Meet the Four African American Female Artists Who Got $50,000 from the Joyce Foundation

Aside from a more traditional grantmaking program, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation has a little side project called the Joyce Awards. These are awarded to artists who can balance history with fresh ideas, relevance with emotion, and imagination with diversity. To be considered for the $50,000 prizes, artists must collaborate with relevant nonprofit institutions to bring diverse audiences together and strengthen cultural understanding.

Although the 2014 recipients of the Joyce Awards are all African American Women artists, they're each incredibly diverse in their own right. This year's winners hail from Minneapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland.

Camille A. Brown collaborated with DANCECleveland to create the dance and music composition, Black Girl. With this grant money, Brown and her dancers will interview African American women to incorporate spoken word about their struggles and triumphs during performances. Black Girl will premier in New York and begin touring in 2015.

Jessie Montgomery is working with Detroit's Sphinx Organization to compose, produce, and perform a tribute to the 200th Anniversary of America's National Anthem. "Banner!" will highlight diversity in American culture over the past two centuries with the influences of folk, rock, and jazz music. The piece will debut in October 2014 and play nationally through the Sphinx Virtuosi Tour.

Lynn Nottage is working with the Guthrie Theater on a production of Reading Play, based on her interviews with the people living in Reading, Pennsylvania. Reading was named the poorest city in American in 2011. The play will explore the theme of poverty, and the the theater will offer discounted tickets for public assistance programs and human service agencies.

Last but not least, Tracey Scott Wilson teamed up with the Pillsbury House Theater to write a play about teachers altering their students' test scores to receive yearly bonuses. "Prep" aims to weave in the racial tensions in Minneapolis and spark real conversations about race without the hassles of political correctness. "Prep" will premier in the fall of 2015, following personal interviews with African American residents.

"Throughout the Joyce Awards' 11 years, we have been so proud to support over 35 community-oriented arts projects to diversify and engage audiences and artists," said Ellen Alberding, the President of the Joyce Foundation. "This year’s endeavors bring strong voices to the table and showcase the incredible artistic talent of these four women, and we’re excited to be part of the process."

If you, your organization, or an artist you know is interested in applying for a 2015 Joyce Award, be aware that the Letter of Inquiry deadline is April 4th and the full proposal deadline is June 16th.