Four members of the Butler community—Karen Thickstun MM ’91, Lisa Whitaker, Miho Sasaki MM ’05, and Michael Johnson ’96—have been awarded $10,000 Creative Renewal Fellowships by the Arts Council of Indianapolis. Fellows use the grant for activities they believe will refresh their creativity and recharge their work.

Thickstun has taught piano pedagogy and piano at the School of Music since 1996. In 2002, she became founding director of the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), which offers high-quality arts instruction to the general community. BCAS serves around 2,000 children in the community annually and also provides Butler students with diverse teaching experiences. Thickstun supervises and mentors over 100 Butler students each year as they engage with the community through arts instruction in music, dance, theatre, and art.

For her fellowship project, Thickstun plans to learn a new art form (photography) and then apply her knowledge through the exploration of photogenic scenery in the Hawaiian islands. A long-time teacher, Thickstun proposes to learn photography by taking lessons with a college student and thus experience the BCAS dynamic from a different perspective.

“I am grateful that this fellowship program includes arts administrators, and recognizes their essential role in sustaining our rich arts community,” she said.

Whitaker has worked at Butler University for nearly 28 years. She came to the university in August 1989 as the Assistant Box Office Manager for Clowes Memorial Hall, then subsequently moved into the position she holds now as Business Manager for Clowes in March 2006.

She plans to use the fellowship to do what she loves best: traveling, writing, and photography.  During her travels, she has hope of connecting with other arts business professionals to compare the processes at their venues.

Sasaki, a composer-pianist who earned her Master of Music from Butler, has been on the faculty of the Butler University Community Arts School since 2015 and the innovative Little Mozarts program, also known as Little Bulldogs, for talented young performers and composers. She has also performed concertos with orchestras across the United States.

Johnson earned his degree in Arts Administration with Concentration in Dance, then joined the Boston Ballet, performing corps, soloist and principal roles from 1996 to 2005. He is Founder and Chief Executive Director of Indianapolis-based Kids Dance Outreach, which was created to bring high-quality arts education and performance opportunities directly to children.

The Arts Council convened a national panel of arts professionals to adjudicate the applications and select the 30 fellowship recipients. Since its inception, the Arts Council has awarded more than $3.35 million in grants to 400 fellows. Grants are awarded on a biennial basis and funded through a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.


Media contact:
Marc Allan