Grant program gives over $836,000 to new projects by Black Pittsburgh creatives | Pittsburgh City Paper

Grant program gives over $836,000 to new projects by Black Pittsburgh creatives

click to enlarge Grant program gives over $836,000 to new projects by Black Pittsburgh creatives
Photo: Dejouir Brown
Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grant recipient Juliandra Jones
A full-length ballet set to traditional African music. A comic about Pittsburgh’s “Black Golden Age cartoonists.” A woodworking studio. These are just some of the efforts being supported by the latest series of Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grants.

Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, a program run jointly by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, recently awarded 127 grants for its 2021 grant-making cycle. A press release says the grants are meant to “support excellence in artwork rooted in the Black experience.”

The gifts total $836,450, a larger amount compared to what ABAP gave in previous years (in 2019, for example, the program gave out $388,000). The 2021 gifts include $440,000 towards “operating support for individual artists and art programs,” and 92 unrestricted grants of $500 going to individual artists who applied but “didn’t receive full project or planning support.” Also funded are two scholarships for students pursuing advanced degrees in arts management.

Recipients reacted to the news on social media, with local musician INEZ expressing gratitude for the $25,000 Advancing the Field grant given to BLKNVMBR, a venture she cofounded with fellow Pittsburgh musician Clara Kent. BLKNVMBR is described as a marketing and promotional house for “advancing the development of Black R&B musicians and R&B-adjacent artists in Pittsburgh.”

“All the struggles we've had in Pittsburgh as Black women in R&B and Soul, Clara and I have poured into a company that will continue to lift as we climb,” INEZ wrote in an Instagram post. “To make sure Black R&B and R&B adjacent artists always get their fair shake, no matter whoever fails to see what our art brings to this city.”

A separate Instagram post says the ABAP award will allow BLKNVMBR to operate year-round as an “anchor” in the local music community, and to “foster and build community with organizations, venues, and fellow agents of change in Pittsburgh and abroad.”

Additionally, Kent received $15,000 to support her AURA: Reimagined project, described as an “interactive live production and musical testament from an Afro-Indigenous woman from the inner city” that is aimed at opening doors for the Black community of Pittsburgh, specifically Black women and femmes, Indigenous artists, and artists with disabilities.
click to enlarge Grant program gives over $836,000 to new projects by Black Pittsburgh creatives
Photo: Asia Margo
Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grant recipient Clara Kent
Other awards went to Jessica Gaynelle Moss for The Garfield, a Hill District location that will serve as housing for visiting artists and as rental space for local arts organizations, and The postpARTum Project, an “artist retreat and healing practice for postpartum Black mothers” being developed by Alecia Dawn. Also included is Pop Up with PBJ, a mobile art studio Juliandra Jones of PBJ Customs will create to provide free art classes and workshops to children in predominantly Black communities.

The projects being supported span an array of media, including poetry anthologies, classical music, and comics, as well as respective films by local artists Shikeith and DaeMon Palmer.

ABAP recipients were chosen by a panel of artists and arts-and-culture professionals from Pittsburgh and beyond, including Yaw Agyeman, a Chicago interdisciplinary performing artist and vocalist of the band The Black Monks, Sarah J. Gilmer of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and Dr. Jaleesa Wells, an assistant professor of arts administration at the University of Kentucky.

Organizers claim that, since its 2010 launch, ABAP has awarded 483 grants totaling $6.96 million. They credit the program for helping to further the careers of individual artists, sustainability of Black arts organizations, and community awareness of the Black arts sector. It has also set out to better acknowledge and confront “racial disparities within the larger arts sector.”

For a complete list of ABAP recipients, visit