NEA announces 2015 Art Works and Challenge America Grants

By Hal Partlow, Associate Director of Grants –

NEA_Art_Works_logo-colorThe National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the 2016 fall annual awards today for its Art Works and Challenge America grants. Ten grants were awarded across the state, totaling $220,00.00. The NEA receives applications for these annual grants from organizations across the country. More information about applying for NEA grants can be found on their website. For a complete list of NEA 2016 fall annual grant awards, click here.

The Tennessee Arts Commission congratulates the organizations who will receive these investments. We look forward to hearing about the projects in the coming year and how they benefit Tennesseans and their communities.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives—no matter who you are or where you live—they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like those in Tennessee offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

The grant recipients include:*

International Storytelling Association (aka International Storytelling Center)
$20,000 Jonesborough, TN
FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Folk & Traditional Arts
To support Storytelling Live!, a seasonal teller-in-residence program. Master artists representing a broad range of storytelling traditions from the U.S. and abroad will conduct week-long residencies. In addition to storytelling performances, the artists will offer workshops and present special programs designed to serve seniors and youth.

Jubilee Community Arts, Inc. (aka Laurel Theater)
$30,000 Knoxville, TN
FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Folk & Traditional Arts
To support Traditional Music Performance at the Laurel Theater. In addition to a weekly concert series of live music, as well as performances at the Jubilee Festival, Executive Director Dr. Brent Cantrell and other researchers will conduct fieldwork to document previously unrecognized local traditional musicians. Selected recordings from performances and fieldwork will be broadcast via local public radio stations.

Knoxville Opera Company (aka Knoxville Opera)
$10,000 Knoxville, TN
FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Challenge America
To support OPERAtion Outreach!, a series of free public performances, in-school productions and education programs, with related outreach activities, intended to engage underserved audiences of East Tennessee. The project will include performances of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” and Puccini’s “Tosca.” The Knoxville Opera African-American Voices Series, highlighting the importance of diversifying the opera field, will feature African-American opera artists discussing their careers, achievements and experiences as minorities within the field. The series, intended to serve a predominantly African-American and Latino audience, will bring together emerging opera artists such as Jonathan Burton, Chrystal Williams, Jennifer Roderer, Scott Bearden, Kerri Marcinko and Lindsay Russell. Associated outreach activities will also include cast performances in local Title I high schools and churches.

University of Tennessee at Knoxville
$20,000 Knoxville, TN
FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Theater & Musical Theater
To support the Clarence Brown Theatre’s production of “A Lesson Before Dying” by Romulus Linney, adapted from the novel by Ernest J. Gaines. The play tells the story of the friendship between an African-American schoolteacher and an uneducated African-American man who has been wrongly accused of murder and sentenced to death in the pre-Civil Rights Movement South. Partnerships with the Knox County Public Library, Knoxville Area Urban League and the University of Tennessee’s College of Law will allow for a series of ancillary events designed to engage the Greater Knoxville and East Tennessee communities in dialogue on issues of civil rights, social justice, racism and the legal system.

$40,000 Memphis, TN
FIELD/DISCIPLINE: Local Arts Agencies
To support the ArtsMemphis Fellowship. The project is a leadership development program for artists, arts managers, and leaders of community-based organizations. The program will involve participants in a learning process focused on building capacity for arts-based community engagement. The program will provide a structured series of classes and workshops on topics such as diversity, equity and creative placemaking provided by experts and practitioners in these fields.

Ballet Memphis Corporation (aka Ballet Memphis)
$10,000 Memphis, TN
To support the presentation of “Making Places,” a performance of new dance works, which explores themes of the past, present, and future. Choreographer Joshua Peugh will create a new work focusing on the past to music by the Memphis soul group STAX. Choreographer Jennifer Archibald will create a work focusing on the present. Choreographer Gabrielle Lamb will create her third work for Ballet Memphis by looking at the future and will explore how people respond to their surroundings and an ever-changing landscape. The project will include an open rehearsal and outreach activities with community groups. The performances will take place at Playhouse on the Square in the city’s art district, and will include one “pay what you can” community day.

New Ballet Ensemble (aka New Ballet Ensemble and School)
$15,000 Memphis, TN
To support the Community Engagement Program, including year-round dance instruction, residencies, mentoring, tutoring and a Family Resource Center. Elementary students will receive tuition-free, after-school classes in ballet, hip-hop, flamenco, Chinese and African dance in their school’s dance studio. Students completing the dance residency will be invited to attend a summer intensive at the New Ballet studios and may self-select to continue with free multi-genre dance classes by enrolling in the studio program on scholarship. Students train in a multi-cultural environment led by expert teaching artists and perform in annual main stage productions. Through the Mentoring Program, students will receive assistance with transportation, dancewear, nutrition, tutoring, college prep and other family services as needed.

Opera Memphis, Inc. (aka Opera Memphis)
$30,000 Memphis, TN
To support 30 Days of Opera. Launched in 2012 as an outreach initiative with the goal of breaking down barriers that prevent new audiences from attending opera, the festival has successfully reached more than 100,000 people through nearly 200 performances in more than 100 different locations. The fifth year of the initiative may comprise a consecutive month of admission-free opera performances, an original children’s opera, “pop-up” opera performances and masterclasses. Activities will include both structured concerts and educational workshops, as well as collaborative performances with several community organizations. As many as 50 admission-free opera related events will be held at public venues in the fall of 2016.

Nashville Ballet (aka Nashville Ballet)
$15,000 Nashville, TN
To support the creation and presentation of “Layla.” The work is a new ballet by Artistic Director Paul Vasterling, with an original score by composer Richard Danielpour. Based on the ancient Persian myth, “Layla and Majnun,” the ballet will incorporate themes of unrealized love, the artist’s life and the power of women. “Layla” will premiere at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Jackson Hall and will include educational programming that aims to reach members of Nashville’s Middle Eastern population.

Nashville Opera Association (aka Nashville Opera)
$30,000 Nashville, TN
To support a new production of the tango opera “Maria de Buenos Aires” by composer Astor Piazzolla and librettist Horacio Ferrer. The story is set during the “Dirty War,” (1976-83) when Argentina was governed by military juntas that controlled the citizens through state-sponsored terrorism. It includes a Buenos Aires prostitute named Maria, post-death Maria (aka the Shadow of Maria), a singer of Argentine payadas (folk songs), members of the local underworld, a poet narrator who is a duende (goblin-like creature), several marionettes and a circus of psychoanalysts. Outreach programming will include cross-cultural educational and artistic events, partnering with local organizations that regularly work with the Latino/Hispanic community. The creative team may include developer/technologist Barry Steele, conductor Dean Williamson, and choreographer Paul Vasterling. As many as three performances will occur in the Polk Theatre at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in the spring of 2018.

*Some details of the projects listed are subject to change, contingent upon prior Arts Endowment approval. Information is current as of December 1, 2015.