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Artistic Innovations

This grant program offers up to $15,000 in support of expenses incurred in the art-making process and premiere of these endeavors. Through generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, M-AAA supports individual artists and arts-based nonprofit 501c3 organizations in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

2020–2021 Artistic Innovations Grant Recipients and their projects are listed by discipline.


Anuradha Naimpally, Austin, TX
HOME: Where Do I Belong? $15,000

Artist Anuradha Naimpally is influenced by Bharata Natyam, classical dance of India, as well as the contemporary, ever-changing world in which she lives. HOME: Where Do I Belong? explores the ideas of home and belonging as they manifest daily for participants of GirlForward (GF), an organization that provides opportunities and support for girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution. With GF’s partnership, Naimpally will provide a safe place for these teens to express their own stories through writing, poetry, and/or spoken word during guided workshops. HOMEwill also include digital recordings, musical score, choreography, outreach presentations in schools, and a final performance.


Arkansas PBS Foundation (AETN), Conway, AR
Say My Piece Slam Poetry Camp $15,000

AETN’s Say My Piece Slam Camp will nurture the next generation of Arkansas’s poetic voices with a four-day camp to be held in June 2021 at the AETN facility in Conway, Arkansas. This will be followed by an outreach event in Pine Bluff. During the four-day camp, thirty middle and high school students, recommended by Central Arkansas teachers and principals, will convene at the AETN facility to learn about poetry and Poetry Slam, learn how to express their unique and personal thoughts and emotions through spoken word, and to present their work to an audience as a “slam” competition on the final night of the camp. The Say My Piece initiative aims to directly connect youth with the thriving poetry community in the state.


Apollo Chamber Players, Houston, TX
Before the Decade is Out… $15,000

Apollo Chamber Players, in partnership with Documentary Alliance, will produce a multidisciplinary project titled Before the Decade is Out… featuring a film documentary with live musical performance and lecture centered around Apollo’s 20×2020 project. Launched in 2014, 20×2020 is a vanguard initiative to commission 20 new multicultural works by 2020. The project roster includes new works for string quartet and larger instrumentation configurations by Pulitzer Prize, Grammy and Emmy-winning composers such as Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Libby Larsen and Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate as well as international composer-performers Chitravina N. Ravikiran and Van-Ahn (Vanessa) Vo. The thirty-minute documentary, filmed by award-winning documentarian Jeffrey Mills, will follow the commissioning process from beginning to end, capturing Apollo and associated project composers/guests preparing and working their craft from conception to final product.

Chamber Music Tulsa, Tulsa, OK
Piano Trio to commemorate Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial $9,985

Tulsa pianist and composer Barron Ryan will compose and perform a new piano trio (7–10 minutes in length) that embodies his response as a musician and a Tulsan to the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial commemoration in 2021. The piano trio is a standard chamber music ensemble of piano, violin, and cello with roots in the eighteenth century. The first works that Beethoven published were piano trios, following in the footsteps of Haydn and Mozart. The piano trio has been a popular medium for composers since that time, and they are frequently featured on Chamber Music Tulsa series. In addition to reflecting on the history of this tragedy through the commissioned work, a narrative dimension will be added through Ryan’s documentation and social media content—blogs, vlogs, pictures, videos, etc. This will allow the community to learn more about the process of his music composition and to witness the creative process as Ryan grapples with this historic event and creates art that promotes engagement and encourages healing and unity.

David Hunsicker, Wichita, KS
Girls Play Trumpet! $2,420

Many talented young female trumpet players stop playing or don’t take music as seriously as they might due to the lack of support for female trumpet players. “I believe the example set by many of the STEM fields is applicable here: girls need support, reinforcement that they can be successful on the trumpet, and visible representation,” says Hunsicker. Many girls in middle and high school are the only female trumpet players in their section.

Hunsicker will host a day called “Girls Play Trumpet!,” in which female trumpet players from the greater Wichita area middle high schools spend a day in clinics and master classes at Wichita State University, culminating in a public performance the next evening.


Cara Mia Theatre, Dallas, TX
Ursula, or Let Yourself Go with the Wind $15,000

Cara Mia Theatre (CMT) presents the world premiere and a subsequent local two-stop tour of a new play about family separation on the US border through the eyes of a child. After each performance, CMT will collaborate with Dallas-Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation on post-show discussions to generate community sharing, learning, and organizing among diverse audiences in non-theatrical settings and diverse neighborhoods. Written, directed and performed by Frida Espinosa Müller, Ursula, or Let Yourself Go with the Wind chronicles the experiences of Nadia, a seven-year old child from Honduras, as she makes the journey to the US border, is separated from her mother, and detained with other children.

Sound Garden $15,000

COLLIDE presents Sound Garden: a season of interdisciplinary programming at the Ladybird Wildflower Center, a major botanical garden and research center in Austin. This project will produce a series of innovative performances, installations, and workshops at one of the nation’s leading botanical gardens. The project will attract new and diverse audiences to the Wildflower Center, help visitors engage with sound and the natural world in new ways, and create a platform for local artists to create new work that responds to most diverse collection of native Texas plants in North America. COLLIDE is a nonprofit organization that creates art projects at the intersection of performance, sculpture, and social practice.

