2019 Fellows for Socially Engaged Art and partnership with SPArt Los Angeles

A Blade of Grass, Brooklyn / United States

April 8, 2019
April 8, 2019

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A Blade of Grass, the only arts nonprofit supporting socially engaged artists nationwide, is pleased to announce their 2019 cohort of A Blade of Grass Fellows for Socially Engaged Art and a new partnership with Los Angeles-based social practice funder SPArt.

Artists Kevin Bott, Ras Cutlass, Daresha Kyi, Shaun Leonardo, Tara Rynders, Monica Sheets, and collectives House/Full of Blackwomen and John Malpede, Henriëtte Brouwers, and Rosten Woo will join the growing body of artists that A Blade of Grass supports through direct project funding, research, content, and public programs.

2019 marks the first year of a three-year partnership between A Blade of Grass and SPArt to offer the A Blade of Grass-SPArt Fellowship for Los Angeles, which supports Los Angeles-based projects. “I couldn’t be more excited about this timely investment in the ecosystem of socially engaged artists working in Los Angeles,” said Alexandra Shabtai, founder of SPArt.

A Blade of Grass is also proud to be partnering with David Rockefeller Fund to offer the A Blade of Grass-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellowship in Criminal Justice for the fourth consecutive year. This fellowship examines the transformational roles artists play in a criminal justice context.

About the 2019 Fellows

Marking reentry with ritual
2019 A Blade of Grass-David Rockefeller Fund Joint Fellow in Criminal Justice
Artist Kevin Bott will create Ritual4Return (R4R) for formerly incarcerated individuals in New York to develop a rite of passage supporting their reentry to society from prison and jail. Participants will utilize tools like meditation, mask-making, and embodied theater practices to devise a ritual culminating in a public threshold-crossing to mark the beginning of the next chapter of their lives.

Facilitating mental wellness through DIY community design
Sci-fi writer, artist, and social worker Ras Cutlass will facilitate Deep Space Mind, a collaborative space for Philadelphia neighborhoods to evolve their own perspectives on what mental wellness means for their communities, assess what they need to achieve it, and design their own low/no-cost healing structures. The project will culminate in the exhibition and publication of the DSM.215, a community-sourced compilation of healing practices exemplifying the power of communities to address their own mental wellness outside of traditional Western methodologies.

Creating rituals of healing and well-being for black women and girls
Working collectively as House/Full of Blackwomen, choreographer Amara Tabor-Smith and theater director Ellen Sebastian Chang will collaborate with Oakland-based black women artists, survivors of sex trafficking, and anti-trafficking organizations to create public performances that represent the private healing and well-being rituals of black women and girls. Developed through intimate dialogues between collaborators, the performance rituals address issues of displacement, well-being, and sex trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland.

Modeling acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth in Christian communities
Filmmaker Daresha Kyi will collaborate with a community of self-identified “mama bears”—conservative, Christian mothers who accept and affirm their LGBTQ+ children, despite potential rejection from their religious communities—to create a feature-length documentary film, Mama Bears. In partnership with affirming pastors; churches; and religious, LGBTQ+, and civil rights organizations across the US, Kyi’s team and the mama bears will craft a unique outreach plan to bring the mothers to churches and congregations wrestling with "the LGBTQ question" in order to share their journeys of acceptance.

Fostering disagreement and understanding through movement
Artist Shaun Leonardo will develop a second iteration of Primitive Games, a performance and non-verbal storytelling methodology centered on the communicative possibilities of body language. In a series of movement workshops, Leonardo will collaborate with formerly incarcerated individuals, legal advocates, corrections officers, and victims of crime in New York to translate their personal narratives into performative gestures, culminating in an unscripted performance and creating a platform for non-verbal debate and consensus building.

Enacting a development plan for and by the people of Skid Row
2019 A Blade of Grass-SPArt Fellows for Los Angeles
Theater artists & activists John Malpede and Henriëtte Brouwers of performance group Los Angeles Poverty Department and designer Rosten Woo will create How to House 7,000 People in Skid Row and How to Fund It. The artists will integrate exhibition, organizing, public conversation, and finance research to engage the LA Department of City Planning and Skid Row neighborhood residents to enact “Skid Row Now & 2040,” a community-generated alternative development plan to house and protect the neighborhood’s low-income and homeless residents.

Healing hospitals through the arts
Professional dancer and registered nurse Tara Rynders will create First, Do No Harm and The Clinic, an immersive performance and workshop series bringing arts-based practices into hospitals. The Clinic’s workshops will teach restorative self-care strategies to nurses at Denver area hospitals, empowering them to more effectively care for themselves and their patients. The program will culminate in First, Do No Harm, an immersive theater performance in a working hospital comprised of nurses, actors, dancers, and musicians, who will address common issues in the healthcare workplace including grief, loss, compassion fatigue, and moral injury.

Amplifying voices from the erotic dance industry
Artist Monica Sheets will work with a community of erotic dancers in Minneapolis to create The Feminist Strip Club, a workshop series and public artwork to create dialogue around labor structures and stigma in the sex work sector. In workshops, participants will identify how they see their work and how they would like it to be seen by others. They will then create a public artwork to express the self-identified issues they face as workers and their vision for a more equitable field.

Supporters
Our work is made possible through the generous support of a growing family of individual donors and foundation and government partners. We are grateful for major contributions from our groundbreakers Annette Blum, Agnes Gund, Eva Haller, Shelley Frost Rubin, and Linda Schejola, and from David Rockefeller Fund; National Endowment for the Arts; SPArt; the Tremaine Foundation; the American Chai Trust; and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Media Contact
Emma Colón
Communications Associate, A Blade of Grass
T 646-945-0848
ecolon [​at​] abladeofgrass.org