The Pittsburgh Foundation

Advancing Black Arts awards $1.6 million in grants

Program offers two-year support for individual artists for the first time

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Dec. 21, 2023Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh, has awarded 38 grants totaling $1.6 million to advance the work of individual artists and collectives as well as provide project, planning and operating support for arts organizations. All but three of the grants are for two years of funding. 

In June 2021, Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh received a $2 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott that allowed the program to provide larger award amounts and multi-year support for a cohort of Black-led organizations and those serving primarily Black audiences. Pittsburgh Foundation staff and the Advancing Black Arts grant review panel considered more than 120 proposals for this grant cycle, and while organizations have received multi-year support in the past, this is the first time individual artists are getting two-year support.

“Black artists and arts organizations in our community produce amazing work, but the financial challenges they face are significant,” Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Lisa Schroeder said in announcing the grants. “We expect that extending the grant time frame to two years for most awardees will relieve some of the financial stress and allow artists and arts organizations more time to develop projects.” The extension of grant support is based on a strategic plan that holds the Foundation to creating a vibrant, equitable and just Pittsburgh region. “To realize that, we need a robust and diverse arts-and-culture ecosystem,” Schroeder said.

Recipients include Sean Baker for the launch of SOUL EXPEDITION BOOTCAMP, a youth music program that will explore the fundamentals of music instrumentation with instruction from Black artists; Dominique Chestand for development of the Broke Babe Supper Club, a multimedia project that aims to increase knowledge and agency around food for Black, Global Majority and lower-income people; and Zuly Inirio for the first season of the Afro-Latinx Song and Opera Project that will commission new works that tell the stories of the Afro-Latin and Afro-Latinx communities, as well as decolonize the classical music canon by uplifting existing contributions and stories of Afro-Latinx composers.   

Since 2010, the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program has awarded more than $10 million in support of the acknowledgment, celebration, preservation and perpetuation of Black culture. The program is funded by contributions from The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation. Program goals include expanding community awareness of the Black arts sector and supporting efforts toward greater collaboration and acknowledgment of racial disparities within the larger arts ecosystem.

Publicity images of the artists and their work are available for media use. Details on each artist, including social media handles, are available on the “About the Awardees” resource page on The Pittsburgh Foundation’s website.

Aboveground Railroad grant totaling $10,000 for one year:

  • Abreihona ($10,000) to support education in pursuit of a career in arts administration.

Project Support grants totaling more than $1.5 over two years:

  • Emmai Alaquiva ($50,000) to support “OPTICVOICES: Mama's Boys,” a visual arts and augmented reality project and exhibit.
  • Lorraine Avila ($50,000) to support the completion, editorial aid and marketing of two manuscripts: “DIEASERRA,” a fiction novel and “THAT GIRL,” a poetry collection.
  • Balafon West African Dance Ensemble ($50,000) to support the development of the core dance ensemble.
  • Sean Baker ($50,000) to support the launch of SOUL EXPEDITION BOOTCAMP, a youth music program exploring the fundamentals of music instrumentation.
  • Sean Beauford ($50,000) to support the writing, archiving and artistic production project, “Home of Tomorrow,” which explores the historic relationship between Pittsburgh and Mansfield, OH, and the impact of Rust Belt deindustrialization on Black communities.
  • BOOM Concepts ($50,000) to support BOOM Concepts' temporary public art program (AP3) and provide local and national public art engagements.
  • LoRen ($50,000) to support “NO COVERS,” a songwriter-focused live music experience featuring Pittsburgh-based artists from various genres performing original music.
  • Rueben Brock ($50,000) to support post-production of a documentary.
  • Jorge Olivera Castillo ($14,000) to support the translation and publication of a collection of sonnets, “On the Edge of the Horizon,” and a book of suspense short stories as well as the production of two original songs: “A New Dawn” and “Alphabet City.”
  • Nathan Cephas ($50,000) to support the development of a self-produced debut music album and a limited-pressed photography book/magazine and short film showcasing Pittsburgh nature.
  • Dominique Chestand ($50,000) to support the development of “Broke Babe Supper Club,” a multimedia project that aims to increase knowledge and agency around food for Black, Global Majority and lower-income people.
  • Diarra Imani ($50,000) to complete, launch and tour the “Time Will Tell” album and publish two poetry books: “Quicksand” and “The Hourglass Effect.”
  • Tara Fay Coleman ($15,000) to support a self-directed residency for research, study of the printmaking process and the development of a new body of work.
  • Indira Cunningham ($50,000) to support professional and artistic development and training opportunities in the performing arts.
  • Guardians of Sound ($50,000) to support an artist residency for Idasa Tariq with Guardians of Sound and Hip-Hop Orchestra.
  • Damola aka Da Great Deity Dah ($50,000) to support artist storytelling and STEAM programming using hip-hop culture and the art assets used in game design.
  • Zuly Inirio ($50,000) to support the first season of the Afro-Latinx Song and Opera Project.
  • Erika Denae J ($25,000) to produce, record and release a multi-genre music project: “In the Mood For,” a songbook diary-journal: "In the Mood for Songbook," and a live recording release.
  • Evangeline Mensah-Agyekum ($50,000) to support "No Age to Beauty," a documentary film and photography project.
  • Kontara Morphis ($20,000) to support the development of a contemporary ballet, “The Wonders of Alice.”
  • Victor Muthama ($50,000) to support “DiasporUS,” a visual album highlighting the differences between three generations within a Kenyan family spanning two continents and over a century of time.
  • Andrews Owusu aka KHAN | KUMA (Khan Kuma) ($29,250) to support the promotion and preservation of Black electronic music through events and education.
  • a.k. payne ($50,000) to support a self-curated playwright residency, the development of new works, and the curation of Black Story Circles, a gathering practice of Black literary artists.
  • Staycee Pearl ($10,000) to support a creative wellness residency.
  • Bonita Lee Penn ($30,000) to support the development of a play highlighting African American Pentecostal practices and their connection to their West African origins.
  • Rainbow Serpent ($50,000) to support an artist residency for multimedia artist Marquita Sams to complete “Uli Awakened.”
  • Sankofa Village ($50,000) to support culturally relevant youth art programming.
  • Dameta Skinner ($15,000) to support the development of a program utilizing art as a therapeutic tool to create individual and collaborative works with youth artists.
  • Jordan C Taylor ($13,330) to support "All Style," a travelogue show featuring award-winning Pittsburgh dancer Christian Brown and a pilot episode with various Pittsburgh dance communities.
  • Marvin Touré ($50,000) to support the production of work and programming for an exhibition, the development of a large-scale performance, and studio space.
  • Alicia Volcy ($50,000) to support the RHYTHM x Design: Black Architects in Residence program.
  • INEZ ($50,000) to support a musical album, documentary and music visuals.
  • Gregory Scott Williams Jr. ($50,000) to support “Warriors,” a feature documentary film and multimedia photography/video exhibition.
  • Alisha B Wormsley ($50,000) to support “Children of NAN: a Survival Guide,” a film for future Black femmes.
  • Young Black Motivated Kings and Queens ($50,000) to support the development of a multi-purpose art studio dedicated to visual and musical art form instruction.

Discretionary grants totaling $60,000 for one year:

  • Pittsburgh Positive Young People Associations ($50,000) to support the 2023 annual Harambee Black Arts festivals.
  • Darryl Chappell Foundation ($10,000) for an artist talk between Pittsburgh native, Harrison Kinnane Smith, and New York artist Dread Scott.

Detailed information on the awardees and their work, including links to their social media handles, is available on The Pittsburgh Foundation website.


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