Announcing the Fall 2020 Creation Fund Awards

December 4, 2020  •  11 minute read

Simone Jones, Gil Rodriguez, and Miller Kraps in the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table. Photo: Louis Stein.

The National Performance Network (NPN) is awarding an initial $292,000 and leveraging an additional $930,000 in support of the creation of 18 new artistic works. In addition to Creation Fund support, each project will receive up to an additional $10,000 in Development Fund support and be eligible for presentation support.

Embracing an array of tools and forms from live dance to immersive VR, digital performance to an open-source audio library, the fall 2020 projects explore a variety of themes, including the embodiment of freedom for Black and brown bodies, an examination of queer care from HIV/AIDS to COVID-19, celebrations of Indigenous spirituality, and differing attitudes about safety and gun culture. The 18 projects span a geographic range, aiming to engage audiences from Mexico City to Williamsburg, Virginia; Olympia, Washington to Miami.

The Creation Fund is phase one of a three-part program that supports the creation, development, and mobility of new artistic work advancing racial and cultural justice and resulting in live experiential exchange between artists and communities. The fund supports new work in its early stages, centering relationship building between artists, presenters, and communities.  “NPN is privileged to support an inspiring body of diverse artists creating bold, critical work that questions us to think broadly about the complex times we are living in. These 18 projects represent multiple generations of artists, from Rennie Harris—who has been supported by NPN throughout his three-decade career—to Team Sunshine and Staycee Pearl, who were introduced to NPN as local artists presented at past Annual Conferences,” says NPN Director of National Programs Stanlyn Brevé. “Pandemic or no, these artists, partnering with over 50 cultural organizations across the globe, will continue to utilize new ways of working, building a pathway to a more just, humane future.”

The next Creation Fund deadline will be May 14, 2021 for projects premiering between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2024.

Learn more about the Creation & Development Fund.

The Creation and Development Fund is made possible with support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), and co-commissioners.

Fall 2020 Creation Fund Recipients

Due to the pandemic, projects descriptions and timelines may shift

a todo dar productions (Austin, TX) — Riding the Currents of the Wilding Wind
Co-commissioners: Pregones Theater / Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (Bronx, NY), Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (San Jose, CA), Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), Las Maestras Center for Xicana[x] Indigenous Thought, Art and Social Practice at UC Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA), and Sounds of California at Alliance for California Traditional Arts (Fresno, CA)

Riding the Currents of the Wilding Wind is a concept album and concert inspired by Helena Maria Viramontes’s 2007 novel, Their Dogs Came with Them, a story about the destruction and displacement of a Mexican American community when six intersecting freeways are built right through the heart of the neighborhood. This new work centers music (a mix of Mexican and Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz, funk, rock, gospel, and R&B) as a driving narrative force, drawing on the theatrical possibilities of a concert and video to create a sonic landscape and rich visual world steeped in symbolism and poetry. The work is created in collaboration with musical director Martha Gonzalez of the Grammy Award–winning band Quetzal, writer Virginia Grise, director Kendra Ware, and designer Tanya Orellana.

Carmina Escobar (Los Angeles, CA) — Cantadora, Shamana de Cabaret
Co-commissioners: Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles, CA) and Alice Paul Center at the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)

Cantadora, Shamana de Cabaret is a performative ritual—“part opera, part incantation, and part comedic examination of a life as an erotic export, a woman-creature, bird spirit, in whose veins boil the antagonist sex of oppressor and oppressed product of the clashing mixing of mestizo heritage.” The work is experimental in its process, reimagining and reconstructing a history through psychic symbolic readings, costumes that work as sound instruments to trigger the imaginary, and vocalizations that question spoken signifiers, atomizing the phonetic material and expanding the limits of the voice in order to affect the audience in an immersive experience. The work aims to create an online space for transgressive intimacy, generating a harrowing mixture of sound, poetic minimal text, and a magic realism aesthetic to affirm the agency of a voice compressed by otherness.

Golden Hornet: Felipe Pérez Santiago (Mexico City, MX) and Graham Reynolds (Austin, TX) — MXTX
Co-commissioners: Fusebox Festival (Austin, TX), Ballroom Marfa (Marfa, TX), and Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH)

MXTX will be a live performance, album, and audio library crossing physical and social boundaries. Created through a collaborative exchange by co-curators Coka Treviño (The Projecto) and Orión García (Peligrosa) and music co-directors Felipe Pérez Santiago and Graham Reynolds, the curated, gender-balanced project involves more than forty DJ-producers and composers from both sides of the Rio Grande. The project will result in an open-source audio sample library, an album, and performances, and will evolve into an open concept designed for sustained resonance and ongoing dialogue. Embracing a hybrid musical approach that empowers artists to collaborate across artistic, cultural, geographic, and political lines, MXTX uses the power and depth of the language of music to explore the issues where words often fail us.

Anthony Hudson/Carla Rossi (Portland, OR), Arias Hoyle (Juneau, AK), and Steven Paul Judd (Oklahoma City, OK) — Indigenous Residency Series
Co-commissioners: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA; Portland, OR), Bunnell Street Arts Center (Homer, AK), Western Arts Alliance / Advancing Indigenous Performance (Portland, OR), and N M Bodecker Creative Foundation (Portland, OR)

The Indigenous Residency Series will support Indigenous artists in creating and sharing new work. In residency at PICA, multidisciplinary artist Anthony Hudson (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde) will develop Clown Down 2: Clown Out of Water, in which Hudson’s drag clown character Carla Rossi finds herself trapped on a rock in the ocean while the water level rises due to melting ice caps, exploring how to navigate an increasingly distressed planet. Solo hip-hop recording artist Arias Hoyle (Tlingit), aka Air Jazz, will engage the local community and landscape in residency at Bunnell Street Arts Center in collaborative projects to accompany his new album, My La$t ¢han¢e ¢hilkat. To further elevate the Indigenous community around Homer, he will seek to work with residents of Nanwalek Village. At the Bodecker Foundation, Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa-Choctaw) will focus on a multidisciplinary exploration of traditional Native dances, both ceremonial and social, by beginning a series of large paintings that capture the steps of Native dancers in motion, as well as interviews with the dancers. Steven will begin the project at home in Oklahoma working with his own tribe, the Kiowa, and their traditional Gourd Dance.

Indigenous Performance Productions (Olympia, WA) — Welcome to Indian Country
Co-commissioners: All My Relations Arts at Native American Community Development Institute (Minneapolis, MN), Dartmouth College Hopkins Center for the Arts (Hanover, NH), the Washington Center for the Performing Arts (Olympia, WA), and the Moss Center at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA)

Welcome to Indian Country is an evening-length performance celebrating Native peoples and culture through original music, historic music, and spoken word/storytelling. The work moves seamlessly, offering seven songs for the people today, seven for the artists’ ancestors, and seven stories (seven is an auspicious number in many tribes). The storytelling and music will both exemplify the vibrant life of modern Native people as well as honor the artists’ ancestors, the Native musicians who left an indelible mark on the world and the many artforms that we call American music. The work’s all-Indigenous collaborators—Delbert Anderson, Nick Lucero, Nokossee Fields, Mali Obomsawin, Lyla June, and Storme Webber—represent the Diné (Navajo), Osage, Kootena/Ojibwe/Pend Oreille/Salish, Cheyenne, Abenaki, and Southern Ute tribes, as well as South American Indigenous descent. The work aims to encapsulate the joy they feel at being part of the Native community, and to share their stories with the world.

J’Sun Howard (Chicago, IL) — The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For
Co-commissioners: Links Hall (Chicago, IL), Bates Dance Festival (Lewiston, ME), Arena Dances (Minneapolis, MN), and National Center for Choreography at the University of Akron (NCCAkron; Akron, OH)

How do Black and brown bodies negotiate and perceive space? The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For will enrich, examine, and interrogate what it means to practice freedom. It is a transdisciplinary performance project about the built environment and spatial and ecological politics. Through embodied meditation and experiments with architectural imagination, cartography, and modalities of practicing freedom, The Righteous Beauty of the Things Never Accounted For aims to reveal new critical frameworks for Black Fugitivity. By using poetics of the everyday, Righteous Beauty will take a nonlinear and iterative approach within the built environment to show Black peoples’ existence as they should have always existed—freely.

Leah Glenn Dance Theatre and Steve Prince (Williamsburg, VA) — Nine
Co-commissioners: Carver Community Center (San Antonio, TX) and Xavier University (New Orleans, LA)

Nine is a commemorative multimedia performance piece celebrating the heraldic bravery andendurance of nine African American teenagers who became central figures in the United States school desegregation movement, dubbed the “Little Rock Nine.” Nine seamlessly interweaves the vocabularies of dance, visual arts, poetry, and music in a narrative that reminds our nation of its collective history, urging us to deconstruct damaging cycles stemming from the past and causing us to reflect on the repercussions of those damages upon our current education system, while we collectively forge forward.

Leo Garcia (Santa Monica, CA) — Earth
Co-commissioners: Highways Performance Space (Santa Monica, CA), Adobe Space (Alamosa, CO), and Outpost Productions (Albuquerque, NM)

Earth is an experimental theatrical work that combines magical realism, futurist philosophy, and body horror to tell the story of pregnant landowner Catalina, a descendant of early Hispano Catholic settlers, as she navigates devastating acts of both God and man in 1911 northern New Mexico. Grounded in relevant American historical themes—the legacy value of land, the gray area between good and evil, the environment, the human body, bio-ethics, and the woman’s role in our history—Earth looks at a moment in time and place and turns it on its head, critiquing colonialist aspirations in the process.

Leslie Parker (St. Paul, MN) — Call to Remember
Co-commissioners: Pangea World Theater (St. Paul, MN), Pillsbury House Theatre (Minneapolis, MN), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), and Danspace Project (New York, NY)

Call to Remember is a shared offering of improvisation, experimentation, and conjuring that explores Black pedagogy, artistry, and activism in dance. Launching a multiyear collaboration, four nationally renowned dancers—Leslie Parker, Amara T. Smith, mayfield brooks, and Vie Boheme—will come together in Minneapolis and New York City to create a work that prioritizes Blackness and explores remembrance as a means to cultivate community. The first iteration of Call to Remember will premiere in the Twin Cities and New York City under the title Divination tools: imagine home.

Lyam Gabel (Pittsburgh, PA) — the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table
Co-commissioners: Contemporary Art Center New Orleans (New Orleans, LA) and Immersive Media Department, Chatham University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Slipping between the present and the past, members of a queer family navigates their relationships with each other, becoming, interacting with, and learning from a chorus of voices from a critical moment in the queer liberation movement. the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table is a digital performance, immersive media project, and ongoing archive of queer care that stitches together stories from COVID-19 and the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The script draws from interviews with caretakers, activists, community organizers, and long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS, and a companion app will allow the audience to access and add to the archive of queer care used in the performance. the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table interrogates what unites and divides us as members of the LGBTQIA+ community and posits a utopian topography in the spaces between us.

Nao Bustamante (Los Angeles, CA) — The Wooden People
Co-commissioners: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT; Los Angeles, CA) and La Mama Experimental Theatre (New York, NY)

The Wooden People is a VR miniseries with a performance art core and telenovela vibe. Each episode culminates in a live performance/ritual. This melodramatic soap follows archetypal characters from the Mayan origin story—which tells of prehumans, “the wooden people,” who were formed and then destroyed—presented as a subcultural group in contemporary Los Angeles. The series will be distributed online with a series of live events accompanying the release of the project. The Wooden People grapples with ideas of queer Latinx existence, love, and a connection to the cosmos, making use of virtual reality to envelop the audience in a “productively confusing state.”

Sage Ni’Ja Whitson (Riverside, CA) — The Unarrival Experiments
Co-commissioners: New York Live Arts (New York, NY) and Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC; Troy, NY)

How do you see something you can’t see? The Unarrival Experiments centers the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy through a Black, Queer, and Transembodied lens. The work will encompass both interdisciplinary performance work and a site-specific performance series, as well as new and integrated media and two book-length works of writing. The Unarrival Experiments explores the profound, elusive wonder of invisibility through the metaphoric relationship between cosmic darkness and the systemic invisibilities of Black and Trans folk.

Rennie Harris Puremovement (Sharon Hill, PA) — Rennie Harris Pure Movement 30th Anniversary Tour
Co-commissioners: Bates Dance Festival (Lewiston, ME), the Joyce Theater (New York, NY), Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (Burlington, VA), Global Arts Live (Cambridge, MA), and FirstWorks (Providence, RI)

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of Rennie Harris Puremovement, America’s longest-running street dance theater company. RHPM will create two new works to premiere on its anniversary tour, as part of a “triptych” of the Black experience in America—Losing My Religion and American Street Dancer—alongside its legendary work Rome & Jewels. Hip hop culture was born out of political protest and uprising spurred by disparity and inequity, and RHPM remains true to this spirit, with works that reflect on and examine our nation’s current political, social, and economic upheavals and challenge society’s core belief systems and its humanity. RHPM’s 30th Anniversary Tour project seeks to connect with communities nationally through engaging, meaningful, relevant, and impactful performance art experiences and critical post-performance dialogue.

