2022 Grantees

Black woman with locs and tortoise glasses looks a straight into the camera
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The Love Ethic

By Anwulika Anigbo

The Love Ethic is a visual arts project that will generate collaboratively made, screen-printed materials and a digital website to spread the desire for public policies and practices (personal and institutional) that are grounded in love. It is both an inner proclamation and what we declare to the world around us. This campaign says out loud what social movements desire at their core: the hope that we can express love to ourselves and those around us. In her book All About Love, bell hooks explores how we lost the "hopeful vision of justice and love" that was invoked by the liberation movements in the 1960s: "folks stopped talking about love." She describes the despair and fear that gripped the nation as beloved leaders were assassinated. This despair and fear preceded the removal of what hooks referred to as a "love ethic" from the public sphere and public policy by the late 1970s. It has been more than two years since the start of the global pandemic. Paradoxically, we seem less lucid than in those early days of cheering for care workers and doing grocery runs for our immuno-compromised friends and neighbors. We cannot lose sight of the love ethic that began to re-emerge in those early pandemic days as we labor through another period of protracted chaos. This project exposes the vulnerability inherent in the social movements/struggles of our time, and in doing so allows us to sustain our work past the tipping point by holding close what we are struggling towards. Fundamentally this project hopes to liberate the language of love within policy and cultural reform discussions.

two people stand side by side both wearing black and stare straight into the camera
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Amigas Latinas, Forever

by Jose Luis Benavides + Amanda Cervantes

Amigas Latinas, Forever is an artistic response to, and exhibition of, our research with the archival collection and community of Amigas Latinas, a supportive education and advocacy organization for Latina lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender questioning women artists that was active from 1995 to 2015. For us, this work is meaningful as contemporary queer Latinx artists finding our own radical queer genealogies represented in the archives. Through photographs, scans, digitizations, and recreations, we will re-stage photos and ephemera to honor and share the legacy of Amigas Latinas with younger generations of queer Latinx peoples and wider audiences. We will achieve this by transforming, documenting, reproducing, and photographing their existing ephemera from the archive, including photos, fliers, pamphlets, press clippings, T-shirts, calendars, and buttons to create our own artistic responses. We will create staged photographs we're calling reenactments that frame queer Latina hands engaging with a selection of Amigas Latinas flyers for their "platicas" or "talks" series. These "platicas" were monthly public conversations and dinners held in members' homes for 20 years. Our staged photographs will highlight intimate touch between queer women, the materiality of more than 200 "platica" flyers, their tactile quality passed back-and-forth to promote each event, and the manual labor in their making, Xerox-ing, and historic mass mailings. Amigas Latinas, Forever will make meaningful impact as the first visual art response to the Amigas Latinas archive, using experimentation with archival-based artistic practices to bring together a lively and enticing body of work for multiple generations of queer and Latinx peoples across the city of Chicago.

white letters bbp with a black flower in the bottom right corner
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By The Black Bloom Project

The Black Bloom Project is a culmination of an artist's self-discovery, generations of Black womanhood walking and working the earth, as well as healing through community and earth. Working in the community through artist-led workshops, installations, pop-up shops, and social gatherings, The Black Bloom Project will culminate in fiber-based installations (known as Bloomscapes) covered in the blooms created by Jade and Cris, their team, and the community during "Garden Parties" (bloom-making workshops). For the first installation (BLACK, PURPLE, BLOOM), the blossoms will create a tower memoriam to the individual grief and lives lost over the last few years. This tower will be displayed throughout Chicago, including high traffic areas so we can generate increased awareness and visibility of the project and our stories, while advocating for better access to wellness and social justice resources. Proceeds made throughout the duration of this project will go towards organization and initiatives that focus on wellness and equity for BIW*oC.

Art piece with brown shards sticking out from frame
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Contra Corriente 2023

By Carlos Flores

The Contra Corriente 2023 project will support the creation of an annual Festival and accompanying exhibition that highlights the work of artists, activists, and organizations working towards racial and environmental justice on the Southwest Side of Chicago.

The title of the project and its inaugural exhibition (which translates to "against the current" in English) alludes to countermovements by activists and creative laborers fighting against extractive capitalist forces that favor profit over people. The exhibition specifically centers its messaging around environmental racism that impacts 'La Villita' and surrounding communities: displacement, the toxic air pollution that gives the Lower West Side the worst air quality in the city, and dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure disproportionately affecting communities of color.

greyscale picture. two people with braids look in opposite directions with disco ball behind them
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Sonic Architectures of Chicago House and Go-Go Music

by THE GOSPEL TRUTH: Jada-Amina & Anisa Olufemi

Together, Anisa Olufemi and Jada-Amina traverse the undergrounds of Chicago's House and Washington D.C.'s Go-Go music scenes. They pay homage to these chocolate cities and the communities that congregate around the respective homegrown genres through The Gospel Truth, which is an experimental documentary and series of corresponding public activations.

