Left: Book cover for “Song of the Shank,” published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.
Jeffery Renard Allen‘s Creative Capital-supported project, the novel Song of the Shank, is being published by Graywolf Press on June 17. At the heart of this remarkable work is Thomas Greene Wiggins, a 19th-century slave and improbable musical genius who performed under the name Blind Tom. As the novel ranges from Tom’s boyhood as a sightless, probably autistic piano virtuoso to the heights of his performing career, the inscrutable savant is buffeted by opportunistic teachers and crooked managers, crackpot healers and militant prophets. In his symphonic novel, Allen blends history and fantastical invention to bring to life a radical cipher, a man who profoundly changes all who encounter him.
Song of the Shank is already garnering tremendous critical acclaim, including a forthcoming review on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review that calls the novel “masterly” and praises Allen as “a prodigiously gifted risk-taker.“ In the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jeff Calder calls Song of the Shank “a landmark of modern African-American literature,” and concludes, “Reading through this sagacious volume is like stumbling on a crooked monument covered in celestial carvings, something that aims for the stars and ends up reconfiguring constellations.” In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, “If there’s any justice, Allen’s visionary work, as startlingly inventive as one of his subject’s performances, should propel him to the front rank of American novelists.” Continue reading
On May 19, The Village Voice presented its 59th annual Obie Awards, celebrating achievement in the Off-Broadway and off-off Broadway theater. We were thrilled to hear that Lisa Kron (2000 Performing Arts) received a 2014 Obie for the musical theater work Fun Home.
Based on the graphic memoir by lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel, Fun Home dramatizes Bechdel’s coming-of-age and her relationship with her closeted gay father. The critically acclaimed musical adaptation ran at The Public Theater from October to December 2013. Along with Kron as the playwright and lyricist, composer Jeanine Tesori and director Sam Gold also received Obie Awards for the production.
Quintan Ana Wikswo and Kenny Fries
At the 2013 Creative Capital Artist Retreat, awardees Kenny Fries (2009 Literature) and Quintan Ana Wikswo (2013 Emerging Fields) discovered deeply compelling intersections in their work around the Jewish/queer/disabled body in Germany. To their great delight, they realized they’d both be working on those intersections in Berlin that autumn—Kenny to begin a new book, and Quintan to exhibit her interdisciplinary work at The Jewish Museum in Berlin.
The pair immediately devised a plan to organize a salon-style gathering of Berlin-based artists, activists and scholars whose work focuses upon gender, disability, ethnicity and genocide in Germany. When Creative Capital stepped in with financial support through the Grantee Gatherings program, Kenny opened the doors to his apartment and a stimulating, provocative and profoundly generative event took shape. Continue reading
In this episode of the PBS web series The Art Assignment, 2013 Performing Arts awardee Jace Clayton (aka DJ /Rupture) challenges you to take a walk from where you live and find the quietest place. Here are his instructions for completing this “art assignment”:
1. Go outside and talk a walk from where you live or are staying at the moment.
2. Continue until you’ve found the quietest place possible.
3. Take a moment to absorb it. Then document the place through photography or video. Upload it to your social media platform of choice using #theartassignment.
Read more and join the conversation on the Art Assignment YouTube page.
Eric Dyer and Matthew Porterfield
On April 22, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) announced the 13 artists selected for the inaugural Rubys Artist Project Grants. Awards from $2,000 to $10,000 were made to support artists that reflect a diversity of talent and creativity for projects including immersive theater, interactive media experiences, documentary film and musical composition. We were thrilled to see two Creative Capital Artists among the roster: Eric Dyer and Matthew Porterfield, both 2012 Film/Video awardees.
With a vision and initial funding provided by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the Rubys Artist Projects Grant program was established by GBCA in 2013 to support the region’s gems—the local creative community of performing, visual, media and literary artists. The Rubys were inspired in part by Creative Capital’s own Ruby Lerner, and the name pays homage to Ruby as a visionary leader in the realm of arts funding. We could not be more proud of this tribute and the fact that the Rubys grant program is already benefiting Creative Capital artists!
The next round of Rubys grants focuses on the Visual Arts and Literary Arts and opens for applications on May 1, 2014. Details on the application process as well as downloadable grant guidelines are available at http://baltimoreculture.org/programs/rubys.
Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital’s President & Founding Director
Ruby Lerner: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Ben! A bit of background, before we get started: In 2011, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation asked Creative Capital to partner with them to launch and oversee the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards Program (DDPAA), which announced its third class of awardees yesterday. I know that we’re both so excited to begin working with this extraordinary roster of artists. We talked about the birth of DDPAA in an interview for this blog back in April 2012, so we thought it would be interesting to do a “Part Two” now about what has been learned over the past few years working together to bring the program to life. We had a similar discussion on a session at last year’s Grantmakers in the Arts conference in Philadelphia.
Thinking back on the initial vision for the DDPAA program, what do you think the biggest changes have been (if any) to adapt the program to the needs of the artists? Continue reading
Laura Poitras. Photo by Sean Gallup for Home Front Communications.
Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (2008 Film/Video) has been honored with two major journalism awards for her reporting on National Security Association surveillance programs that whistle-blower Edward Snowden brought to light. The Washington Post and The Guardian each received the Pulitzer Prize for public service for “the revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency,” as reported by Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman and Ewan MacAskill. In the same week, the group of reporters also received the prestigious Polk Award for national security reporting.
In January 2013, Poitras was contacted by an anonymous source saying that he had sensitive documents related to NSA surveillance that he wanted to bring to light. In the months that followed, Poitras emailed with the source through an encrypted connection, eventually bringing Guardian reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill into the correspondence. In May 2013, Poitras, Greenwald and MacAskill flew to Hong Kong to meet the source, who turned out to be former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In early June, the reporters broke his story simultaneously in The Washington Post and The Guardian and released a video interview with Snowden, shot by Poitras, on YouTube. Continue reading
On April 17, Susan Robb (2013 Emerging Fields) will embark on a five-month adventure from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. This marks the culmination of her Creative Capital-supported project, Wild Times, which merges new media, social engagement and a 2,650-mile hike to explore wildness as a geographic ideal and a state of mind. I connected with Susan to learn more about this project and her preparations for the trek.
Jenny Gill: Wild Times centers around the importance of untouched wilderness and the notion of “wildness” as an antidote to the stress and structure of modern life. You live in a major city (Seattle). Do you struggle to stay connected to the wild in your day-to-day life?
Susan Robb: The “wild” I’m most interested in is the internal space, the interior dialogue, the autonomous sense of self. In the same way that geographic wild spaces are endangered, I believe the internal, personal ones are endangered as well. A person can feel the struggle and stress of modern life regardless of whether they live in a city or not. Continue reading
2014 Guggenheim Fellows LaToya Ruby Frazier, Deke Weaver, Naeem Mohaiemen, Stacey Steers
We were thrilled to see seven Creative Capital Artists among the 2014 class of Guggenheim Fellows! Congratulations to the following:
Patty Chang, awarded in Fine Arts
Nancy Davidson, awarded in Fine Arts
Chris Doyle, awarded in Film-Video
LaToya Ruby Frazier, awarded in Photography
Naeem Mohaieman, awarded in Film-Video
Stacey Steers, awarded in Film-Video
Deke Weaver, awarded in Drama & Performance Art
Read more about these artists and the full roster of 2014 Guggenheim Fellows here.
Bernadette Mayer (2009 Literature) is the winner of the National Poetry Society’s 2014 Shelley Memorial Award. The judges, Ben Doller and Joan Larkin, wrote the following tribute: “For a generation of poets, Bernadette Mayer has stood as a brilliant example of how to live a life in poetry and how to create a poetry out of life. From her early performance-based work in which she explored the lines between memory, documentary, and presence, to her current work which excavates the DNA of the struggling city in which she lives (Troy, NY), Mayer’s writing has always been fiercely, independently ahead of its time. Feminist and expansive—in multiple directions—Mayer’s voice is one that cuts the wind, leads the charge, and always tells the smooth, hard truth. In a massive body of work that juxtaposes the quotidian with the spectacular, the public with the personal, Mayer has emerged as the chief poet of time in our time. Throughout her still-evolving career, Mayer consistently transcends category, genre, and label, carving open space for new forms of writing, thinking, and being. From her early work as the co-founder and editor of the influential 0 to 9 with Vito Acconci, to her deeply collaborative and creative poetry friendships, to her radical investigations into egalitarian pedagogy, Bernadette Mayer is a poet who has given more than she has taken—she has given proliferation back to poetry, and poetry back to art.”
Mayer received the Creative Capital award in 2009 for her project Helen of Troy, The Faces That Launched A Thousand Ships, a series of poems and photographs featuring women named Helen. Her book, The Helens of Troy, New York, was published by New Directions Press in 2013.