The Pittsburgh Foundation

Announcing the fall 2016 Advancing Black Arts awards

Nearly $308,000 to support arts and cultural programs

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 28, 2016 – The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh grants program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, has awarded nearly $308,000 in grants to 18 artists and arts organizations. Since its inception in 2010, the program has invested about $4 million to support contemporary artists making art rooted in the black experience, past and present. It is the only grant-making program in the region explicitly dedicated to supporting the elimination of racial disparities within the larger arts sector.

Grantees for the fall grant cycle come from various disciplines and include artist Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe, who will present her work, “Wade in the Water,” at Carnegie Museum of Art; the Society for Contemporary Craft, which will host a residency with Richmond-based craft artist Sonya Clark; and musician Jordan Taylor of Tracksploitation, who will produce a series of short films to complement the group’s first extended play album. The complete list of fall 2016 awardees is below. 

Launched as a partnership between the two foundations, the program is designed to support artistic risk-taking, outreach programming, career opportunities for artists and strategies to promote organizational growth. Awards include funding for individual artists, residencies and unrestricted operating grants.

A four-member panel reviewed all submissions. Panelists were vocalist and educator Anqwenique Wingfield, theatre production manager and photographer Eric A. Smith, dancer and arts manager Erin Perry, and visual artist Gavin Benjamin. The panel reviewed 54 applications for consideration in this fall’s program. 
Funding is highly competitive: Twice a year, a panel of arts experts and community representatives reviews submissions and makes funding recommendations to foundation staff. The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program received a total of 102 applications this year and awarded 36 grants totaling $577,365 in the spring and fall cycles. Applications for the spring cycle are due Feb. 27, 2017. Guidelines and application information are available online at

Grants to individual artists totaling $108,885 were made to:

  • Michael David Battle, $10,000, to support the creation of “Dear Michael,” a memoir collection and visual installation project.
  • Sean Beauford, $14,800, to support curation of the photography exhibition, "Our East Liberty."
  • Stephanie Boddie, $15,000, to support the multimedia and oral history project, "Unfinished Business: From the Great Migration to Black Lives Matter."
  • Curtis Reaves, $15,000, to support the production of a 30-year retrospective of work titled, "Moments in Time."
  • Ramon Riley, $10,000, to support the development of a new body of work.
  • Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe, $15,000, to support the development of the multimedia artwork, "Wade in the Water."
  • Jordan Taylor, $14,085, to support the creation of a series of high-concept short films connected to the music of the duo, Tracksploitation.
  • Gregory S. Williams, $15,000, to support the creation of the documentary, "Selfies from The Hill."

Grants for artist residencies totaling $9,000 were made to:

  • Society for Contemporary Craft, $9,000, to support an artist residency with Sonya Clark with a solo exhibition including more than 30 works.

Unrestricted and operating grants totaling $190,000 were made to:

  • 1Hood Media, $25,000, for 2017 unrestricted support.
  • Afro-American Music Institute, $25,000, for 2017 operating support.
  • Balafon West African Dance Ensemble, $15,000, for 2017 unrestricted support.
  • Harambee Ujima Arts & Cultural Association, $15,000, for 2017 unrestricted support.
  • Hill Dance Academy Theatre, $35,000, for 2017 operating support.
  • Legacy Arts Project, $20,000, for 2017 operating support.
  • New Horizon Theater, Inc. , $25,000, for 2017 operating support.
  • Sembene: The Film & Arts Festival, $15,000, for 2017 unrestricted support.
  • Shona Sharif African Dance and Drum Ensemble, $15,000, for 2017 unrestricted support. 

The Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh 2016 Cycle 2 Panelists were:

GAVIN BENJAMIN is a multifaceted artist with backgrounds encompassing commercial photography, painting, printmaking, and interior and product design. Born in Guyana and raised in Brooklyn, New York, he received his bachelor’s from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and was drawn to experiment with many mediums. His current work focuses on his longtime interest in flowers, still lifes, landscapes, portraits and collage mixed with courtly painting traditions; a mashup of sorts. Benjamin’s various fine art works, home accessories and designs have been featured in numerous national and regional publications, including: City Magazine; Clear Magazine; Interior Design magazine (ICFF Picks, Spring Market Tabloid); New Glass Review; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review; V magazine, and The Washington Post.

ERIN PERRY is the executive director of Legacy Arts Project, Inc., an arts organization with the mission to preserve the history and traditions of African art as represented throughout the diaspora through education, instruction and interaction. As a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate School of Business, she applies her academic training within a community setting, utilizing art as a tool for transformation both individually and collectively. Perry has been an active contributor to Legacy Arts since 2005, participating as a member of the dance ensemble until present day. With an extensive background in education, Perry has impacted children and adults from Wilkinsburg to Taiwan, teaching classes in English, Math, Photography and Movement. She is also a founding member of the Nefertiti Alliance, an association of African American women founded on the principles of self-care and the preservation of cultural capital. As a mother of two growing boys and a 6-month-old daughter, her focus continues to be grounded in the uplifting of humanity through knowledge of self. 

ERIC A. SMITH started his artistic career in photography and theatre production. He has worked with Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, New Hazlett Theatre, Bricolage Production Company and many others, learning everything from stage management to sound and light design; from directing to producing; from company management to managing director. He is founder of CREW Productions, LLC., which works with artists on bringing their visions and works to digital media through video and photography.

ANQWENIQUE WINGFIELD is an extremely versatile vocalist and educator specializing in opera, classical music, jazz and soul. She is the founder and director of Pittsburgh-based artist collective Groove Aesthetic and studio manager of BOOM Concepts: BOOM Studios//Hilltop. In 2014, contemporary jazz band KINETIC (led by Dr. Joe Sheehan) released its debut album, "World of Wonder;" Wingfield is the lead vocalist. She was named as one of Whirl Magazine’s 13 Under 30 in 2015 and one of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Fab 40 under 40 in 2013. Wingfield has shared her talents and experience with many young singers and musicians in the Pittsburgh area, and was recently hired as the education director of Opera Theater Pittsburgh.