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The Creative Work Fund is delighted to announce the award of 14 grants supporting the creation of new works by San Francisco Bay Area artists who are working in collaboration with an array of nonprofit organizations to develop and present their work. From a mapping project that illuminates stories of evictions and displacement in Alameda County to a creative exchange between a traditional Lao molam (theatrical) group and a Lao rap artist, the projects reflect the rich variety of the region’s cultures and artistic practices.

Several projects delve into the histories of places or institutions, including the collective Will Brown’s creation of a mobile application that reveals stories from the San Francisco Art Institute’s archives, Camille Utterback’s use of historical photographs about the San Lorenzo River in her public art piece for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, and Filipina master weaver Jenny Bawer Young’s tapestry that celebrates the Kalinga people’s successful blockage of a planned dam project on the Chica River in the 1980s. Still others look at timely regional and national topics such as the impact of incarceration on fathers and sons, the challenges of transferring knowledge across generations in diasporic communities, and the loss of human life and healthy ecosystems at United States-Mexico border regions.

The 2015 Creative Work Fund grantees in media arts are:

  • Artist collaborative Will Brown (Lindsey White, Jordan Stein, and David Kasprzak) collaborating with exhibitions and programs vice president Hesse McGraw and archivist Jeff Gunderson of the San Francisco Art Institute to create a multimedia exhibition based on the Institute’s archives. The work will be showcased via mobile application.
  • Filmmaker and chorographer Austin Forbord collaborating with Community Works and choreographer Amie Dowling to create Fathers and Sons, a dance/theater film that draws upon individual experiences and physical memories of a cast of formerly incarcerated men and their sons.
  • Sound artist and composer Guillermo Galindo collaborating with photographer Richard Misrach and the San Jose Museum of Art to create an audio installation and live performances based on musical sculptures that Galindo handcrafts from objects found in the desert near the United States-Mexico border.
  • Interdisciplinary artist Erin McElroy and members of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project collective collaborating with Tenants Together to map evictions and produce digitally-based narratives of displacement in Alameda County, where evictions are rising sharply but remain under-studied.
  • Multidisciplinary artist Brontez Purnell collaborating with The Lab to create a documentary tribute to the influential postmodern choreographer Ed Mock.
  • Camille Utterback—a pioneer in the field of digital and interactive art— collaborating with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History to create an interactive public artwork on the museum’s monumental glass atrium wall.
  • Multidisciplinary artist Tessa Wills collaborating with ten queer youth, storyteller Maryam Roberts, digital audio artist Kadet Kuhne, cartographer Ben Pease, visual artist Shizue Siegel, and the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center (LYRIC) to develop and present the youth’s stories—as live performances and an audio tour–on the theme of desire.

The 2015 Creative Work Fund grants in traditional arts are:

  • Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez and the all-female Mariachi ensemble Mariachi Femenil Orgullo Mexicano collaborating with Women’s Audio Mission to create the first mariachi album ever performed, arranged, produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered entirely by women.
  • Neema Hekmat along with other musicians collaborating with Ballet Afsaneh to create The Persepolis Project, an original performance work that is informed by ancient Persian earth-centered humanistic beliefs and philosophies.
  • Liberian multidisciplinary artist Nimely Napla collaborating with Diamana Coura West African Dance company to create an original multidisciplinary performance piece titled The Forbidden Bush to be featured in performances in an East Bay theater and outdoors at Lake Merritt and Defremery Park.
  • Khankham Phaxayavong of the Lao Bantheung Sinh molam troupe and Lao American rap artist One Hunned collaborating with the Center for Lao Studies to create a new work, Molam Tan Smay (Molam in the Modern Era)—bringing together two genres (molam and rap) that share lyrics being sung rhythmically against an instrumental or “beat” background.
  • Islamic calligrapher Arash Shirinbab and ceramicist Forrest Lesch-Middleton collaborating with the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California to explore themes of hospitality, morality, and justice through a series of calligraphy-inscribed ceramics that are inspired by the Persian Nishapur tradition.
  • Drag artist Mica Sigourney collaborating with other artists and Queer Cultural Center to create The Widow Norton’s Daughters, exploring the important role drag artists play in preserving LGBTQ community traditions.
  • Master weaver Jenny Bawer Young collaborating with Manilatown Heritage Foundation and eight female apprentices to create an indigenous Kalinga laga (backstrap loom) tapestry representing the Kalinga people’s fight to save the Chica River in the Cordillera region of the northern Philippines.

According to Creative Work Fund director Frances Phillips, “This year’s grants reflect several strong themes: anxiety about gentrification and displacement in Bay Area communities; the challenge of maintaining cultural knowledge in diasporic communities; and an honoring of legacy—be it icons of the local LGBTQ arts history or African artists who have long made the Bay Area their homes. Media arts applicants are rendering data and stories with new tools while traditional artists are creating calligraphy, ceramics, masks, weavings, and other materials painstakingly and by hand. And a number of projects bridge the old and new—incorporating phrases from spoken word poetry into traditional calligraphy, combining the Lao storytelling form molam with rap, and an all-female crew teaming up to create a recording of an all-female mariachi ensemble.”

The Creative Work Fund was launched in 1994 to assert the value of philanthropic support for artists, the value of collaboration, and the special collaborative skills many artists bring to their craft and can share with nonprofit organizations. Since its inception, the Fund has supported 323 projects with a total of more than $11 million. It is a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund of San Francisco that also is generously supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation of Menlo Park. Grants of up to $40,000 are available. Applicants must live and be based in any of 11 greater San Francisco Bay Area counties—from Napa and Sonoma to the north to Monterey and Santa Cruz to the south.

Each year grants are recommended with the assistance of expert advisors.

  • The 2015 media arts panelists were: Jaime Austin, curator at ZERO1 in San Jose, California; Pablo de Ocampo, Exhibitions Curator at the Western Front in Vancouver, Canada; William Hsu, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and director of the Advanced Multimedia Laboratory at San Francisco State University; Abina Manning, director of the Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Lee Montgomery, associate professor of electronic arts at the University of New Mexico. Also advising in media arts were Anuj Vaidya, co-director, 3rd I South Asian Films; and Michella Rivera-Gravage, Digital Strategist and Producer at An Otherwise Co.
  • The 2015 traditional arts panelists were: Rachel Cooper, Director of Global Performing Arts and Special Initiatives at the Asia Society in New York; Laura Marcus Green, Ph.D., an independent folklorist, writer, and consultant; Hafez Modirzadeh, professor of Creative Music Studies at San Francisco State University; Chike Nwoffiah, actor, theater director, educator, and filmmaker; and Daniel Sheehy, director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Also advising in traditional arts were dancer Sherwood Chen, formerly of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts; and ethnomusiciolgist Sarah Lappas, instructor at California State University, Sacramento.

At the end of November 2015, the Creative Work Fund will announce its spring 2016 deadlines.