Each year, Pittsburgh is named one of the most livable cities in America, and each year, that rating sparks criticism from those who rightly scoff at the idea that the term “livable” applies to all of its residents. This is evident in frequently cited studies showing the number of people, particularly Pittsburgh residents, who experience disparities that affect their overall quality of life. This also applies to the artists here, who claim to miss as many opportunities as their white counterparts.
The Pittsburgh Foundation is seeking to address this through the Exposure Artist Fellowship, a new program specifically described as responding to the call to “make Pittsburgh more livable for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Colored) artists.”
The foundation announced the recipients of the first Exposure Artist Fellowship for the pilot program, described in a press release as “for the arts community to support the creative practice of artists, increase diversity in their ranks, and advocate for racial justice in the field.”
Among the inaugural winners are local director and director Chris Ivy, visual artist Sheketh, and illustrator filmmaker Anna Arminggood. Each of the artists, known as BIPOC, will receive a $50,000 grant to continue their work at the “intersection of arts, social research, and activism.”
In addition, Ivy and Sheketh will work on a “joint fellowship” with the staff of the Kelly Strahorn Theater and the Carnegie Museum of Art, respectively. The two arts organizations will each receive $15,000 and work with the artists in a partnership to “address systemic racism in the arts and culture ecosystem.”
“The joint fellowship relationship is intended to address power dynamics within large institutions, including the Pittsburgh Foundation,” said Celeste Smith, the foundation’s chief arts and culture program officer. “When the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and Colored people rise, there is potential for white-led organizations, including philanthropy, to welcome them, learn from them, and truly support them.”
Armengod will be seeking a self-sponsored fellowship.
Each of the fellows is no stranger to the Pittsburgh art scene, and each offers their own unique styles and perspectives. As a documentary, Ivey has worked over the years to capture what many see as a fast-moving improvement in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Shikeith has become a distinguished local artist as part of performances in art spaces in Pittsburgh such as the Mattress Factory and the galleries of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center.
Armengod produces amazing work, making it a dynamic voice in the Pittsburgh arts community. In a 2018 interview with Pittsburgh City PaperThe Mexican-born artist described her approach to filmmaking and art, including her practice of painting with precision, then cracking eggshells.
The Exposure Artist Fellowship was announced last summer, and the Foundation has reviewed the fellows’ applications with a panel of artists. Museum and theater staff, along with Felicia Savage Friedman, a local yoga instructor who incorporates an anti-racism framework into her practice, made the final decision.
“When we announced this program, I described Exposure as an important next step in the Foundation’s efforts to inject more funding into the arts community in the region—and to increase diversity by supporting BIPOC artists,” says Foundation President Lisa Schroeder. “With the selection of these three excellent artists and two dynamic arts organizations, I am confident that the Exposure grants will provide resources where they are most needed now and benefit the entire arts community in the long run.”