The Pittsburgh Foundation

Erika Denae J

James Johnson III, Anton Defade, Erika Denae J, photo by Beth Barbis.
James Johnson III, Anton Defade, Erika Denae J, photo by Beth Barbis.

Individual/Collective Exposure awardee: $10,000

This grant supports Erika Denae J’s continued development of her artistic practice that combines singing, songwriting and creating spaces that engage artists and young adults in her community.
She is a multidisciplinary artist that uses music compositions, production, singing, song-writing and creative writing as tools to encourage others. In addition, she also curate spaces and events that combine all of those is engaging ways. 

“As an artist, I speak and create from my experiences and story, I advocate that nothing is too big, small or boring, and that everyone’s story matters, especially underrepresented folk,” she says. “It is out of my experiences with pain, disappointment, love and anger that the most beautiful “pieces” of my creative expression in the form of writing songs and poetry have been produced.” 

This grant will help support the creation and release of her sophomore music project titled “In the Mood For” that features original compositions heavily inspired by jazz, blues, gospel, worship, neo-soul, alternative and soft rock genres. It will also be used to support a songbook documenting and illustrating the artist’s journey of making music and an event and mini-series called “Soul-Full Sunday” and “The Singers Tea,” respectively. 

2023 Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grant amount: $25,000

To produce, record, and release a multi-genre music project: "In the Mood For," which includes the production and release of an eight to 11 track music album. It will feature original compositions heavily inspired by jazz, blues, gospel, worship, neo-soul, alternative and soft rock music. A songbook will document and illustrate the artist's journey of making the music and insights gained in her diary -  revealing score, poetry, personal notes, allotting journal space for the reader and sharing the process of creating affirmations that focus on encouragement, joy, love and peace.

There is a critical issue with a lack of development in Pittsburgh’s music ecosystem when it comes to creating and maintaining a music industry. "In The Mood For" music, songbook and event will inspire collaboration amongst Black artists in Pittsburgh through the interaction of different genres, the musicians and composers that develop them, and the creatives that support artists in releasing their vision. Both stimulating the ecosystem by creating space for the sharing of their personal stories behind their respective genre(s) of music and connecting, supporting the need of a music industry. 

"My ideal vision of thriving in the arts and culture ecosystem reflects me utilizing all my gifts in singing, songwriting, producing and writing," she says. "Supporting the projects of others with my creative content strategy, and most importantly encouraging others and impacting and inspiring people to share what they have inside of them to the world is another vision." 

Eventually, Erika Denae J's goal is to spearhead 2 successful companies: a music publishing/production company that collaborates with other publishing companies and provides services that support and educate Black music creatives with sync licensing deals, creative direction, while owning a studio and music library of a wide variety of songs and continue developing a company she already owns - Beata Beatus Co.- allowing the continuation of writing, editing and publishing journals, books and other copy and content for young adults and youths to improve socio-emotional health and literacy issues. 

Erika Denae J
Erika Denae J, photo by Dymond Jewell