Kalyn Fay

Cherokee Nation, Muscogee descent

GRANTEE: Kalyn Fay
NATIVE HERITAGE: Cherokee Nation, Muscogee descent
AWARD:  2022 LIFT – Early Career Support for Native Artists
WEBSITE: kalynfay.com
SOCIAL MEDIA: Instagram, Facebook

Kalyn Fay is a musician, interdisciplinary artist, curator, and educator from Oklahoma. They hold an M.F.A. from University of Arkansas, an M.A. from The University of Tulsa, and a B.F.A. from Rogers State University. Fay has worked with Peabody Essex Museum, Philbrook Museum of Art, Gilcrease Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, The Momentary, Eiteljorg Museum, along with others, and performed, exhibited, and facilitated workshops both nationally and internationally.

Centering Indigenous and decolonial methodologies, Fay’s work focuses on self-location, community-building, collaboration, and empathy through the use of music, storytelling, and contemporary craft. In every endeavor, they seek to find the ways in which we all intersect and to build bridges of understanding between. They describe their practice as “for you, for me, for us, for we.” Fay has a voice that commands rapt attention, whether filling a theater or piercing the din of a dive bar. It’s a tenor timbre a first-time listener once aptly described as “butterscotch,” all rich and velveteen, bold, singular.

I don’t feel like a very poetic person; I‘m pretty plain-spoken. I want my music to reflect how I actually speak and feel about life.

—Kalyn Fay (Cherokee Nation, Muscogee descent)


Fay’s LIFT project, A Garden Grew Behind the Shed, will be their third full-length album. The record, inspired by place-based storytelling in Mishuana Goeman’s book, Mark My Words: Indigenous Women Mapping, will explore the frameworks of Cherokee cosmologies in their personal relationship to family and geographic location. The proposed album is a cinematic exploration, through music and lyrics, of the interwoven experiences we share with one another and the embedded understandings of specific locations. The album incorporates Cherokee language and intertribal musicians, and advocates for relationship-building in Indigenous communities through collaboration. It will address multi-generational understandings of important locations, personally and tribally, how our understandings of those locations may intersect or bifurcate over time, the complexity of language and the embedded understanding that differing languages bring, and the multiplicity and complexity of landscape as kin through music and storytelling.

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