Artists get $169K in grants from Heinz Endowments, The Pittsburgh Foundation
Cameron Barnett can continue to pen poetry — and get paid for it.
The 29-year-old from Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood is one of 15 artists chosen to receive grant money from “Investing in Professional Artists,” a shared program of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments announced Wednesday.
The foundations awarded $169,000 to the artists for their ongoing work.
A national and local panel of artists and scholars chose the grantees from a pool of 123 local individuals and organizations.
“It’s really humbling and exciting to be given this opportunity, and to be believed in by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments and that my work seems interesting to other people,” Barnett, who teaches at Falk Laboratory School in Oakland, told the Tribune-Review. “It will allow me to continue my work.”
He said the organizations are investing in professionals and the genres they are passionate about. In an artist statement he said he talked about the plans he had for his poetry. His writings are mostly about his family and race, he said. He plans to delve into the history of his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.
The grant will allow him to work on a manuscript. A lot of the content for the piece will depend on what he discovers as he travels to the West Coast and into Canada to research the places where his family members lived.
Barnett will receive $8,500.
“Having the money takes the pressure off of having to spread out the travel,” he said.
Barnett said poetry is not a dying art.
“I think people crave poetry,” said Barnett, who will use to the grant to support a second book of poetry centered on the historical and racial roots of his heritage in the United States and Canada. As part of the project’s research phase, Barnett will travel to five locations to interview elder relatives and archivists, historians and museum personnel.
Grantees were selected based not only on the quality of their work, but also on the potential of their proposals to advance their careers.
Since 2011, 133 artists and organizations have received about $2 million through this program, according to a news release.
The projects meet four key goals: supporting creative development for professional artists; creating career advancement and recognition opportunities for artists; encouraging creative partnerships among artists and local organizations; and increasing the visibility of working artists.
The other recipients are, according to the foundations:
• Asia Bey ($10,000) to support the completion and production of the graphic novel “EXA,” which explores identity and rebellion among Black femme youth and Black “others” who are misrepresented and omitted in comic media and mythology.
• Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Artist Residency with Seth Clark ($35,000). Housed in the former Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, the Children’s Museum’s new Museum Lab has uncovered opportunities to engage visitors in hands-on learning about history, architecture preservation and decay.
• Shikeith Cathey ($10,000) to support the production of new and ongoing experimental artworks that, through sculpture, video and photography, examine the subconscious lives of Black queer men.
• Kevin Clancy ($10,000) to develop a new body of interdisciplinary work culminating in an October 2019 solo exhibition titled “Utopia or Oblivion” at Bunker Projects gallery in Bloomfield.
• Anthony DePaolis ($10,000) to support composing, recording and producing a new work, “Life Unbound,” which is grounded in the jazz diaspora and informed by the artist’s spiritual growth after the May 2018 death of his best friend and musical collaborator, Michael Murray.
• Phillip Andrew Lewis ($10,000) to develop new work about the complex relationship between humans and plants, leading to “Planthouse,” a living, sustainable sculptural installation and greenhouse that contains more than 100 species of medicinal plants from around the world.
• Clayton Merrell ($6,400) to develop a new body of visual art that explores global ecology by reimagining and transforming images of classical and sublime landscapes.
• Njaimeh Njie ($10,000) to support the production of a documentary about Blackness in Rust Belt cities, with Pittsburgh as the center point for comparison.
• Mikael Owunna ($10,000) to support the publication of “Limitless Africans,” the first-ever photography book focused on LGBTQ African migrants and complex narratives about race, sexuality, gender and migration.
• Adriana Ramirez ($10,000) to complete research and a manuscript for a book on the history of violence in the Americas, from Pittsburgh to Colombia and back, blending family oral histories with larger national narratives.
• Martha Rial ($10,000) to support production, organization and community programming for the Millvale expansion of “Beyond the Ceiling,” a temporary photographic mural project that will feature images of local women who have challenged the status quo and are role models for their neighbors.
• Anjali Sachdeva ($10,000) to support development of a novel set in a near-future world where people are segregated by gender.
• Joy-Marie Thompson ($10,000) to fund a new live contemporary dance performance and dance film called “TIED,” in which two feminine bodies will be tethered together.
• Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight of the performance entity slowdanger ($9,000) to support the process, documentation, touring and premier of a new group multidisciplinary performance work, “empathy machine,” premiering in Pittsburgh and New York City in summer 2019.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .