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Artistic Innovations

As part of its annual Artistic Innovations grant program, Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) recently awarded 14 grants totaling $189,520. These awards grant up to $15,000 for the creation of artworks and creative projects by artists and nonprofit organizations across M-AAA’s region of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The following grantees were selected from 106 applications requesting more than $1.4 million and were peer reviewed by panels organized by artistic discipline.

Learn more about FY24’s Artistic Innovations Grant Recipients and their projects, organized by discipline.

Dance projects, three grants totaling $45,000
Ballet Wichita, Wichita, KS
Grant: $15,000
Project: Synter-Creating Collaborative Coherence
In collaboration and in coherence, Ballet Wichita, John Harrison, and the Fairmount String Trio will embark on a journey of creative discovery to innovate the very processes of collaboration, resulting in a creative Synter experience that is presented in a theatrical performance and produced by Ballet Wichita, in Wichita, Kansas, Spring 2024. Consisting of dance, music, and technology integrations, the work will be developed with varied cultures of participation that are driven by environments that encourage individuals to engage in creation over consumption.

Consuming Kinetics Dance Company, St. Louis, MO
Grant: $15,000
Project: Woman
Woman is a dance concert about the female experience in America. Choreographers and artists of Consuming Kinetics Dance Company highlight gender inequality in our country through personal experiences and fact-based research. Stories come alive on stage through dance and performing art for a thoughtful weekend of movement, reflection, and discussion. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Consuming Kinetics Dance Company.

NobleMotion Dance, Houston, TX
Grant: $15,000
Project: Meeting of the Minds
Meeting of the Minds is an exciting and cerebral partnership between choreographers/dancers, musicians/composers, and neuroscientists. NobleMotion Dance collaborates with José Contreras-Vidal, director of BRAIN Center at the University of Houston, and composer Anthony Brandt, Rice University, in the creation of this art-science performance-research study that explores themes of polarization and coexistence. Utilizing high-tech projection and brain-recording equipment, the evening will showcase the live capturing of neuroscientific data from dancers while they execute highly physical choreography. Programming that broadens accessibility to the younger generation will highlight the ways that art and science overlap and emphasize how the spirit of collaboration exists at the heart of innovation. The creative team will invite high school students interested in both art and science to participate in a special presentation and workshop.

Film and Media Arts projects, one grant of $15,000
Evan Clayburg, Tulsa, OK
Grant: $15,000
Project: I’ll Fly Away
“The tree birthed the drum so that we and spirit could speak with common tongue.” – Huntogi Drum master
I’ll Fly Away is a documentary film drawing connections between Eastern Oklahoma’s unique cultural landscape and the global phenomena of African diasporic and Indigenous parade/procession traditions. This film explores the region’s role in developing many American music forms through its complex and undersung African American and Indigenous cultural contributions. From Tulsa’s historic Greenwood neighborhood, Rural Black Townships, and being home to 39 sovereign Indigenous nations, Oklahoma is home to the same rich, intersecting, cultural ingredients that birthed syncretic musical forms similar to those in places better known for their musical contributions, such as Cuba, Brazil, and New Orleans. I’ll Fly Away celebrates these musical legacies and examines the political, cultural, and economic forces that continually attempt to obscure and diminish Black and Native cultural and artistic innovation. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Evan Clayburg.

Literature projects, one grant of $15,000
Chelsea Hicks, Tulsa, OK
Grant: $15,000
Project: Waleze: Markings
Waleze is a collaborative, visual poetry collection in Wahzhazhe ie, drawing attention to the need for new forms in literature that come from Indigenous language revitalization. In Wahzhazhe ie, the lead artist creates visual poem portraits for Osage citizens, as well as ekphrastic poems and visual art pieces illuminating the history of “waleze” in Wahzhazhe ie, to not only mean writing, as shown through our writing system released in 2003, but all meanings of waleze: design, pattern, photo, painting, and book. The project is for Osage citizens and helps provide support for other Osage artists who will have commissioned work in the art book in addition to the visual poems and for all people who want to rematriate and write in their own languages. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Chelsea Hicks.

Music projects, four grants totaling $49,000
Loop38, Houston, TX
Grant: $15,000
Project: Longleaf
Longleaf is an evening-length multimedia work by composer Ben Morris for the Houston-based contemporary music ensemble Loop38. The piece tells the story of the longleaf pine forest, an endangered ecosystem in the American Southeast with its last stands in East Texas. The piece will trace the history of the tree and the timber industry with video projections, historical photographs, natural soundscapes, and music, raise awareness about the importance of old-growth forests, and encourage forest preservation and appreciation. Longleaf will have two premiere performances. The first will be at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, accompanied by a recording session and other community events. The following concert will be at Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston and will serve as Loop38’s 2023–24 season finale. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Loop38.

Mount Sequoyah Center, Fayetteville, AR
Grant: $15,000
Project: 100 Years, Chamber Music of the Past, Present, and Future
Celebrating Mount Sequoyah Center’s 100th year of programming, the center is commissioning an original chamber music piece, written by composer Jeremy Allen, composition faculty at the University of Arkansas. This piece will be performed by a group of world-class chamber musicians drawn from the mid-America region, along with non-traditional instrumentation from Cherokee and folk traditions, during our Chamber Music on the Mountain Summer Festival (CMM). This year’s CMM Festival and Residency will follow the theme of “Past, Present and the Future.” CMM will host 11 community engagement events this summer, including workshops, a Spotlight Concert, guest artists, and several outreach concerts. These programs will enrich the lives of our community members and foster a thriving musical community in our area.

Orchestra Omaha, Omaha, NE
Grant: $4,000
Project: “Who Are the Composers in Your Neighborhood?“
Orchestra Omaha proudly unveils an exciting new initiative titled Who Are the Composers in Your Neighborhood? This program will connect local composers directly with classroom students, offering an opportunity for learning, collaboration, and exploring creative potential in the arts. Scheduled for Spring 2024, Orchestra Omaha will collaborate with two esteemed local musicians and composers, Keith Davis and Jestin Cam, in a series of outreach opportunities with schools in the local community, leading up to performances of the composers’ works, A Western Plains Overture for Orchestra by Keith Davis and April Showers by Jestin Cam. By partnering with these talented individuals, Orchestra Omaha aims to unlock students’ artistic potential, inspire a lifelong passion for music, and show that composers can come from anywhere, even your neighborhood. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Orchestra Omaha.

Stacy Busch, Kansas City, MO
Grant: $15,000
Project: She Breathes Fire
She Breathes Fire is a newly composed musical work created by composer/performer Stacy Busch. Written for women and non-binary vocal octet, the piece utilizes electronics through vocal sampling and manipulation. Though the piece integrates acoustic and electronic methods, all of the material in the piece is generated through the voice. She Breathes Fire offers a new folkloric story of the heroines’ journey in a fantasy world where women rule. This tale seen through the eyes of women provides an alternative history that is in stark comparison to the heroism that has been internalized in our world. She Breathes Fire premieres October 6-8, 2023, in Kansas City in partnership with Owen/Cox Dance Group. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Stacy Busch.

Theater projects, one grant of $15,000
Troy Scheid, Houston, TX
Grant: $15,000
THE BIG “US” PROJECT is an ongoing creative process that centers the voices of refugees and immigrants, addressing diversity, access, and justice in the Houston arts community. The result is an original, community-driven performance created by 100 members of Houston’s refugee and immigrant communities. Participants of all ages partner with artist-mentors to create a piece about, with, for, and near the communities at its center. The final performance in December 2023 will be free, open to the public, accessible online, and created for an audience of children and their grown-ups. The theme, Story Threads, invites participants to explore the ways stories connect us across generations, continents, and cultures. Like Houston’s diverse communities, these threads weave together to create the fabric of our city.

Visual Art projects, four grants totaling $50,520
Artpace, San Antonio, TX
Grant: $15,000
Project: One Year of Artpace’s International Artist-in-Residence Program, Three Texas Artists
Artpace’s International Artist-in-Residence (IAIR) Program supports the creation of new contemporary artworks by three Texas-based artists participating in the Summer 2023, Fall 2023, and Spring 2024 residency cycle. The residency culminates in a seven-week exhibition. All artists must also participate in at least three public events during their residency. The IAIR Program provides Texas artists with unparalleled resources that enable them to experiment with new ideas, take risks, and realize innovative, ambitious work that extends beyond Artpace — impacting audiences, and opening up opportunities for critical response and exposure through subsequent exhibitions and placement in collections. For many resident Texas artists, Artpace’s IAIR program has changed the course of their careers and propelled them onto the international art stage. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Artpace.

ArtsConnect, Topeka, KS
Grant: $15,000
Project: Civil Rights Summer 2024: 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board
In 2024, the City of Topeka, Kansas, will commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision—the landmark Supreme Court case that originated in Topeka and ended legal segregation in American public schools, changing the face of our nation. Civil Rights Summer 2024 will boldly animate this history while inspiring new conversations about civil rights. Through the creation of a collaborative and meaningful artwork that is centered on critical discussion of both the historic and contemporary heritage of this decision, the project will facilitate community exploration, strengthen equity and justice, and offer residents of Topeka a sense of local pride in the city’s lasting role in Civil Rights history. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for ArtsConnect.

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha, NE
Project: Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers
Bemis Center is pleased to present Raven Halfmoon: Flags of Our Mothers, the first major museum exhibition of Norman, Oklahoma-based, Caddo Nation artist Raven Halfmoon (b. 1991). The exhibition will be on view at Bemis Center, located in Omaha’s historic Old Market, from May 18–September 15, 2024. The accompanying scholarly exhibition catalogue, the artist’s first museum catalogue, will include an interview with the artist and a commissioned poem by Diné poet, performer, and narrator Kinsale Drake. Halfmoon’s practice spans torso-scaled and colossal-sized glazed stoneware sculptures. Several works soar up to nine-feet high and weigh over a thousand pounds. Their enormous scale opposes existing stereotypes to create monuments that honor the artist’s Caddo Nation ancestors and their traditions, including her elders from whom she learned ceramics.

Kathryn Wilson, Conway, AR
Grant: $5,520
Project: Recovery Mural Project
The Recovery Mural Project is a collaborative mural painting project that will allow individuals in the early stages of addiction recovery a unique and enriching life experience. The completed mural will be a testament to what individuals in recovery are capable of and help break the stigma associated with substance use disorders. By increasing awareness and decreasing stigma around substance abuse, the Recovery Mural Project has the potential to help individuals seek the help they truly need. Arkansas artist Katie Wilson, with help from a team of regional artists, will work with patients at Natural State Recovery Centers on this collaborative mural in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. This is the first Artistic Innovations grant for Kathryn Wilson.


Header photography credit: NobleMotion Dance. Dance, Music, Neuroscience. Evelyn Toh, LaRodney Freeman, Abby Schafer, Tyler Orcutt. Photo by Lynn Lane.