Shaping the Cultural Fabric of our Country

John Paul Morabito, Assistant Professor and Head of Textiles at Kent State University’s School of Art, has been named a 2024 United States Artists (USA) Fellow in Craft. Morabito is one in a class of 50 awardees, which encompasses both artists and collectives from ten creative disciplines.

USA Fellows are selected based on their groundbreaking artistic visions, unique perspectives within their fields, and evident potential for the award to make a significant impact in their practices and lives. Artists are annually nominated to apply by a rotating committee of arts professionals from across the United States, with applications subsequently reviewed and awarded through a peer-led selection process in the disciplines of Architecture and Design, Craft, Dance, Film, Media, Music, Theater & Performance, Traditional Arts, Visual Art, and Writing.

USA Fellows, past and present, include contemporary artists who are canonically recognized as some of the most important in their disciplines.

Morabito works in the expanded field of weaving, and engages queerness, ethnicity and the sacred through the medium of tapestry reimagined in the digital age. They joined the School of Art faculty in 2022.

"I am thrilled for John Paul Morabito and the well-deserved honor of being awarded a prestigious USA Fellowship,” said Jillian Sokso, Director of the School of Art. “Their dedication to artistic excellence has not only enriched our academic community but also serves as an inspiration to aspiring artists. We take pride in their accomplishment and look forward to witnessing the continued impact of their artistic endeavors in both the School of Art and the broader artistic community."

Over the course of its history, fewer than 15 academically appointed artists working in fiber/textiles have been named USA Fellows. With this award, Kent State University is now one of only three textile programs in the country with a USA Fellow on faculty.

“My work outputs woven memorials that look toward a future-past horizon where one can exalt queer grace,” Morabito says of their work.

Morabito was recognized for their contributions within the field of contemporary art including their ongoing body of work, For Félix.


For Felix, textiles
Left to Right:
For Félix (can’t get you out of my head); 2023; Linen, wool, gold leaf thread, and glass beads; 92” x 47”;
For Félix (scarlet like the memory of you inside me); 2023; Cotton and glass beads; 88” x 46”; 
For Félix (yellow like the sky when the sun dies); 2023; Cotton and glass beads; 88” x 45”

I have been immured, completely, by the ghost of Félix González-Torres. Thus, I find myself compelled to retrace his movements with my own by rearticulating his beaded curtains through the embodied medium of craft. bell hooks has described González-Torres work as a pedagogy of mourning and I have become a disciple. I began following this direction in the spring of 2020 while under quarantine with the rest of the world. The terror of the AIDS crisis had come alive again, and it completely reoriented my studio. Engaging this pathway, I am threading horizontal connections between conceptual art and textile making. Drawing upon legacies of queer loss, For Félix responds to immediate politics while placing weaving in direct conversation with the larger concerns of contemporary art. 

I am not recreating the work of Félix González-Torres, the beaded curtains already exist and hold a place of meaning in the world. Rather, my retracing can be understood as a tangent that originates from the beaded curtains and then moves outward from there. In this series, brightly patterned handwoven textiles are removed from the loom before they are complete, leaving lengths of unwoven warps that are threaded with glass beads. For Félix realizes an aesthetic of splendor and dilapidation where decadently beaded sections are juxtaposed with raw threads to produce visual decay. Saturated color, sparkle, and visceral presence reorient these reflections of the past toward queer futurity. The tapestries enact queer form by focusing on the unwoven fringe rather than the body of the weaving. Occupying the space between tapestry and wall, the beaded fringe dangles in a state of liminality that is neither fully included nor separate from the textile. It is the queerest element of the weaving. From this orientation, For Félix is a border that retraces the beaded curtains of Félix González-Torres and their location in the passageways between one space and another. 

As we navigate a global pandemic, the time of AIDS has come again; I feel this in my body. I write these words as a queer person born during the early years of AIDS; although I was too young to have been on the front lines, I came of age and into my queerness in the shadow of a plague. My responding beaded tapestries function as a material love letter and a memorial to my queer ancestors who should be elders. These glittering forms sparkle with grief in a reminder that queer resistance happens in the space where joy and sorrow meet. 

For more information on John Paul Morabito:

For more information on the textile program in the School of Art:

About USA Fellowships

USA Fellowships are $50,000 in unrestricted money that the artists can use in any way they would like. In addition to the award, current Fellows have access to financial planning, career consulting, legal advice, and other professional services as requested.

Fellows are selected through a nomination, application, and review process. Each year, artists are anonymously nominated by a geographically diverse and rotating group of arts professionals to apply for the Fellowship. Applications are reviewed by discipline-specific panels for their artistic vision, contributions to the field, and the potential impact of the award on their practice. Panels recommend finalists for board approval. USA fundraises annually to make as many awards as possible.

Since its founding, the USA Fellowship program has awarded over $41 million to more than 850 artists thanks to our funders who understand the value of supporting artists unconditionally. We believe that by investing in artists, we are investing in the cultural and social fabric of our world, ensuring that their voices continue to enrich our lives and broaden our horizons.

For more information and to see the complete list of 2024 USA Fellows: United States Artists 2024 USA Fellows Press Release

About United States Artists

United States Artists plays a pivotal role in America’s cultural ecosystem, advancing the well-being of artists through unrestricted funding and tailored professional services, amplifying artists’ work, and improving conditions that support their essential roles in society. Founded in 2005 and based in Chicago, IL, United States Artists has awarded over 877 individuals with over $45 million of direct support across its flagship Fellowship program and its special Initiatives.

About the School of Art

The School of Art at Kent State University was established in 1941 and maintains a tradition of excellence in visual arts education, creation, scholarship, and leadership. Its undergraduate and graduate programs in the visual arts offer a range of directions and opportunities in the fields of art education, art history, and studio art, which includes a comprehensive array of studio disciplines: ceramics, drawing, glass, jewelry/metals/enameling, painting, print media and photography, sculpture and expanded media, and textiles. The School of Art Collection and Galleries consist of six exhibition spaces located on the Kent campus and downtown Kent and a collection of over 4,000 artworks and objects. The School of Art is located at the Center of the Visual Arts at 325 Terrace Dr. in Kent. The 27,900-square-foot facility — twice the length of a football field —had its grand opening in 2016 and houses all School of Art studios and classrooms under one roof.

For more information on Kent State University’s School of Art:

POSTED: Friday, January 26, 2024 10:16 AM
Updated: Tuesday, January 30, 2024 09:05 AM
Jen Crabtree