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UNCW Professor Receives Prestigious N.C. Artist Fellowship Award

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Written by Dave Monahan; Photo by Jeff Janowski

The North Carolina Arts Council has awarded a 2016 N.C. Artist Fellowship to Shannon Silva, an associate professor in the UNCW Department of Film Studies.

“We’re extremely proud of Shannon’s accomplishment” said Film Studies department chair Dave Monahan. “This honor recognizes an impressive record of achievement in a variety of creative roles across multiple expressive filmic approaches -- all of which she has used to train and mentor our students.”

N.C. Artist Fellowships are designed to support the creative development of North Carolina artists and the creation of new work. With only two awards in the Film/Video category, the fellowship is a prodigious honor. Silva will use the $10,000 award to fund the completion of her most recent film project, “Baby Oil.” The short narrative, set in 1978, focuses on two sisters stranded at a trailer in rural North Carolina during a severe storm. The film, shot this summer in Leland, NC, with a crew composed mostly of students, is currently in post-production.

Since her hire in 2006, Silva has directed and/or produced seven films that have all had successful runs in juried international film festivals. Most recently, she was the producer for the award-winning animated short film “cyberGenesis” (2014) and the narrative short film “Freestyle” (2014). In 2012, the feature-length documentary she directed, It’s A Girl Thing: Tween Queens and the Commodification of Girlhood, won “Best Social Justice Documentary” at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival. The documentary also played at twelve additional festivals, was presented at pop culture and sociology conferences around the world, and was purchased by five universities for their permanent library collections.

Silva’s projects often focus on giving voice to the lives of young women. While It’s A Girl Thing was directed at adults and focused on revealing the complications of marketing and consumerism for young girls, “Freestyle” looked at the effects of isolation and bullying among peer groups. Silva’s current film, “Baby Oil,” aims its lens at 2nd wave feminism and its complicated relationship with women living below the poverty line.

In addition to her personal film work, Silva is highly involved in supporting the work of other filmmakers and film scholars. She is the faculty supervisor for the UNCW Visions Film Festival and Conference and co-founder of the Wilmington Female Filmmakers Collective. At a time when less than 9% of the top 250 grossing films in Hollywood are directed by women, and only 12% of clearly definable protagonists are female, Silva argues that supporting the work of female directors is essential. “By encouraging our colleagues, our students, and other female filmmakers in our community to keep working, pushing, and leading, we are making sure that those stories get represented on screen,” she adds.

In 2017-18, the N.C. Arts Council will be arranging an exhibition of work created by the seventeen visual, craft and film/video 2016 Artist Fellowship winners. The fellowship will also be providing Silva the opportunity to attend a workshop with the Creative Capital Foundation, an innovative, artist- centered grant-making organization in New York that has pioneered a strategic planning curriculum that it has shared with artists around the country. Asked about the fellowship Silva said, “I cannot express how thankful I am for this award and opportunity. To be the first filmmaker in our program to receive the fellowship is a huge honor. It will have a marked impact on my work over the next few years and I could not be more grateful.”

For more information about the North Carolina Arts Council and its support services for artists and arts organizations visit: