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Foundations award $176,000 to support local artists

PITTSBURGH, Pa., June 21, 2017 – A residency for a documentary filmmaker and a book-length manuscript that provides an oral history of Pittsburgh’s rapidly changing neighborhoods are just two of the projects by 13 artists and organizations receiving funding from the Investing in Professional Artists program.

A collaborative effort of The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation to advance arts and culture in the region, the program awarded a total of $176,000 this cycle to Pittsburgh-based artists and arts organizations.

Applications for funding were submitted by 113 individuals and organizations from 17 communities. The applications were peer-reviewed by a panel of regional and national experts from a variety of artistic disciplines. The 13 grantees were recommended based on the quality of their work and the potential of the proposed project to advance an artist’s career. Recipients include established and emerging artists in literature, visual arts, music and multimedia. A complete list of grants appears below.

“Pittsburgh’s individual artists are an incredible local resource,” said Janet Sarbaugh, the Endowments’ vice president for Creativity and senior director of the Arts & Culture Program. “They make our region a place where people want to be — a place of creativity, excitement, reflection and diversity. This year’s individual artist grantees truly exemplify this spirit.”

Investing in Professional Artists is a multiyear program advancing four key goals: supporting creative development for professional artists; creating career advancement and recognition opportunities for artists; encouraging creative partnerships between artists and local organizations; and increasing the visibility of working artists.

“The voices of individual artists are the backbone of Pittsburgh’s cultural sector,” said Jeanne Pearlman, senior vice president of Program and Policy at The Pittsburgh Foundation. “The panelists who selected this year’s Investing in Professional Artists awardees were interested in funding extraordinary work, but also in supporting diversity in theme, media and world view. We are thrilled that this year’s awardees provide such a broad range of perspectives and aesthetic considerations.”

National Panelists included José Diaz, chief curator at The Andy Warhol Museum; Louis Massiah, founder and executive director of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia and independent filmmaker; Eileen J. Morris, artistic director of The Ensemble Theatre; Harry Philbrick, founding director of Philadelphia Contemporary; Nicole Sealey, author and executive director at Cave Canem Foundation; Sean Shepherd, composer; and David Shimotakahara, choreographer and ballet dancer.

Regional Panelists included Dana Bishop-Root, co-founder of Transformazium; Mark Burrell, assistant professor of dance at Point Park University; Lenka Clayton, artist and founder of An Artist Residency in Motherhood; Kim El, playwright, poet and actor; Sherrie Flick, writer and faculty member in creative writing at Chatham University; Divya Rao Heffley, senior program manager of Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hillman Photography Initiative; and Amy Williams, associate professor in the Department of Music at the University of Pittsburgh.

2017 Investing in Professional Artists Grant Recipients

Creative Development Grants:

Akil Esoon ($10,000) to support three new music and video recordings and the preservation of five masterpieces from Jay Willis and other jazz artists in the Pittsburgh area.

Alexis Gideon ($10,000) to support the creation of "Red Sun, Blue Moon (Bavarian Professor)," a video opera with accompanying paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and an immersive video installation.

Andrew Moore ($7,893) to support the completion of a nonfiction book about the rewilding of the eastern United States entitled “Beasts of the East.”

Angie Cruz ($10,000) to support the completion of the novel, “Il Palazzo, A Translation.”

Haylee Ebersole ($7,936) to support the creation of new sculptures and prints for the series “Thing Change.”

Jason Vrabel ($10,000) to support the creation of a book-length manuscript, "Voices from the East End," featuring oral histories from residents of rapidly changing Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

Naomi Chambers ($10,000) to support the creation of a body of large-scale oil paintings and assemblage sculptures.

Sean Derry ($10,000) to support the development and creation of a new kinetic installation exploring the enigmatic properties of air.

Tony Buba ($10,000) to support the digitization of outtakes from “Struggles in Steel – A Story of African-American Steelworkers" and the creation of a new film with a working title of “Children of Steel."

Zhiwan Cheung ($10,000) to support research on the 1960's art movement, Fluxus, and its origins and influences in Germany.

Zvonimir Nagy ($10,000) to support the recording of original musical compositions for pipe organ.

Residencies at Art Organizations:

Pittsburgh Glass Center ($35,000) to support a residency with ceramic artist Sharif Bey to create a new body of work in glass and present a solo exhibition through the Idea Furnace program.

Steeltown Entertainment Project ($35,000) to support a residency with filmmaker Julie Sokolow to direct a new documentary film, tentatively titled “Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story.”

More information about the Investing in Professional Artists program, including previous awardees and application guidelines and deadlines, is available at

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