year or two before applying to graduate school for costume design. I would like to continue to study queer history, while learning about other minority groups," said Snellgrove. "After graduate school, I plan to move to New York City to pursue my dream of living as a freelance costume designer, and along the way, I plan to fight for equal representation both on and off the stage," he added.

Sellgrove’s artistic statement highlights what art means to him:

“Art is taking your views on life and transposing them onto something that everyone can study and learn from. I may be a costume designer, but I am also an educator, a collaborator, and a leader. My art is my own, but it is also the property of the public. Why strive for the bare minimum, when I have the responsibility to make the world a better place?”


Cayson MilesCayson Miles


As a playwright, Cayson Miles focuses on showing audiences queer stories that are empathetic, emotional, real, and not the stereotypical depiction that can be displayed in theatrical spaces.

Miles said, “Theatre as an art form is something that allows the audience to connect with situations and characters outside of their normal realm of perception, and it is the playwright’s job to facilitate this connection in their script.” 

Miles is the recipient of the John Cauble Award for Outstanding Short Play for region four of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival 2020 for his short play The Waves, and his play Wax People with Real Hearts was also selected as a finalist in the ten-minute category of this same festival. In 2018, Cayson was the runner-up for Mississippi Theatre Association's Best Adult Playwright. 

In his short play, The Waves, he used the stage directions as a character and as the driving force behind the play. His main character, Michael, wrestles with mental health, so a dialogue begins between him and the stage directions of the play. Miles sheds the light on his own mental health struggles, and hopes the play is relatable with audience members who may be dealing with the same thoughts.

Miles is a junior pursuing a B.A. in Theatre with a minor in English. Cayson is an active student leader, serving as the leader of Writers @ Play, a playwriting group, PRISM in Theatre, an LGBT theatre group, and Treasurer of Alpha Psi Omega. He is also an active member in Skip the Script Improv Troupe, USM Lit Games, and Stand-Up USM, and a Southern Miss Honors College student.


Mary ChristensenMary Christensen

Center for Writers

Mary L. Christensen, Ph.D. candidate in the Center for Writers at Southern Miss, has recently been working on a series of persona poems that dissect the popular “Final Girl” trope. This trope, common in horror films, uses a young female character to further the plot. 

“Not only does Final Girl survive the film’s villain, but she is a symbol for what is socially admirable,” Christensen said. Through Final Girl, Christensen incorporates both her feminist beliefs and personal subject matter. As she describes the poems in this series, Christensen mentions they vary in form, from wedding her “old” writing style to the more current, highlighting that her writing occupies the liminal, currently in a period of transition, self-examination, and growth.  

Christensen has lived in southwest deserts, in kudzo-infested Appalachia, the PNW, and currently resides in Mississippi. Christensen is Managing Editor of The Swamp Literary Magazine. Her work can be found in Permafrost, Driftwood Press, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Sugar House Review, among others.

The 2019 Emerging Artist award recipients are:

Emilee FitzgeraldEmilee Fitzgerald

Art and Design 

Emilee Fitzgerald, art and design student majoring in sculpture and a minor in graphic design, uses her work to cope with her symptoms of mental illness and ADHD. Fitzgerald has always been interested in depicting emotions and shedding light through her artwork.

Fitzgerald described her latest project titled “Deficit:”

“The piece is a shelve on a wall, with six compartments. Each compartment holds an experience from my life or visualizes a symptom. This piece embodies how I feel and is meant to be relatable to its audience.” To create this piece Fitzgerald used found objects, wood, paint, and clear candle wax. She is always exploring different materials to use, and is drawn to woodworking, iron pouring, and transforming found objects.

Fitzgerald will attend a conference for iron pouring and will purchase supplies for future sculpture projects.


Rachel FowlerRachel Fowler

Creative Writing 

Rachel Fowler is pursuing her Ph.D. at the USM Center for Writers. Fowler has been published in Deep South Magazine and Ant Farm Journal, named the winner of a Prime Number Magazine Flash Fiction Contest, named a finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers, and nominated for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Intro Journals Project. Currently, she serves as an Associate Editor of Mississippi Review.

Fowler will build a collection of experiences to draw from while she studies abroad this summer with the British Studies Program on Gothic Victorian Literature to continue writing her collection of short stories, Mother Static. Her short stories focus on characters affected by music, visual art, or performance, so she plans on attending a play, two classical concerts, two museums, and a contemporary sound art performance for inspiration.

Averi Mazur Averi Mazur


Averi Mazur is a sophomore majoring in performance and choreography. Mazur is originally for Oklahoma and danced at a local studio for eight years before moving to Hattiesburg to continue pursuing her education. It is because of the support of faculty along with the education, and hard work that Mazur is able to make connections in the dance world.

Mazur’s artistic statement highlights the significance of connecting with others through movement: “Valuing the ability to connect through movement has always been at the forefront of my dancing platform. Finding a connection, a common energy within myself or another human is single handedly the most genuine connection someone can experience. In my choreography, it is the power behind a simple movement that allows the audience to be welcomed into their own minds, without speaking a single word.”

With this financial support from Partners, Mazur plans to attend a dance conference in Denver, Colorado.

