CP File Photo: Heather Mull
Each year, Pittsburgh is named one of America’s Most Livable Cities, and each year, that designation garners criticism from those who rightfully scoff at the idea that the term “livable” applies to all of its residents. This is evident in oft-cited studies showing how many, particularly Black Pittsburghers
, face disparities that affect their overall quality of life. This also applies to artists here, who claim that they miss out on many opportunities enjoyed by their white counterparts.
The Pittsburgh Foundation
seeks to remedy this with the Exposure Artist Fellowship, a new program specifically described as responding to the call to “make Pittsburgh more livable for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) artists.”
The Foundation announced its first Exposure Artist Fellowship awardees for the pilot program, described in a press release as being “for the arts community to support artists’ creative practice, increase diversity in their ranks and advocate for racial justice in the field.”
The inaugural awardees include local director and filmmaker Chris Ivey, visual artist Shikeith, and illustrator-filmmaker Ana Armengod. The artists, who identify as BIPOC, will each receive a $50,000 grant to continue their work at the "intersection of arts, social inquiry, and activism."
In addition, Ivey and Shikeith will work in a “co-fellowship” with the staff of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and with the Carnegie Museum of Art, respectively. The two arts organizations will each receive $15,000 and work with the artists in partnership to “address systemic racism in the arts-and-culture ecosystem.”
“The co-fellowship relationship is meant to address the power dynamics within large institutions, including The Pittsburgh Foundation,” says Celeste Smith, the foundation’s senior program officer for Arts and Culture. “When the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of color are elevated, there is potential for white-led organizations, including philanthropy, to truly welcome, learn from, and support them.”
Armengod will pursue a self-curated fellowship.
Each of the fellows is no stranger to the Pittsburgh arts scene, and each offers their own unique styles and perspectives. As a documentarian, Ivey has worked over the years to capture what many see as fast-moving gentrification
in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of East Liberty. Shikeith has become a distinguished local artist as part of shows at Pittsburgh art spaces like the Mattress Factory
and the August Wilson African American Cultural Center galleries
Armengod produces stunning work, making her a dynamic voice in the Pittsburgh arts community. In a 2018 interview for Pittsburgh City Paper
, the Mexican-born artist described her approach to filmmaking and art, including her practice of delicately drawing on, and then breaking eggshells.
The Exposure Artist Fellowship was announced last summer, and the Foundation reviewed fellow applications with a panel of artists. Museum and theater staff, along with Felicia Savage Friedman
, a local yoga instructor who incorporates an anti-racist framework into her practice, made the final decision.
“When we announced this program, I described Exposure as the next important step in the Foundation’s efforts to inject more funding into the region’s arts community — and to increase diversity by supporting BIPOC artists,” says Foundation president Lisa Schroeder. “With the choice of these three excellent artists and two dynamic arts organizations, I’m confident that Exposure grants will deliver resources where they are most needed right now and benefit the entire arts community in the long term.”