April Dobbins, a graduate student in the motion pictures program, was recently presented with a $20,000 award from the S. J. Weiler Fund, a private foundation that honors the work of mid-career artists. The award is made in recognition of individual artistic achievement and creativity, as well as significant contributions to the arts community.

The award is by nomination only, and a selection committee comprised of influential art figures chooses awardees. The 2014 selection committee included Andrea Grover, David Levi Strauss, Joshua Mack, Amy Sadao, Zoe Strauss, Julianne Swartz, Mickalene Thomas and Susan Weiler.  

A half-time student in the M.F.A. program, Dobbins works full time as a writer in UM’s Division of University Advancement. She is also a single parent.  Her daughter, Imani, often accompanies her to events such as the Canes Film Festival, screenings and lectures.

“The money could not have come at a better time,” Dobbins says.  While doing pre-production for her first short film, “Cutter,” Dobbins was anxious about finding funding for the project. “After the first pre-production meeting, I just had this sinking feeling. I had an awesome team, but I just didn’t have the money for a film,” Dobbins says. The notification letter came the very next day. “I went home that night and cried,“ says Dobbins. “I knew that I would be able to make my vision a reality.”  Dobbins plans to use these funds to participate in the 2016 study abroad program in Greece, which provides students with the opportunity to crew on a feature film.

Dobbins received the award for her ongoing documentary photography project Alabamaland, which centers on her grandfather’s 688-acre farm in central Alabama and examines the lives and histories of black Southerners in rural Alabama.

Photographs from the series have been published in a number of magazines and journals, including Transition Magazine, a Harvard University publication. Last year, she was invited to show her work at the New York Times Portfolio Review, which was organized by Lens, a New York Times photojournalism blog. Dobbins has been invited to present at a TEDx event next month, where she will discuss Alabamaland.

To learn more about April, please visit her website: www.aprildobbins.com

To read the Transition Magazine article, please click this link: http://www.caineprize.com/pdf/2013_Folarin.pdf