Four African American women will contribute to vigorous dialogue through theater, dance and classical music arts across the Midwest, thanks to generous grants from the Joyce Foundation. The prestigious Joyce Awards recognize artists of color who collaborate with nonprofit institutions by awarding them $50,000 to commission thought-provoking works of art, which aim to strengthen cross-cultural understanding by bringing diverse audiences together.
“Throughout the Joyce Awards’ 11 years, we have been so proud to support over 35 community-oriented arts projects to diversify and engage audiences and artists,” said Ellen Alberding, the President of the Joyce Foundation. “This year’s endeavors bring strong voices to the table and showcase the incredible artistic talent of these four women, and we’re excited to be part of the process.”
An anonymous national panel of cultural organization and business leaders selects winners based on artistic merit, quality of work and community engagement in the artistic process. This year’s panelists included leaders from stalwart institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, Theatre Communications Group, the Southwest Latino Art Council and Ariel Capital Management. Winners include artists from Minneapolis, Cleveland and Detroit.
Camille A. Brown collaborating with DANCECleveland to create Black Girl, a powerful dance and music composition that will depict the complexities of carving out a positive identity for African American females in urban American culture. Brown and her dancers will interview communities of African American women, both young and old, in Cleveland and other parts of the country. Their struggles and triumphs will be incorporated as spoken text during the performance. Combining history and musicology with the fantastical approach of imagery in “Alice in Wonderland,” this work will shed light on feminism, patriarchy, stereotypes and beauty. The piece will premiere in New York and tour the country in 2015.
Lynn Nottage commissioned by the Guthrie Theater to stage a premiere production of Reading Play, a play she began writing after interviewing the people of Reading, Pennsylvania, named the poorest city in America in 2011. Nottage’s engagement with the community will include classes and public Q&A sessions with places of worship, diversity groups, nonprofits and Minneapolis schools. Participants will explore the themes of poverty in Reading Play juxtaposed with the city’s own struggles with poverty. Additionally, the Guthrie Theater will offer $2 tickets for public assistance programs and human services agencies when the play premieres in 2015.
Jessie Montgomery will work with Detroit’s Sphinx Organization to compose, produce and perform “Banner!” a tribute to the 200th anniversary of the “Star Spangled Banner.” With the goal of reflecting diversity in American society and culture, the composer will draw influence from rock, jazz, and folk music. “Banner!” will premiere in October 2014 and perform nationally through the Sphinx Virtuosi Tour, which reaches more than 10,000 people a year. As a member and leader of the Sphinx Virtuosi, Montgomery will expand the reach of “Banner!” through special performances for schools, community centers and churches in underserved areas in each city, as well as Detroit.
Tracey Scott Wilson will work with the Pillsbury House Theatre to write Prep, a play about a group of teachers changing their students’ test scores to receive yearly bonuses. Racial and sexual tensions arise as the teachers try to cover their transgressions. To weave Minneapolis’s own racial tensions into the performance, Scott Wilson will interview residents from a local conflict that pitted white dog owners against longtime African American residents. For one year, the two groups battled over the proposal to place an off-leash area in a park named for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Like her other works, Scott Wilson’s goal is to spark a real conversation about race—devoid of political correctness and off-limits topics. Production is planned for the fall of 2015.
Additional information and photographs for each artist and their partnering organization are available on the Joyce Foundation’s website. Since 2003, the Joyce Awards is the only program supporting artists of color in major Midwest cities.
“We are so excited to bring these four talented women and artists to the Midwest,” said Angelique Power, The Joyce Foundation’s Senior Program Office for Culture. “They will continue the Joyce Awards’ tradition of strengthening cross-cultural understanding in the Great Lakes region.”
About the Joyce Foundation: The Joyce Foundation supports policies that improve the quality of life for people in the Great Lakes region and that can serve as models for the country. Our efforts are focused on addressing today’s most pressing problems while also shaping the public policy decisions critical to achieving long-term solutions and creating opportunity. The work is based on sound research and aimed at areas where we can add the most value. We encourage new, forward thinking and innovative approaches with a regional focus and the potential for a national reach. The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country. To learn more about the Foundation, please visit www.joycefdn.org.