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Monday, December 5,2011

Boulder dancer, professor receives $50,000 grant

Artist’s performance websites recognized by national association

By Steve Weishampel
Photo courtesy of Michelle Ellsworth
"Objectification Cabbage"
Considering how many hats she wears, it’s unclear exactly what stood out in Michelle Ellsworth’s repertoire. But something caught the attention of United States Artists (USA), a nonprofit that has selected the Boulder artist to receive a $50,000 unrestricted grant.

USA calls Ellsworth a “dancer, choreographer, video maker, writer, cartoonist, and web designer,” to which one could add professor and co-director of CU Boulder’s theater and dance program.

Ellsworth will receive a grant Monday for her work. She is one of 50 artists nationwide to receive the annual award.

Even months after learning she’d won — she found out in September — Ellsworth seems bewildered by the award.

“I feel very humbled and grateful,” she says. “I’m very shocked.”

She says the award means more than just money to her.

“It’s not just about the money. Someone’s saying, ‘I like what you’re doing. Do more.’”

Doing more might be difficult.

“If I could buy sleep units with the money, that’s what I would do,” Ellsworth says. She’s doing quite a lot already, she says, to constantly improve her art. She says she was “constantly unsatisfied” with her work before she decided to put the work first.

“At the end of the day, I could look myself in the mirror and say I did everything it asked,” she says. “I try to be very devout about my pieces.”

This dedication means lots of late nights — remember, she’d trade the money for sleep if she could — but it also means producing art she’s proud of.

Since sleep units are still in research and development, Ellsworth does have a few backup plans for her award.

“I’d like to help my son go to college,” she says. “And maybe put some into a retirement account.”

Ellsworth can relax. She can stop cutting her own hair. But unless her next piece paradoxically calls for her to take her foot off the gas, she won’t be letting up anytime soon.

Read more about Ellsworth’s work in the upcoming Dec. 8 issue of the Boulder Weekly.

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