From The Warehouse to The Go-Go, these sacred commons conjure The Black Ecstatic that makes way for call and response, the laying of hands, and footwork. Using the Black Church as a theoretical reference point, Anisa Olufemi and Jada-Amina call upon those in their communities and beyond to consider these lived experiences as ancestral, tender, political, and spiritually transcendent. They are invested in the potential of the experimental documentary format to breathe life into history and usher in new audiences to collectively ponder the nuanced histories of these kindred sister cities.

By rendering a world that champions these genres left bankrupt by cultural erasure and targeted displacement, The Gospel Truth brings new light to the collective memory of Black Americans across generations and zip codes. Mining public and personal archives, the artists will weave original footage shot on location in Chicago and D.C. with interviews and found video documentation of live music performances into a nonlinear narrative that reflects the wayward spirits of Go-Go and House music. In dialogue with community stakeholders, House and Go-Go historians, and juke scholars, The Gospel Truth taps into old school and new age iterations of both genres to illustrate the intergenerational modes of Black communion cultivated around Go-Go and House.

In addition to an in-person screening, curated panels will discuss the significance of Black fugitivity, sonic architectures, and the visual cultures that ordain Go-Go and House spacemaking. By placing the film in conversation with cultural stewards, sonic performances, and the urban landscape of Chicago itself, The Gospel Truth will serve as a collective testimony: "While Black Washingtonians and Chicagoans remain under siege, within these sister-city sounds, Spirit moves."

hands hold two pieces of tattoo equipment
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The Indelible Mark-Making Project

by The GREYSTONE Collective

Architecture creates an indelible mark on the landscape; buildings speak to the culture of the people. Tattoos create an indelible mark on the figure; body art speaks to the personality of a person. We are tied together by the stories of our lives and the places we've experienced; marking indelible moments in time. Indelible Mark-Making is the premise for The GREYSTONE Collective, which establishes an environment for communal explorations of space, design, and art by continuing to build upon a legacy of creative, intellectual, and cultural experiences within the Bronzeville community. We consider and honor Bronzeville as a historically Black neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Our priorities are in place to celebrate and uplift Black Queer + Trans makers in a safe inspiring space.

The Indelible Mark-Making Project opposes racist and colorist ideas around Tattooing dark skin tones and wishes to create a space for healing, an agency for those community members harmed by false narratives. We will create an archive with and research Black Tattoo Artists of our past; simultaneously forming and becoming the ancestral connections to the work. We endeavor to carve out space for healthy conversations and facilitate public programming surrounding safety, consent, and shared lived experiences. We hope to prioritize technique and serve as a community-based resource agency when embarking on a Tattoo Journey—whether by receiving or making Tattoos.

The Indelible Mark-Making Project focuses on Tattooing as a deeply diasporic practice and the significant, interconnected considerations essential to the process of making and receiving. The practice of making a Tattoo indefinitely honors and preserves visual art as a permanent marking on impermanent vessels. We imagine a world where people who look like us can feel safe acquiring a Tattoo and practicing Tattooing. Most importantly, we want to elevate the mark-making as an art form outside western conventions and empower Tattoo Practitioners to identify as Artists.

person holds a wooden puppet. puppet leans on the persons shoulder
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Dogs or Cats; Augmented Body

by Jaerin Son

Dogs or Cats; Augmented Body is an interdisciplinary experimental puppetry performance that combines bunraku-marionette and shadow puppetry. Based on Jaerin Son's immigrating experiences, the project tells the story of a female bot and her human physical therapist's burgeoning friendship. Inspired by Cyborg Feminism and Posthumanism theories along with Artaudian post-dramatic tradition, this work touches on the visual aesthetics of theater and its double, featuring bilingualism (Korean and English), auditing and spectating experiences (spoken lines vs projected subtitles), live camera and live sound mixing along with performers' ephemeral presence on stage.

Dogs or Cats; Augmented Body intends to show the distorted desire for human perfection through things like artificial intelligence (A.I.), juxtaposed with the artist herself, an Asian immigrant female, on stage. Although A.I is designed to be flawless and human-like, it can never become a human. Yet, humans, especially marginalized women of color, desire to be as strong, limitless, and immortal like A.I.. Like a twin desiring each other's bodies,  this project tells the story of bodies that carry hopes and despairs via visual storytelling.