Shamar Watt and Keisha Rae Witherspoon (Homestead, FL) — mi yawd
Co-commissioners: Live Arts Miami (Miami, FL), Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator (DVCAI; Miami, FL), and Caribbean Film Academy (New York, NY)

Through repurposed archival footage, live performance, ethnographic dance on film, and experimental cinema, this project investigates the spirit of resistance embodied by Jamaica and its people and its timely relevance to the intensifying fight for racial justice across the Western Hemisphere. Lead artists Shamar Watt and Keisha Rae Witherspoon are American artists who proudly trace their heritage back to the Maroons of Jamaica, formerly enslaved Africans who escaped and rebelled against the British colonialists on the island in the 18th century. It is this spirited lineage they seek to give form to in this new work through cutting-edge choreography and cinema.

Shamel Pitts and TRIBE (Brooklyn, NY) — Touch of RED
Co-commissioners: Miami Light Project (Miami, FL), New York Live Arts (New York, NY), UCLA Arts (Los Angeles, CA), YoungArts (Miami, FL), and Jacob’s Pillow (Becket, MA)

Continuing Shamel Pitts’s research to propose and share the colorfulness within Blackness, Touch of RED is a new work for two men, which will take place inside of a contemporary boxing/wrestling ring. It will deal with allowing Black men to soften, the power in vulnerability, and the meeting point of two individuals within a boxed space that references a gladiator entertainment site. There, a heat path between the performers builds not out of aggression but within an enhanced electrifying effeminacy that heals. Bold. Boiled. Blood. The contemporary boxing ring will allow the audience to view the work from all four sides. The artist hopes that watching two men of color softening through a shared compassion and camaraderie will bring the audience into an experience that humanizes Black and brown bodies.

Staycee Pearl (Pittsburgh, PA) — CIRCLES
Co-commissioners: Kelly Strayhorn Theater (Pittsburgh, PA) and the Joyce Theater (New York, NY)

CIRCLES is an unapologetic, full-length dance work celebrating #BlackGirlMagic. Layering dance, visual arts, and a live original score, the work presents snapshots of popular culture through Choreographer Staycee Pearl’s lens as a Black woman. With an ensemble of five dancers, CIRCLES is a loud, colorful, and daring path to self-reclamation. CIRCLES is amplified by an original soundtrack created by Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl in collaboration with a diverse roster of Black club artists.

Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (Philadelphia, PA) — The Great American Gunshow
Co-commissioners: Asian Arts Initiative (Philadelphia, PA) and Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (Bloomsburg, PA)

The Great American Gunshow began in 2016 as a feeling: “How safe am I again? Who are these people who own 400 million firearms in the country, and are they trying to harm me?” The Great American Gunshow is an original live performance conceived by Asian American multidisciplinary performing artist, former US Marine, and co-artistic director Makoto Hirano. Utilizing an interview-creation method developed in partnership with Ping Chong + Company, Team Sunshine will hit the road to ask gun owners, “How safe am I?” They will then ask Asian Americans, “How safe do you feel now?” With those responses, they will create a piece that reflects the feelings, the desires, the questions, the curiosities, and the fears of the people they interview.

Zili Misik (Dorchester, MA) — Project Misik
Co-commissioners: Living Arts (Tulsa, OK) and the Fenway Alliance (Boston, MA)

Through Project Misik, the multi-ethnic band Zili Misik will offer interactive community-based workshops and performances that will highlight and reconnect roots music of the African diaspora, including jazz, Haitian roots, highlife, reggae, samba, Cuban son, African American spirituals, and neo-soul. The women of this group trace their roots to five countries and three continents; Zili has been bridging cultures, generations, and continents for more than two decades. Zili retraces routes of forced exile and cultural resistance, infusing original creations and traditional folksongs with self-reflective, positive lyrics that glide from English to Kreyol to Kriolu to Spanish, spinning tales of lives lived and yet to be.