Simone Cottrell, Fayetteville, AR
Lotus Rising Theatre $15,000

Lotus Rising Theatre (LRT) is an eighteen-month research and devising theatre process working with youth and young adults who identify as Southeast Asian American (SEAA) and whose families are part of the Southeast Asian diaspora (Hmong, Laotian, Khmer, and Vietnamese). SEAA youth and young adults ages five to twenty-five who reside in Northwest Arkansas are invited to participate in age-appropriate theatre workshops that explore Southeast Asian origin and folk stories, and/or their experiences as second-generation or more descendants of refugees. Though the curriculum structure will begin from a Western theatre and education point of view, activities and practices traditionally found in various SEA theatre and dance practices will be included as part of the program to explore and experiment with as part of the devising practice.

Visual Arts

AutismOklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK
Duets $15,000

Artists on the autism spectrum that have already demonstrated interest and participation in AutismOklahoma art programming (ages 15 and up) will be paired with a locally recognized painter (visual artist) to complete a “duet” painting. They will decide together on the best way to complete their “duet.” Artists will be matched together through an intake process that will help to ensure a good match of artists based on their desired methods of working together, as well as compatibility. The “duet” work will take place over a series of time stops (depending on each individual pairing circumstance). The process will be documented either through video or narrative, so that this process can be considered for replication, as well as provide an outreach opportunity to the public on working with individuals on the autism spectrum. Formal outputs will include a publication, possibly a video or other process documentation, and a grand finale original art showcase event with the artists in attendance.

Lisa Bulawsky, St. Louis, MO
Mnemosyne Press Projects $8,000

Mnemosyne Press collaborates with older adults to create and disseminate fine artworks that use printmaking processes to explore personal and shared histories. Mnemosyne Press Projects are modeled on the structure of collaborative print shops, where artists work with a master printer to realize a project. Prior experience with printmaking is not a prerequisite. Projects begin with outreach to local communities that serve older adults. Volunteer artists/participants from these communities take part in supportive and co-educational workshops that include dialogue, life review, mark-making, and creative experimentation with printmaking processes. the workshops build skills and community while working toward the creation and completion of original fine art prints. A series of three workshops will each be held on four consecutive Saturdays accommodating a minimum of sixteen participants. Once completed, the prints will be exhibited at the Kranzberg Arts Foundation High Low Gallery in May of 2021.

Hispanic Festival, Inc., St. Louis, MO
The BRIDGE Mural / Cruzando el Puente en Bridgeton Mural $10,000

The BRIDGE mural will depict a bridge that the audience can stand in front of and be a part of the painting. It will be created to bring people together, promote a sense of welcoming and belonging, as well as to strengthen community identification particularly in the Hispanic community. The mural is a new idea, project, and concept for the Latinx community in St. Louis. This idea came from group of Latinx artists who were discussing how to support the Latinx community as an artist during this time of fear and racism. It will create a destination while adding color, vibrancy, and character to the local area, as well as bringing new artistic awareness. Local Latinx artists will lead the design of the mural, which will be 46 ft wide and 13 ft tall.

Laumeier Sculpture Park, St. Louis, MO
Time Fork $15,000

The Future is Present: Art and Global Change is a group exhibition exploring the ingenuity of artists and their commitment to addressing climate change, environmental crisis, and their related global repercussions. A highlight of the exhibition will be a newly commissioned, augmented reality artwork titled Time Fork by St. Louis artist Van McElwee. This digital environment will allow visitors to navigate the physical space of the Park while simultaneously experiencing a world of the artist’s invention. Time Fork entertains a playful, yet philosophical, fiction: at an indeterminate moment, time branched to create a parallel world. Using phones or tablets as windows, viewers will experience an augmented reality in which Laumeier is overlapped with its counterpart in this fictitious parallel world.

Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Oklahoma City, OK
Art 365 $15,000

Art 365 supports five Oklahoma artists developing inventive artistic projects by providing them in-depth curatorial guidance and significant commissions. The artists each receive $12,000 to prepare new bodies of work that culminate in an exhibition, a series of free outreach workshops, and a full-color catalogue that is sent out to over 600 galleries, museums, curators, schools, and universities nationwide. Art 365 enables artists to create larger, more complex projects than they have done before through funding, curatorial support, and venues to show the new work. The catalogue further connects them to audiences around the country. To expand critical dialogue, the catalogue also includes articles by regional writers responding to the work.

Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS
The Aorta of an Archivist $15,000

The Spencer Museum of Art will commission Houston-based transdisciplinary visual artist Dario Robleto to create the new work The Aorta of an Archivist and serve as an artist-in-residence in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition Healing, Knowing, Seeing the Body. This exhibition and Robleto’s commission will investigate humankind’s enduring fascination with the human body and uncover the complex, oftentimes fraught intersections between artistic practice, scientific discovery, and knowledge production. Robleto will create new video and audio work that considers the persistent human desire to understand ourselves through marks, images, and representations of the body, using innovative techniques and equipment to re-create what pulse waves would have sounded like at the time they were first recorded in the mid–late 1800s.


Image from Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s Art 365 exhibition, including this performance of Fragmentation by Maggie Boyett