MFA|EDA Alina Taalman Named Inaugural Cassilhaus Travel Fellow

The Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship, made possible through a partnership between Cassilhaus, the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts (MFA|EDA), and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (CDS), was created with the idea that travel can be transformative in the life of an emerging artist. The biennial $10,000 fellowship, funded by Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus of Cassilhaus, supports recent Duke University MFA|EDA graduates in their artistic research and practice beyond the traditional educational environment for an eighteen-month period.

“Working so closely with the students in the Duke MFA|EDA program has been an exceptionally rich experience for us,” say Cassilly and Konhaus. “We hope that this travel fellowship can help a recent graduate in their artistic explorations.”

The recipient of the inaugural Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship is Alina Taalman (Class of 2015), who will be traveling to Estonia to “make a film that explores my Estonian family history, which has always been broken into fleeting narratives,” she writes. “Both of my parents have Estonian roots. My mother’s father sailed from Estonia at an early age and spent most of his adult life on the water, from the Baltic Sea to the Hudson Bay. Ship flags, nautical charts, and fragments of homesick letters have left us with just trace evidence of his experiences on the water. . . . My own father left Estonia on a boat for the United States many years later. . . . I am hoping to explore the Estonian islands, combining older forms of navigation used by my grandfather with modern mapping techniques. With this travel grant, I will be applying for multiple artist residencies in Estonia, which if accepted could help me in my work, including an Arts and Innovation Residency on the island of Muhu, and one housed in the printing museum in downtown Tartu.” Alina is also planning on spending time on the island Saaremaa, where her great-grandfather was a writer, teacher, and photographer.

“We are thrilled that Alina Taalman has been awarded the first Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship for her thoughtful Estonia project and are particularly excited that she will be seeking to include an artist residency component,” Ellen Cassilly and Frank Konhaus said of the announcement. “This Fellowship honors our parents as great champions of both education and travel. We believe extended travel has a unique power to educate, enrich, and transform people and take them places far beyond the point they initially disembarked. We feel fortunate to have the MFA|EDA and the Center for Documentary Studies as partners in this adventure.”

Taalman’s fellowship will begin in August and will culminate with a public presentation in Durham in spring 2018. Guidelines for the next Cassilhaus Travel Fellowship competition will be available in spring 2018.

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Needles from my grandfather’s ship. Photograph by Alina Taalman.

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