ISPA Fellowship programme: ones to watch

Each year, a group of 12-14 emerging arts leaders are selected to participate in the ISPA Fellowship programme, a series of career-related benefits and opportunities created in order to help outstanding individuals expand their international networks (not least by attending an ISPA Congress). 2014’s crop of talents was as diverse and exciting as ever – here, we pick out three names continuing to make waves in 2015 and, we think, very much ones to watch in the future.

eva_kesslova_sqEva Kesslová

Although still in the early stages of her career, Eva Kesslová has already travelled extensively and held a number of positions at interesting institutions. She started out studying the violin, but eventually decided that her future was in arts management. She began her studies in her hometown of Prague, and also spent time at Dartington in England as part of her course. A Fulbright Scholarship opened up opportunities in America, where she took a course in performing arts administration at New York University and also spent a summer working at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC. Now Kesslová is back in the Czech Republic, working with one the most exciting groups on the Czech music scene: Berg Orchestra, founded by conductor and artistic director Peter Vrabel in 1995, is devoted to promoting and performing classical music. Kesslová is responsible for making the classical cool, working on cross-genre projects that take their contemporary music into new places through collaborating on video art, theatre, film and pantomime productions. Their other main focus is promoting young Czech composers, finding ways to take them to the next level and exposing them to an international audience.


Aida Mbowa

A performance artist, filmmaker, arts organiser and activist, Aida Mbowa is a ISPA Fellow with many strings to her bow. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, but with Ugandan citizenship, Mbowa began her training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), gaining a Gold Medal acting level in 2003. Following additional studies at the LAMDA conservatory she moved to America, gaining a BA in Performance and Identity Studies at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, before earning a dual PhD in Drama and Humanities from Stanford University in California. Mbowa has twice represented Uganda at Sundance Theater East Africa Director’s Lab, has starred in short films like Missing (which she also co-wrote), and is now touring international film festivals. Aside from her filmmaking work, Mbowa organised the Kendu Hearth conference on innovation in theatre in Kampala, Uganda, and is a contributing arts journalist for Mail & Guardian Africa. Her dissertation Dialogic Constructions of a New Black Aesthetic: East Africa and African America, 1952-1979 looked at the aesthetic connections between the two regions, and she has also contributed articles to several critical anthologies.


Shoshana Polanco

Splitting her time between Buenos Aires, Mexico City and New York City, Shoshana Polanco is an arts manager with extensive experience of putting on big projects. Polanco started out as a performer, working on several theatre pieces before moving to NYC to work as an executive assistant at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), a position she held for six years. After leaving BAM she spent two years as production coordinator at Festival Internacional Musica y Escena in Mexico City, and became managing director at cross-platform theatre company The Builders Association. She was also director of production for the Zocalo event during the Mexico bicentennial, and has worked for Lincoln Center Festival, TeatroStageFest, Jay Scheib, ICE, and PS122 among others. Now an ISPA fellow, Polanco has taken on the role general producer of Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires (FIBA), the largest theatre festival in Argentina, and produces internationally for La Teatería.