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Residency dedicated to life of professor welcomes 2023 cohort

Sunlit+Residency+hosts+short-term+residencies+for+accepted+applicants+to+pursue+passion+projects.+The+program+resides+in+the+former+home+of+Sue-Je+Lee+Gage+who+died+in+May+2020.
Courtesy of Kimberly Kurdelak Beer
Sunlit Residency hosts short-term residencies for accepted applicants to pursue passion projects. The program resides in the former home of Sue-Je Lee Gage who died in May 2020.

Almost a year after hosting its first cohort in summer 2022, the Sunlit Residency in Ithaca is preparing to welcome its summer 2023 cohort of artists, writers, scholars and activists.

Sunlit Residency hosts short-term residencies for accepted applicants to pursue passion projects centered around themes like race, social justice and human rights. The program resides in the former home of Sue-Je Lee Gage who died in May 2020. During her time at the college, Gage was an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and worked closely with the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity and the Women’s and Gender Studies program as an affiliated faculty member.  

Annette Levine, professor in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures and Jewish studies coordinator, has been working on the inception of the residency since Fall 2020 to honor Gage and continue her work. Levine said she knew she wanted to create a space that would represent Gage’s intellectual interests, her creativity and her supportive energy, especially in the first home she ever bought herself.

“The only way I could ever reconcile with losing her was by finding a way to keep her presence very active and alive,” Levine said. 

Anya Peterson Royce, advisory board member for Sunlit Residency, was one of Gage’s teachers when Gage was getting her Ph.D in anthropology from Indiana University and said she was impressed by how passionate Gage was about addressing social issues.

Royce said she, Levine and people that were close with Gage connected and wanted to find a way to honor her which began the inception of the residency. Royce said she and Levine wanted to make sure that the house represented Gage and her work.

“When we started buying some of the other kinds of things that were going in the house, we did it with a sense of the colors that Sue-Je liked,” Royce said. “The lotus blossom was one that she photographed a lot and that meant a lot to her. So there’s that kind of lotus motif in the household too.”

Levine said there are a total of seven residents that will participate in the summer 2023 cohort, including Suchi Branfman, Nathan Fitch, Hannah Bae, Elizabeth Rubio, Gloria Poveda, Rosie Bermudez and Elaine Kim. 

Levine also said the residency is going to collaborate with the Park Center for Independent Media to provide an internship opportunity for students who apply to the residency in the future. 

Bae, a journalist and nonfiction writer from Brooklyn, New York, was selected as one of the residents to participate in the 2023 cohort. 

According to her website, In 2020, Bae won the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers award and has been selected for several fellowships, including the Peter Taylor for The Kenyon Review Writers Workshops, along with a narrative fiction Open fellowship in narrative fiction. Additionally, several books have published her work, including “Our Red Book: Intimate Histories of Periods,” “The Monocle Travel Guide, Seoul” and “Don’t Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health.”

Bae said she heard about the residency through a Facebook group called Korean American Writers and was immediately intrigued by the work Gage did and even attended the first open house in 2022 via live stream. Additionally, Bae said she is looking forward to attending the residency so she can work on her memoir manuscript that details her experience growing up as a Korean American in the United States as well as how she was able to navigate through abuse, mental illness and trauma from her family immigrating to the United States.

“I thought it just seemed like such a great opportunity,” Bae said. “And that it was kind of tailor-made for someone like me who is Korean American, who is really interested in digging into my history and understanding how that informs the way that I see the world now,” Bae said. 

Rubio is a postdoctoral research associate with the Asian American Studies Program at Princeton University. As a multiracial Korean American, Rubio said she was drawn to how Gage focused on Asian Americans that are of mixed race in her work and publications

During her residency, Rubio said she hopes to be able to work on a chapter of her nonfiction book in a calm environment. Rubio said the chapter of her book that is centered around undocumented Asian American activism will detail the pain and struggle that an undocumented Thai American activist and artist has experienced.

“Time really shrinks when you have a young child and scholarship requires such time to not be rushed and to be able to think and just stop for a second,” Rubio said. “So I’m just looking forward to that time of being able to be in silence and to have the mental space to be able to do the kind of deep work I need to do to write this book.”

Levine said she enjoyed the first cohort because she said she was able to have insightful conversations with residents about Gage’s work in human rights and social justice and how it connected to their projects. 

Fitch, assistant professor of Screen Studies at The New School in New York City, said he will be working on a documentary film that explores how the pandemic affected refugees from Micronesia who settled in areas of middle America. 

 “I’m thinking from a filmmaking context, but, kind of, it seems like a lot of her work is focused on communities that maybe don’t necessarily get a ton of attention or kind of have their voices heard,” Fitch said. “And that’s certainly the case with the work that I’m doing, you know, the people from the COFA region.”

Gage’s connection to militarism is what Fitch said inspired him to apply to the residency.

Gage’s dissertation, “Pure Mixed Blood: The Multiple Identities of Amerasian in South Korea,” discusses publications in South Korea that detailed how the United States Empire transnational militarism and postcolonial ethnonationalism affected Korean Amerasians.

Kim, senior extension associate at Cornell University in the Industrial and Labor Relations School, said she is focusing on editing her draft of her novel about the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea in 1980. Kim said Gage’s research was aligned with some of the topics she is exploring in the novel, like the effect of colonization and militarization in South Korea.

“I’m connected to people who are interested in sort of progressive movements and efforts in the South Korean Peninsula,” Kim said. “It’s a really a relatively small world of Korean Americans who are kind of interested in that history that’s not just through an American viewpoint, but also about Koreans themselves.”

Cándida F. Jáquez, associate professor of  music at Scripps College in Claremont, California, was in the 2022 cohort and worked on an article about an all-female mariachi band, Mariachi Mujer 2000. Jáquez also said many people in academia are constantly flooded with work, which she said can sometimes make it difficult to pursue certain projects.

“I found [Sunlit Residency] very intriguing in terms of simply having a space in place to focus on writing solely in terms of my project,” Jáquez said. “I think for many of us in academia who are heavily involved with justice, equity and diversity issues … we often are scrambling for time to really have the space to sit down and do something like writing because … we’re very committed to a number of issues and projects that require a great deal of time.”

There will be an open house event in July — in person and live streamed — to introduce the new cohort of residents to each other and to anyone interested in attending. Levine said via email that she hopes to find ways to keep the residents connected with each other after their time at the residency. 

“We are looking forward to creating an ongoing network of community connections on a local and global level whereby our residents are active in advancing their projects while also developing relationships within their cohort, with past residents and with other scholars, writers, artists and activists affiliated with the residency,” Levine said.

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