The Pittsburgh Foundation

Announcing the first Exposure Artist Fellowship awardees

Exposure Artist Fellowship program names three BIPOC artists, two arts organizations working at the crossroads of arts, social inquiry and activism as its first co-fellows

PITTSBURGH, JAN. 24, 2022…  Responding to the call to make Pittsburgh more livable for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) artists, The Pittsburgh Foundation last summer launched the Exposure Artist Fellowship, a pilot program for the arts community to support artists’ creative practice, increase diversity in their ranks and advocate for racial justice in the field.

Today, the Foundation is announcing its first Exposure Artist Fellowship awardees: director and filmmaker Chris Ivey, who will work in co-fellowship with staff of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater; visual artist Shikeith, who will work in co-fellowship with the Carnegie Museum of Art;  and illustrator-filmmaker Ana Armengod, who will pursue a self-curated fellowship.

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. 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.

“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,” Foundation President Lisa Schroeder said in announcing the grants. “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.”

The Foundation’s Arts and Culture staff developed Exposure to follow a co-fellowship model that  encourages cross-cultural learning and partnership across disciplines. Felicia Savage Friedman, an anti-oppression facilitator, will host individual and group professional development sessions with the grantees.

Staffs of Kelly Strayhorn Theater and Carnegie Museum of Art will provide the artists with their expertise and resources available in various departments. The Museum of Art is one of the most dynamic major art institutions in America, having collected art since the inception of the Carnegie International in 1896. Kelly Strayhorn, the only Black-led theater in East Liberty, has incubated the careers of celebrated Pittsburgh and national contemporary performing artists.

“The co-fellowship relationship is meant to address the power dynamics within large institutions, including The Pittsburgh Foundation,” said 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.”

 About the co-fellows:

  • Director and filmmaker Chris Ivey uses filmmaking to challenge our current way of life and to lay out a blueprint for communities to find solutions together. His East of Liberty documentary series shines a light on gentrification and displacement of Black people from the East Liberty neighborhood and provides a pathway to learn from the many mistakes and successes of the city, in spite of those who intentionally want to make sure only certain sections of the population benefit. Ivey plans to organize film screenings and dialogue spaces to show existing and new work that engages audiences around elevating the voices of those who are impacted negatively, particularly Black women, students in the public school system and BIPOC artists working within large cultural institutions. He also hopes his work will support Kelly Strayhorn Theater, located in the heart of East Liberty, as gentrification and displacement knock at the theater’s door.
  • Kelly Strayhorn Theater: Since 2008, Kelly Strayhorn Theater (KST) has been Black led, with the goal of fostering radical imagination for Black and queer arts, culture and community in Pittsburgh by cultivating BIPOC and/or queer artists, entrepreneurs and arts administrators, developing their careers and shifting narratives around Black possibility. This fellowship provides greater, concentrated resources directly to a Black artist who is empowered to direct those resources to advance their work. This shift in resource ownership aligns with KST’s goal to trust in Black creativity and imagination by investing resources without prohibitive, bureaucratic (read: white supremacist) practices. The fellowship will also allow for an intentional moment of institutional self-reflection through a new perspective and broader insight that the fellow will bring. KST sees artist incubation as a core tenet of its institutional profile and programming. The organization intends to continue building these types of relationships with artists as opportunities are available and appropriate, to grow the reach of our local artist community to national and global markets.
  • Shikeith is a Black-American, artist and filmmaker based in Pittsburgh, who through his studio practice, explores notions of masculinity, hauntology (the return or persistence of elements from the social or cultural past, as in the manner of a ghost) and desire. He describes his work as “meditations on the emotional geographies of queerness and the histories that possess the psyches of Black men.” Recently, Shikeith has experienced increasing opportunities both nationally and internationally. The fellowship will make it possible for Shikeith to secure larger studio space, a studio assistant and the ability to experiment in photography, installation art and sculpture.
  • Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) opens its collections, exhibitions and archives to artists and curators for research, artistic practice and critical response as a contemporary museum practice. In collaboration with CMOA’s education department, the fellow will be thoughtfully paired with various museum staff including curators, educators and archivists, to connect their work to various art histories and critical discourse while incorporating the museum into their practice. The fellow will be welcomed to initiate artistic excavations and interventions into the museum’s collections, didactics and archives, contributing directly to the discourse and practice of the museum. A central goal of the museum’s artistic program is to critically examine its collection in relation to the conditions and contexts of the world around us, forming new relationships between artworks, artists, audiences and contemporary issues.
  • Illustrator and filmmaker Ana Armengod plans to make a series of short films based on the stories of undocumented and formerly undocumented immigrants from Mexico, other parts of Latin America and other countries who are now living in Pittsburgh. She will collaborate with these migrants to explore in visual and verbal forms what they gave up when they emigrated from their homes, what they miss, what sacrifices were made and what has been gained and lost. Armengod plans to extend her artistic process of using super 8 film, experimental film and voiceover techniques to create personal stories that cast light on pressing issues. The films will feature the voices of immigrants telling their stories over images drawn from her large archive of super 8 film. By recovering the stories of undocumented and formerly undocumented immigrants, she will archive their knowledge and stories of their land, their day to day lives, love and sacrifice.

Co-fellows were selected through an invitation-only nomination process. The fellowship guidelines were developed in collaboration with a group of Pittsburgh-based artists and staff from the co-fellowship arts organizations. A group of 16 Pittsburgh-based artists who identify as BIPOC and come from a variety of artistic disciplines, identities and experience levels were then asked to nominate up to two artists for the co-fellowship. Nominated artists were then invited to apply.

A panel of artists met to review applications and select the four fellows. Museum and theater staff, along with facilitator Friedman, made the final decision. The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Smith facilitated the selection discussions. Panel members were:

  • Davey D, a nationally recognized journalist, adjunct professor, Hip Hop historian, syndicated talk show host, radio programmer, producer, deejay, media and community activist.
  • Martha Diaz, an award-winning community organizer, media producer, archivist, curator, educator, and social entrepreneur.
  • grace shinhae jun, Ph.D., a mother, wife, artist, scholar, organizer, and mover who creates and educates on the traditional and unceded territory of the Kumeyaay Nation.
  • Kendra Janelle Ross, Ph.D., an award-winning cultural worker from Pittsburgh.
  • Nwaka Onwusa, chief curator and vice president of Curatorial Affairs at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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