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Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh awards $836,450 in latest slate of grants




PITTSBURGH, PA., NOV. 2, 2021 - Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a joint program of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, has awarded 127 grants totaling $836,450 in the initiative’s 2021 grant-making cycle, including $440,000 in operating support for individual artists and art programs. 

Grants advance the field, fund the work of individual artists and collectives, and provide project, planning and operating support. Awards include funding for a retreat space for postpartum Black mothers working in a variety of artistic disciplines; a live production to uplift the work of Afro-Indigenous women and artists with disabilities; and for a full-length ballet set to traditional African music. Also funded are two scholarships for students pursuing advanced degrees in arts management.

Images of artists and their work are available as downloads for media use. 

This year’s funding slate includes 92 unrestricted grants of $500 – totaling $46,000 – to individual artists who applied but didn’t receive full project or planning support. The complete list of the artists receiving $500 grants is available online.

Since the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program began in 2010, it has awarded 483grants totaling $6.96 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. 

In June, program was awarded $2 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. The foundations are determining how this award will be directed back to the community. 

Advancing the Field awards totaling $50,000

BLKNVMBR, $25,000 (Music) 
To support BLKNVMBR, a marketing and promotional house for advancing the development of Black R&B musicians and R&B-adjacent artists in Pittsburgh. 

Jessica Gaynelle Moss (she/her), $25,000 (Arts Administration/Curatorial)
To support The Garfield, a property that will provide temporary housing in the Hill District for visiting artists and allow local arts organizations to rent space for short periods of time. The project will increase the health and visibility of the Black arts sector by providing a long-term solution to short-term housing needs for artists. 

Individual Artist Support awards totaling $166,500

N.E. Brown (she/her) $14,500 (Sculpture/Assemblage)
To support creation of a home-based art studio with woodworking machinery. The project alleviates the cost of renting studio space and woodshop space, facilitating a more sustainable studio practice, and allows increased opportunity to engage in socially based art projects.

Alecia Dawn (she/her) $15,000 (Healing Arts)
To develop "The postpARTum Project," an artist retreat and healing practice for postpartum Black mothers. The project will create a home residency for introspection via art, meditation, and reflection.

Charlese Dawson (she/her), $15,000 (Painting/Drawing/Printmaking/Photography)
To facilitate creation of "Send My Love to The Hill," a book of photography and poetry highlighting the city’s Hill District community through the eyes of Black womxn using the words of 12 Pittsburgh artists.

Zuly Inirio (she/her, ella), $15,000 (Music)
To support the Afro-Latinx Song and Opera Project to commission musical works that tell the stories of the Afro-Latinx community in the U.S. The project will create performance opportunities for the community and bring diversity to the classical music canon. 

Juliandra Jones (she/her) and PBJ Customs, $15,000 (Painting/Drawing/Printmaking/Photography)
To support the creation of a mobile art studio and “Pop Up with PBJ,” a program that will provide predominately Black communities with access to art through free mobile art classes and workshops that would not otherwise be available to children through school.

Clara Kent (she/her), $15,000 (Music)
To support “AURA: Reimagined,” an interactive live production and musical testament from an Afro-Indigenous woman from the inner city. The project aims to break open doors for the Black community of Pittsburgh, specifically Black women, Black femmes, indigenous artists and artists with disabilities.

Rickey Laurentiis (they/them), $15,000 (Literary Arts/Journalism/Criticism)
To complete “The Penetrable Body,” a second book of poems on the “penetrabilities, (im)penetrabilities and transformations” of the Black body, with an aim of encouraging a dialogue on the contrasting ideas of violence, healing and consent—or lack of it—with regard to Black bodies.

DaeMon Palmer (he/him), $15,000 (Film/Video/Animation)
To support a film project, “Pittsburgh's Virtual Fashion Show,” which will capture the full creative process of collaboration across multiple art forms by showcasing live performances, clothing brands and the work of local creative organizations.

Kisha Patterson, RA (she/her), $15,000 (Architecture)
To develop “Beautiful Experiments in Living Free: An Architectural Pattern Book” to organize Patterson’s designs and reflections about deliberate aesthetic choices for Black women. The book will present architectural plans and diagrams for homes and places that Black women will want to inhabit, own, generate, root in and propagate.