Rodrigo Lara AlonsoRodrigo Lara Alonso


Rodrigo Lara Alonso is a third year Ph.D. student in Music Education, as a student of Dr. Nicholas Ciraldo. He graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico before earning a master’s degree in Guitar from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and a performer diploma from IU-Jacobs School of Music. Rodrigo is the founder and director of Octeto Sicaru, a prize-winning guitar ensemble.

The Emerging Artists Award will support Lara Alonso’s trip to the Latin American Forum of Music Education (FLADEM) in Colombia, where he will be presenting his current research on the philosophy of music education in Latin America.

Claire BreniaClaire Brenia


Claire Brenia is a sophomore pursuing a BFA in Theatre Design and Technology and a minor in Art. Brenia has been studying art since her freshman year of high school. Through art, she found her way into theatre by painting sets for her high school theatre’s productions. From there, she took on set design, costume design, and even acting. Brenia is currently on a Scenic Design track and ultimately strives to be a scenographer.

This year, Brenia will be attending the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) with the hopes of finding a summer internship, so she can gain some real-world experience. To achieve this goal, she will work on her professional portfolio. Brenia will also purchase books and begin her own reference library that provides her with resources for both technical work and design inspiration. Brenia strives to create works through design that evoke critical thought, so audiences can experience, reflect upon, and grow from those reactions, and the Partners funds would ultimately cater to that whim. 

The 2018 Emerging Artist award recipients are:

Alex TownsendAlex Townsend

Art and Design 

Alex Townsend is currently working towards earning his B.F.A. in Drawing/Painting and Sculpture. Townsend has exhibited work nationally and will be featured in the national, group exhibition “In the Belly of the Beast: A Metal Casting Exhibition,” in Birmingham, Alabama May 4 - August 26, 2018.

The Emerging Artist Award will support Townsend’s artistry, as he’ll be purchasing materials to support his research of casting three dimensional forms in bronze. Townsend will be presenting the explored techniques of bronze casting during his senior capstone exhibition.

Nickalus RupertNickalus Rupert

Creative Writing 

Currently, Nickalus Rupert is a P.h.D. student at the USM Center for Writers, where he works as an associate editor for Mississippi Review. His fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming in such journals as Harpur Palate, Slice Magazine, The Literary Review, Passages North, Pleiades, Sonora Review Online, and Tin House Online, and can be found at Grist Online.

The Emerging Artist Award will support Rupert’s trip to The Bryan Museum in Galveston, Texas, where his novel Giants of the False Desert is loosely set. By Fall 2018, he hopes to have a final, publishable draft of the novel. After completing his degree, Rupert will pursue an academic career as a creative writing instructor and/or editor.

Gabriela SalazarGabriela Salazar


Gabriela Salazar began dancing at a local dance studio in Mobile at the age of six. Salazar joined Davidson High School’s dance company in her freshman year and it was there where she realized she wanted to pursue dance at the collegiate level. At Southern Miss, Reedy has had the pleasure of furthering her training—developing her own artistic voice and preparing to become an educator for future dance artists.

Salazar plans to use the Emerging Artist Award towards her trip to London with the British Studies program. During her visit, she’ll work on a dance film, which will be showcased in the British Studies Concert held by the Department of Dance at the beginning of Fall 2018.  

Guilherme OliveiraGuilherme Oliveira

School of Music

Guilherme Oliveira, Brazilian double bass player, began his D.M.A. in Performance and Pedagogy in 2017 with Dr. Marcos Machado. Oliveira has studied with many renowned bass players, like Milton Masciadri (EUA/URU), Michinori Bunya (GER/JAP), Joel Quarrington (CAN), and François Rabbath (FRA). In 2016, Oliveira was one of editors of the double bass book about left hand technique, TAO of Bass, written by Dr. Machado. In Brazil, his research named The Choice of Fingering in Double Bass Performance: A Study About the Process of Optimization of Schools Double Bass was selected for presentation at a Symposium on Music Research—SIMPEMUS 6.

Oliveira plans to use the Emerging Artist Award towards his trip to the 6th European Biennial Double Bass Congress & Festival, to be held at Institute of Musical Studies "Luigi Boccherini," where he will present his research to the European bass community. Oliveira will also have the opportunity to take masterclasses from international leading double bass players and be one of the many to grow the world's bass culture. 

Payton ReedyPayton Reedy
Theatre Program

Payton Reedy, a senior pursing a B.A. in Theatre with an emphasis in Performance and Set Design and a B.F.A. in Graphic Design, is a student leader and an active member of the Southern Miss Honors College, Chi Omega Sorority, Student Government Association, Alpha Psi Omega, and Art and Design’s Creative Collective. This semester, Reedy was the assistant set designer for Brecht’s Galileoand performed in the Three Short Plays by David Ives showcase.

Reedy has been working on her Honors Thesis focused on movement exploration in theatre, and the Emerging Artist Award will aid her efforts in gathering research and setting up a showcase for this creative project. Reedy will be able to buy needed movement books and gather materials needed to complete her thesis project.  


The Emerging Artist Awards are possible thanks to the Partners for the Arts Endowment (Legacy Membership). Visit to join or renew your membership!