Creative Work Fund Grants Reflect Diversity and Community Change

The Creative Work Fund (CWF) is awarding 15 new grants, totaling $600,000, to collaborative projects featuring literary or traditional artists. Each year, the applications and grants speak to specific traits of the greater Bay Area — such as its history and its diverse population — as well as to cultural and community change.

2017 marks the 13th year of the Creative Work Fund. From its beginning, its guiding principles have celebrated cultural richness and diversity, ways that the arts “can be a powerful vehicle for problem-solving and community renewal”, and the ways that collaborative efforts among artists, organizations, and those organizations’ constituents generate a productive exchange of ideas and bring the arts to new audiences. The 2017 grantees illustrate these principles in far-reaching ways.

Displacement of long time residents and the rupture of communities was on the mind of many applicants in 2017. Two projects speak to the trauma of local ruptures: the displacements of African American communities in South Berkeley and in East Palo Alto. Two others address how world events from decades ago — the war in Vietnam and the 1947 India-Pakistan Partition — reverberate today.

Other CWF artists are addressing the importance of uncovering and sharing historical artifacts. This quest shines through in plans for a new book about the West Berkeley Shell Mound, and a project on the recovery and performance of shuguls, a form of Sufi music from the Arab world that dates to when Istanbul was the center of the Ottoman Empire.

As immigrant communities mature, elders feel a disconnect from younger generations who may not have been exposed to traditional art, music, or even language. Three projects — one on Lucumi spiritual traditions, another on Tibetan opera, and a third on Chinese Opera — seek to bridge this generational divide by co-creating work with youth, casting youth performers, modernizing formats, and incorporating English.

Many of the other writers and performers selected for 2017 CWF grants are gathering community stories or leading workshops to instigate community members’ contributions to inform their pieces. This work will lead to two plays about death (one focused on young victims of gang violence and suicide and the other an exploration of how members of Bay Area Latino communities today confront death and dying); a novel about vice raids in LGBTQ bars in the 1950s; fiction and nonfiction essays developed with escaped victims of human trafficking in Vietnam; a collaboration among Cuban artists making their way in the United States; and a graphic novel anthology featuring newly-minted Mexican and LGBTQ superheroes.

A list of awardees and collaborators along with brief project descriptions is available on the Creative Work Fund site.

And More Ahead

The Creative Work Fund grantseeker portal is now open to letters of inquiry for projects featuring media artists or performing artists in genuine collaborations with nonprofit organizations. Letters of inquiry are due December 1, 2017.

Visit www.creativeworkfund.org for more information.

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