Dogs or Cats; Augmented Body is intended for those who have an experience in crossing borders in any capacity; both voluntary and involuntary immigrants and their children, the dreamers, refugees as well as those with physical difficulties, disabilities, and impairments as well as those who have gone through various levels of injuries. The project explores the limit of the body and our aspiration beyond the body.

cut up image of a church sits in 3D layers coming towards the camera
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Story of Polyvocality

By Haerim Lee & Justin Cooper

Story of Polyvocality is comprised of an interdisciplinary visual art process, an exhibition, and community-involved conversations, which are the results of a collaboration between artists Haerim Lee and Justin Cooper. Excavating site-specific memories of the anti-racist mural All of Mankind painted by Bill Walker in 1972, the Story of Polyvocality explores the now white-washed site at the Northside Stranger's Home Missionary Baptist Church in Cabrini Green, the history of mural making, and coinciding personal narratives from the artists' collective experiences.

headshot. person looks at the camera with wide grin
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Coronary Artery

by Khameron Townsend-Riley

Coronary Artery is both a documentary and short film that seeks to highlight the public health crisis that is Chicago's Red Line Train. By combining firsthand testimonials of the commuter experience intertwined with a thriller screenplay, Coronary Artery will expose how this neglected intersection of public health and public services is destroying the lives of Black families. Violence on Chicago's elevated train system has increased by 17%. Commuting to one's destination is not a luxury anymore, it is a matter of survival. And for Dennis, the main character of our story, arriving at his destination is his only way to move his family out of Chicago's economically segregated and socially disinvested realities. He's got the job interview of his life, and his wife Janice and children Karlton and Kaitlin are praying for his safety. Dennis tries to ignore the menu of maladies that await him on the train, but he can't help but intervene. Every time he does so, he's reset back to the beginning of his commute. He's trapped on the Red Line, and the Chorus of countless unnamed dead who haunt the train have challenged Dennis to "LEARN" If only he can learn to simply let the chaos wash over him, and turn a blind eye like everyone else.

person with brown locs and yellow blazer stares into camera with wide smile
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Unsung Heroes of 79th St

by Kristen Williams

With Unsung Heroes of 79th St, Kristen Williams will be painting portraits document the stories of unsung heroes and influencers who live in Chatham and have made a positive impact on the community. The subjects will include long-standing business owners, community-engaged residents, and regular everyday folks who live in the neighborhood and are known as good samaritans. This project is meaningful to Kristen because as a resident artist in the neighborhood, she feels that it is her responsibility to bring art and beauty to 79th Street. It is important that art be accessible to everyone and to know that you matter, and that you too can be a work of art. Art is not just something you see in museums; it can be seen anywhere, including as you walk down the street in your neighborhood.

person in red tunic stands left of black water vessels
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Creating Care-Filled Igbo Architecture(s) II

by ebere agwuncha

In 2021 ebere founded Creating Care-Filled Igbo Architecture(s), which is an ongoing series celebrating the intersections of architecture, design, craft, and art in the Igbo sphere and beyond. This project leans onto a dexterous practice exploring various inquiries, including: food preservation, collective space, visual literature, rainwater collection, and extrusion/intrusion architecture. The word architecture(s) has been adapted to also include object design, functional structures, and visual literature.

The first iteration of Creating Care-Filled Igbo Architecture(s) titled owoko, was exhibited at Comfort Station (Chicago, IL) in May of 2022. owoko is an interactive installation honoring Igbo women through an ongoing ritual centered around the element of water. The Ignite Fund will support Creating Care-Filled Igbo Architecture(s) II: an expanded collection of Igbo contemporary sites of rest, gathering, and wander. This upcoming iteration will be developed and executed summer of 2023.

black and white drawing shows metal vessels
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Forget Me Not: Sites of Black Hereafter

by Isra Rene

Forget me Not: Sites of Black Hereafter is an archiving exploration rooted in the importance of historic preservation of Black life and Black death through the decorative architectonic structure and functional material grieving motifs such as memory vessels, memory quilts, and multimedia commemorative assemblages such as public shrines and memorials. Black contemporary grieving motifs ranging from community shrines and memorials to wearable commemorative objects such as lockets, chains, and T-shirts are widely known within a Black cultural context. However, little is known about their cross-cultural parallels in technique and assemblage with traditional grave decoration and burial practices similarly seen in the Congolese tradition of grave marking. Grave marking is an indigenous burial practice of decorating gravesites with the belongings of the deceased and with ethnobotanical objects associated with water. This association with water points directly to the afro diasporic belief that the spirit of the deceased passes through a world of water on their crossing to the hereafter. This unique mortuary practice is said to usher the soul of the deceased to a peaceful realm and placate the surviving family and communities' need for comfort and ease. Forget Me Not: Sites of a Black Hereafter situates Black people as architects to excavate their shared imagination in building memorial sites for Black life and Black death that underscore the timeless value of grave marking and decoration as an instrument of spontaneous, ancestral communication and sites of belonging. 

This archiving exploration works alongside Chicago - based artists on the West and Southside of Chicago to facilitate the construction of sites of "Black Hereafter" where participants will explore the historical and metaphysical importance of creating public memorials for Black grief using memory vessels, memory quilts, and multimedia commemorative assemblages.

meet the 2022 jury

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