Kendra Ross (she/her), $15,000 (Music)
For "This Woman(ist)’s Work," a recording that prominently features the songwriting, arranging, production, performances and creative direction of Black women artists. The project will uplift the work of rarely celebrated Black women sonic artists while growing Ross’s own sonic story-telling practice.

Shikeith (he/him), $15,000 (Film/Video/Animation)
To support the documentary "O' my body, make of me a man who always questions!" chronicling the construction of Black American male identity across history; to provide an opportunity to represent community experience through narrative; and to allow for the creation of programming and screenings beyond Black and LGBTQ+-focused cultural centers.

Matt Vituccio (he/him), $2,000 (Painting/Drawing/Printmaking/Photography)
To create “The Pittsburgh Connection,” a comic about Pittsburgh’s Black Golden Age cartoonists, specifically Jackie Ormes and Matt Baker, and provide a reference and representation locus for young Black creators looking to break into the world of sequential art.

Project Support awards totaling $99,950

FashionAFRICANA, Inc., $20,000 (Fashion)
To support FestivalAFRICANA, a multi-day virtual global celebration of African style, beauty, design and culture.

Fode Moussa "Lavia" Camara (he/him), $20,000 (Music)
To develop and lead artistic direction of a new full-length ballet set to traditional African music, which will feature professional and community musicians and dancers in collaboration with Balafon African Arts Ensemble.

The Genesis Collective, $19,950 (Arts Administration/Curatorial)
To support a Black fine arts invitational, “Explore/Energize: Steps Toward Building a Black Arts Ecosystem in Beaver County,” and employ Black artists to teach local Black students.

Kelly Strayhorn Theater, $20,000 (Music) 
To support the “Sunstar Festival 2022: Womxn & Music,” featuring Black femme musical artists in Pittsburgh. This artist incubator program will culminate with a stage performance and workshop presentations at KST and KST’s Alloy Studios. The festival takes place March 18-19, 2022.  

Shona Sharif African Dance and Drum Ensemble, $20,000 (Performing Arts)
To the Africana Studies Department at the University of Pittsburgh to present “Black Nativity” by Langston Hughes.    

Operating Support grants of $40,000 each, totaling $440,000 were awarded to:

Operating support is available to Black-led arts organizations by invitation only. This year's grants include an option to renew for a second year of funding in 2022.

Planning grants of $5,000 each, totaling $15,000, were awarded to:

  • Kimberly Andrews: to plan the development of a|P|H|r0L0|Ge|Y| —pronounced A-fraw-luh-jee—and "Bridging the Gap," a musical documentary showcasing local drummers with Pittsburgh’s world-famous bridges as a backdrop. 
  • Ameela Boyd: to plan a project to shed light on the impact that domestic violence has on the lives of Black women. The project will explore how holistic fashion therapy, a non-traditional healing approach, can help women of color heal from remnants of trauma from domestic violence.
  • Kenneth Love: to preserve and digitize the unseen 14 hours of video that was taken to chronicle the Freedom Corner Dedication on April 21, 2001, plan a documentary of the dedication, and produce a three-minute work sample for a full project proposal.

Aboveground Railroad grants of $10,000 each, for a total of $20,000, were awarded to:

  • Essence Stiggers, Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. 
  • Zachariah Washington, Point Park University.

These unrestricted funds are for students ages 18 to 25 who are pursuing higher education in pursuit of a career in arts administration.

About the selection committee: A panel of artists and arts-and-culture professionals reviewed the applications and made funding recommendations for all categories except planning, Aboveground Railroad and operating support. The 2021 panelists were Yaw Agyeman, a Chicago interdisciplinary performing artist and vocalist of the band The Black Monks; Shamell Bell, Ph.D., a mother, community organizer, dancer/choreographer, documentary filmmaker and visiting faculty member at Dartmouth College, teaching in the department of Theater and the African and African American Studies program; Sarah J. Gilmer, program manager in strategic partnerships and community engagement at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; John W. Love, Jr., a Charlotte, North Carolina-based interdisciplinary artist, traversing literature, performance, installation, video, mysticism and media; Jaleesa Wells, Ph.D., an assistant professor of arts administration at the University of Kentucky, researching the hybrid intersections between culture and enterprise as well as the experiences of Black women in cultural institutions; and Webster Phillips, III, a Baltimore artist and creator of the “I Henry Project.”

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Media Contacts:

Scott Roller, The Heinz Endowments

Kitty Julian, The Pittsburgh Foundation
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