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Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh announces $456,000 in grants

PITTSBURGH, PA., NOV. 9, 2020 - Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a joint program of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, has awarded $456,000 to individual artists and art programs for the initiative’s 2020 grant-making cycle. 

Among the projects funded are a documentary that includes interviews about Black American women, an artist residency at Guardians of Sound to work with the Hip Hop Orchestra Music Instruction project, a series of cookout events to cultivate Black joy and a three-month visiting playwright fellowship that honors the legacy of August Wilson. Images of the artists and their work are available for download for media usage. 

New this year are 79 grants of $500 each in unrestricted financial support totaling $39,500. As recommended by the Advancing Black Arts panel, these grants ensure that all artist applicants eligible for funding received support. The $500 grants are in recognition of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community to honor each artist’s time and efforts and support their creative work. The full list of $500 artist support awardees is available online.

Since the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program began in 2010, it has awarded 356 grants totaling $6.1 million to support excellence in artwork rooted in the Black experience. The funding has helped build the careers of individual artists, increase the sustainability of cultural organizations that focus on Black arts, expand community awareness of the Black arts sector, and support efforts toward greater collaboration and acknowledgement of the racial disparities within the larger arts sector.

Interest in the program remains robust, with 96 full proposals invited for submission from an initial 119 letters of inquiry. A panel of artists and arts-and-culture professionals, with arts experience across genres, reviewed the applications. The five 2020 panelists were Michael Canton, host/producer of “The Soul Show” on WYEP-FM Pittsburgh; Raymond Ejiofor, a dancer, choreographer and teaching artist based in Los Angeles; Kaisha S. Johnson, founding director of Women of Color in the Arts (WOCA), a national grassroots organization dedicated to creating racial equity in the performing arts; Faheem Majeed, an artist and resident of the South Shore neighborhood in Chicago; and Eva Wo, a West Philadelphia-based multimedia artist, photographer, curator and organizer.

A complete list of the current grantees and types of funding received is below. More information about the program, including guidelines and application information, are available online at The Pittsburgh Foundation or The Heinz Endowments.

Grants in Advancing the Field category total $50,000 and were awarded to: 

•   Leigh Solomon Pugliano and Barrels to Beethoven, $25,000 (Music): To develop and implement SCALE, a residency program for Black women in music to provide much-needed resources, knowledge and support for music entrepreneurs disproportionately impacted by the local music ecosystem.
•   Bridgeway Capital Creative Business Accelerator, $25,000 (Arts Administration): To support ORIGINS, a new initiative that provides intensive guidance and transformative opportunities to help entrepreneurial African American artists, makers, designers, and craftspeople build strong and sustaining creative businesses. 

Culturally Relevant Residencies totaling $75,000 were awarded to:

•     Guardians of Sound and LoRen Briggs, $15,000 (Music): To support Briggs’ year-long residency as a teaching artist in singing, songwriting and music production with the Hip Hop Orchestra Music Instruction project for youth and the Acoustic Hip Hop Ensemble project for adults.  
•     August Wilson House/Daisy Wilson Artists Community, $20,000 (Literature): To support the creation of a three-month visiting playwright fellowship associated with the legacy of August Wilson. The fellowship will include living and travel expenses and connections to Pittsburgh’s theater and artists community.  
•     New Hazlett Theater and Monteze Freeland, $20,000 (Theatre/Performance): To support the artist’s residency at the New Hazlett Theater, where he will develop and produce his musical comedy, "Kalopsia," which is defined as “the delusion of things being more beautiful than what they are,” focused on mental health in the Black community.
•     Kelly Strayhorn Theater and Jasmine Hearn, $20,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support Hearn’s ongoing project, A Patient Practice, at Kelly Strayhorn Theatre. Hearn’s residency centers Black femmes, womyn, non-gender conforming and queer folx, and begins with one-on-one planning sessions with mentors, meetings to build a score, and then practice and performance. 

Grants to individual artists totaling $194,000 were awarded to:

•     Michael Chapman: $10,000 (Music): To cover the creative and performance costs related to developing five blues/blues-rock guitar-based Hip Hop pieces in collaboration with music artist and producer, Idasa Tariq.
•     Diarra Clarke: $10,470 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support the production of “The Drop Out Kidz,” described as a docu-performance through which artists who have taken untraditional paths will share their work, build skills and engage in mentorship, financial literacy and community building.   
•     Tomé Cousin: $10,705 (Theatre/Performance): To support “VANDERZEE (Picture Takin' Man),” a new media musical opera, highlighting the life and career of Harlem Renaissance photographer James VanDerZee.
•     Christiane Dolores: $15,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support the development of “Navigating Earth Manual,” a compilation of 40 songs themed around love, chaos, liberation and joy on a four-CD set that includes music, images and videos that reflect the artist’s Afro-Punk, jazz, rock, deep house dub and punk influences.  
•     sarah huny young:  $15,000 (Film and Video): To fund the completion of the full-length “AMERICAN WOMAN” documentary spanning five years and detailing the tumultuous and complicated relationship that Black women experience with America.
•     Akmed Khalifa: $12,650 (Literature): To acquire hardware and software to support the artists’ ongoing literary work, including the publication and animation of a new children's book, “Tamika and the Daylight Savings Bank,” and the development of a multi-genre novel.
•     Mikael Owunna: $15,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support the creation of the artist’s first live installation and performance piece, including collaborations in dance and audio-visual arts, which will immerse the viewer in Owunna’s world of stars and the cosmos while celebrating Black artists and the magic of the Black body.
•     Ricardo Iamuuri Robinson: $15,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): Sound artist Ricardo Robinson will take a year-long journey with musician, DJ and visual artist, La'Vender Freddy, a fictitious character of Ricardo's own invention, described by the artist as “meta.” Their wild quest seeks to answer the American singer/songwriter, Marvin Gaye’s question, “What’s going on?” 
•     yvette shipman: $15,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support CommuniTEA Blends, in which the artist facilitates and mediates intergenerational conversations with indigenous, LatinX and women from the African diaspora around racial injustice and the social and psychological ills it causes. Taking place over tea, the sessions center storytelling and multi-sensory engagement with the goal of connection and transformative change.
•    Harrison Smith:  $15,000 (Visual Arts): To support a series of cookouts and performances that celebrate and cultivate radical Black joy in response to police violence.  The work will include video, photography and writing about the gatherings that will be exhibited and published along with contextualizing, analytical essays.
•    Wadria Taylor: $15,000 (Visual and Performing Arts): To build on the success of Style Week Pittsburgh and make fashion more diverse and inclusive by supporting Black artists. This includes the “Sew Your Stitch” project to connect up to 50 youth in underserved and socio-economically disadvantaged communities to careers in fashion through a fashion show, awards ceremony and networking brunch.
•     Mariah Torres: $15,000 (Film and Video): To fund the post-production phase of a half-hour comedy, “Rock Bottom,” to be included in the pitch packet to networks and streaming services. The biographical show focuses on the artist’s adventures chasing her dreams as an artist in New York City. 
•    Tahirah Walker: $15,000 (Literature): To support “Black Book Lady,” a literary arts organization that builds on the artist’s experiences as a writer, mother and beloved daughter. The grant will allow Walker to pursue her dream of writing full-time, starting with stories about her relationship with her mighty mother who died suddenly.
•     Alisha Wormsley: $15,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support “Children of NAN,” an archive of objects, photos, video footage, film, sounds, philosophies, rituals and performances that will serve as a survival guide for Black women by Black women, much like the Green Book documented safe travel for Black people. The archive will draw on ancient knowledge, art, social practice and mysticism. 

Special Project support totaling $70,000 was awarded to:

•     LoRen Briggs: $9,850 (Music): To continue presenting the quarterly "No Covers" project to highlight the original work of talented but unknown performing artists in Pittsburgh, giving them a space to perform where the audience is eager to hear their original work.
•     Celeta Hickman: $20,000 (Multidisciplinary Arts): To support, “Black Bead Story: The Digital Spectacles,” a series of seven short films, plus events called “spectacles” that feature the sacred, secular, Afrocentric and period designs of bead artist and accessories designer Celeta Hickman, and include public screenings, masquerade performances, wearable art and a catalog.  
•     Muffy Mendoza: $20,000 (Theatre/Performance): To support the “Brown Mama Monologues” traveling performance series, which uses the art of storytelling to redefine the American motherhood narrative to include the experiences of Black mothers. Storytellers will include mothers from the D.C. metro area, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia who will craft and share their stories in presentations in these cities.
•     Global Posse Productions: $20,000 (Film and Video): To finish Mukwai Wabei Siyolwe’s documentary film, “Roofless.” The work shines a light on the correlation between displacement and how music-making in the Black diasporic communities of Pittsburgh and Rio de Janeiro includes the constant desire to find home after centuries of displacement, as well as a longing to connect through music back to their source: Africa.   

Special Grants totaling $10,000: 

Two grants of $5,000 each were made to national arts organizations, Black Art Futures Fund and Women of Color in the Arts, in response to the impact of systemic racism on Black-led organizations that the Movement for Black Lives has amplified, and to connect Pittsburgh-based artists with Black artists and arts programming that have a national profile, with the goal of elevating local artists, their artwork and the creative field. 

Planning support totaling $15,000 was awarded to three organizations:

•     SLB Radio for Project X ($5,000): To gather data, convene a team, and define the operations framework to successfully launch Project X, a free online resource that creates a bridge between classrooms and exciting careers by offering authentic real-world lessons and projects. Led by Dennis Henderson, Project X will be designed in partnership with innovative companies including Pixar, Disney and filmmaker Ava DuVernay. 
•    Legacy Arts Project for “Extraordinary People Next Door” podcast ($5,000):  To develop a project plan for launching the “Extraordinary People Next Door” podcast, created by Jason Orr and Amil Cook, which will highlight the stories of local everyday heroes. 
•    SLB Radio for “Long Exposure” ($5,000): To support a collective of young Pittsburgh-based street photographers as they develop a full project proposal, including data gathering and research, convening mentors and partners, consensus building and problem definition.  

Special Opportunity support totaling $3,000 was awarded to:

•     Community Empowerment Association ($3,000): For the “Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project” to create a public art memorial in the center of Homewood.   


Media Contacts

Scott Roller, The Heinz Endowments

Kitty Julian, The Pittsburgh Foundation
412-216-8403 mobile