First Wave alum Ajanaé Dawkins selected as artist in residence at Taft Museum of Art

UW–Madison alumna Ajanaé Dawkins has been selected as the 2022 Duncanson Artist-in-Residence by the Taft Museum of Art in Ohio after a national search.

Ajanae Dawkins headshot
Ajanae Dawkins (’18)

Dawkins is a poet, performer, and educator who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2018 as part of the 7th cohort of First Wave scholars. As the Taft’s 35th artist in residence, she will lead public programs, teach workshops, and visit schools in the Cincinnati area from April 10–23.

Dawkins has performed at venues across the country, including opening for the U.N. Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict and for poet Nikki Giovanni. Her work has been published in the EcoTheo Review, The BreakBeat Poets Black Girl Magic Anthology, The Offing, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Winter Tangerine, The Blueshift Journal, Voicemail Poems, The Underscore Review, Word Riot, Gramma Poetry, and other anthologies and journals. Dawkins’ work has also been featured on For Harriet, Def Jam, and Button Poetry and in EBONY Magazine for the “Faces of Frustration: A Year of Racial Protest.”

Currently, Dawkins is a fellow of The Watering Hole writer’s retreat for African American writers and of Pink Door Writing Retreat. She is also an editor for Voicemail Poems, the 2020 Nancy Craig Blackburn Fellow as an MFA candidate at Randolph College, and an Alford Scholar as an M.Div. candidate at Methodist Theological School of Ohio.

Over the last 15 years, UW–Madison’s First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Learning Community has become a nationally prominent scholarship program known for pushing the boundaries of poetry, dance, theater and art. It is the first and only such program of its type in the country. Students pursue their creative potential through a focus on three pillars: academics, activism and art.

The Taft’s Duncanson Artist-in-Residence was established in 1986 by the Robert S. Duncanson Society (founded by Doris Rankin Sells, the late William Joel McCray, and Ruth K. Meyer) to affirm an ongoing African American presence within the structure of the Taft Museum of Art. The program honors the relationship between African American painter Robert S. Duncanson and his patron, Nicholas Longworth, who commissioned Duncanson to paint a series of eight landscape murals in the foyer of his home, now the Taft Museum of Art.