Two Chicago Orgs Win Joyce Awards

by Jacob Coakley

CHICAGO—Two collaborations between artists of color and cultural organizations in Chicago have each won $50,000 from The Joyce Foundation's annual Joyce Awards competition.The Free Street Theater will commission a new play, Meet Juan(ito) Doe, from playwright Ricardo Gamboa, and Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music will commission Quantum Music/Englewood from celebrated saxophonist and composer, Ernest Dawkins, and accomplished percussionist and sitar player, Rahul Sharma.

More info from the Joyce Foundation:

The Joyce Awards is the only program supporting artists of color in major Great Lakes cities. The Chicago-based foundation has awarded nearly $3 million to commission 55 new works since the annual program started in 2003.

A distinctive feature of the Joyce Awards is that a winners' work must include the process of engaging community members to inform and shape their art. Community forums, workshops, panel discussions, social media input and one-on-one conversations will help influence each artist's final presentation.

“It is exciting to see such a powerful focus not only on the creative aspects of these works, but also on how the artists plan to involve diverse communities in their development and presentation,” said Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding. “We are confident these productions will do a great job of telling stories that can foster civic participation and cross-cultural understanding, and we are proud to support them and showcase the artistic talent of the Great Lakes region.”

The 2017 Joyce Awards are managed by the Joyce Foundation’s newly-appointed director the culture program Tracie D. Hall.  Previously, Hall was deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and joins the Joyce Foundation with deep experience at the intersection of arts access and equity, literacy, youth and economic development. Her goals at the Joyce Foundation include maintaining the foundation’s presence as a supporter of Chicago’s dynamic cultural community and national advocate for racial equity and economic inclusion; supporting the next generation of arts and culture leaders and administrators; and helping build communities through the arts.

Free Street Theater and Ricardo Gamboa

Renowned artist and activist Ricardo Gamboa will develop interactive installations in several Chicago neighborhoods to collect stories and experiences from Chicago’s Mexican and Mexican-American population. The information gathered through these installations and Gamboa’s first-hand community engagement will help him develop an original work of theatre to be performed in the summer of 2017 at Chicago Park District locations in Little Village, Pilsen, and other predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhoods. In addition, on September 16, 2017 – Mexican Independence Day – a second version of the play will premiere at an indoor theater in Little Village for a six-week run. 

"At Free Street, we are fundamentally committed to self-representation, to making theater by, for, with, about and in Chicago's diverse communities. We are thrilled to have the support of The Joyce Foundation in making Meet Juan(ito) Doe, a project conceived by Ricardo Gamboa that uses a grassroots and ensemble process to center the stories and contributions of Chicago's Mexican-American community," said Coya Paz, artistic director of the Free Street Theater. "At a time when families are being torn apart by deportations, when American citizens are being told they don't belong in the country that raised them, when being Brown or speaking Spanish is an everyday act of bravery, there is no more urgent time to invest in performance that tells the true stories of our city."

Old Town School of Folk Music and Ernest Dawkins and Rahul Sharma

Renowned artists and educators, Ernest Dawkins and Rahul Sharma, will partner in creating a new work designed to engage 1,000 young musicians in an exploration of the musical heritage of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. Dawkins and Sharma will compose a new piece that examines and celebrates Englewood’s rich and diverse musical heritage and work with groups of musicians of all experience levels to produce a culminating performance of the piece involving up to 1,000 musicians in Englewood.

"We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to work with such exemplary artists in a celebration of the musical heritage of a section of our city that is more often cited for challenges rather than artistic achievements," said Bau Graves, executive director of Old Town School of Folk Music. "The Joyce Award will set free voices that have long gone unheard."

Additional 2017 Award Winners

The Cuyahoga Community College Foundation in Cleveland won a Joyce Award to commission new jazz work by Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer, Terence Blanchard.

The Minnesota Center for Book Arts  won a Joyce Award to commission renowned print and graphic artist Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. for a new exhibit as part of the center’s biennial celebration in the summer of 2017.

The O'Shaughnessy will commission the Minneapolis-based Ananya Dance Company and its artistic director, Ananya Chatterjea, to develop and stage a new production addressing women’s roles, work and global commerce called "Shaatranga."

About The Joyce Foundation

The Joyce Foundation works with grantee partners to improve quality of life, promote community vitality, and achieve a fair society. We focus grant making primarily on the Great Lakes region, and also have national impact through our program areas – Education, Employment, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention, Democracy and Culture. Our Culture program focuses on strengthening and diversifying arts organizations, building capacity within the arts sector and investing in the creative capital of artists of color. Joyce was established in 1948 in Chicago, and over the years has continued to respond to changing social needs. For more information, please visit our website or follow us on Twitter @JoyceFdn.