Jeffery Allen Releases “Song of the Shank,” a Lyrical Work of Historical Fiction Both “Dream-like and Real”

Left: Book cover for "Song of the Shank," published by Graywolf Press; Right: Photo of Blind Tom.

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

Video: Ela Troyano on How Our Spanish Language Workshop Builds Communities

At Creative Capital, we’re extremely proud to say that in 2014 alone we’ve already presented four Spanish Language Professional Development Workshops! We visited Queens and Los Angeles in February, Philadelphia in April and Charlotte, NC, in May to empower Spanish-speaking artists to create the careers they envision for themselves. In the above video, our Workshop Leader and 2000 Film/Video awardee Ela Troyano explains why strategic planning has been so important to her own artistic career. You can learn more about our Spanish Language Workshop here.

Playwright and Actress Lisa Kron Wins Big This Awards Season

Lisa Kron

Lisa Kron

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.
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Video: Kyle Abraham at the 2013 Artist Retreat

Kyle Abraham (2013 Performing Arts) presents his project The Social at the 2013 Creative Capital Artist Retreat. The Social is a reflective, evening-length dance work that explores social dance and the memories associated with attending your first school dance, church function or house party. Facilitating an open environment for audiences to get up and dance before and after the show, the work embodies what those experiences were like for the viewer and performer alike. You can watch more artist presentations from the Retreat on our YouTube channel.

A Creative Capital Gathering in Berlin: Discussing Gender, Disability And Human Rights In Germany

Quintan Ana Wikswo (left) and Kenny Fries

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

The Story Chooses Sides: Strategic Marketing for Artists, Part Two

Narratives that hinged on belief, clockwise from top left: Steve Jobs: “Think Different.” Johnnie Cochran: “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.” Barack Obama: “Yes, We Can.” George W. Bush: “The smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

Narratives that hinged on belief, clockwise from top left: Steve Jobs: “Think Different.” Johnnie Cochran: “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.” Barack Obama: “Yes, We Can.” George W. Bush: “The smoking gun could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

This post is part of Brian Tate’s series, The Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing: Tools for Artists to Advance Their Careers and Communities. Part One was: Marketing Is Storytelling: An Intro to Strategic Marketing for Artists.

“True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure. The greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation—(and) the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”
– Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting

TV ads, Internet ads, movie trailers, electronic billboards, celebrity endorsements, product sampling—they are all applications of marketing, but not the thing itself. Like electricity snaking through wires, marketing can travel via advertising, promotions and public relations, but it is older and greater than those conduits. Marketing is powered by a primal form of energy, the Story, to which it attaches a Call-to-Action. When those elements are expertly combined, their effect is intense. Continue reading

Photo Gallery: Spanish-Language Workshop at the Queens Museum

Guest leaders Gonzalo Casals and Chemi Rosado-Seijo (who is also a Creative Capital Awardee!) lead a session at the Queens Museum

Guest leaders Gonzalo Casals and Chemi Rosado-Seijo (who is also a Creative Capital Awardee!) lead a session at the Queens Museum

In February, the Queens Museum partnered with us to host a Spanish-language workshop underwritten by Tequila Herradura. The workshop was led by Ela Troyano along with guest hosts Chemi Rosado-Seijo and Gonzalo Casals. Chemi Rosado-Seijo is a 2013 Emerging Fields Awardee of Creative Capital who attended two of our workshops in Puerto Rico before becoming a Creative Capital Artist! We’re so proud that he’s now a member of the Professional Development Program’s team of amazing workshop leaders. Here, you can watch a video from our 2013 Artist Retreat in which Chemi and Ela discuss the impact of our the Spanish-Language workshop on his career.

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Video: Jace Clayton’s “Art Assignment”

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 Among Inaugural Recipients of Rubys Grants for Baltimore Artists

Eric Dyer and Matthew Porterfield

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

The Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards Program: What Have We Learned?

Ben Cameron, Doris Duke Foundation Program Director for the Arts, and Ruby Lerner, Creative Capital's President & Founding Director

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