The United States Artists (USA), a Chicago-based arts funding agency, awarded six Chicago-based artists a $50,000 grant each.
The award is unrestricted and each winner can use it as they wish, to pay rent or kickstart their own project.
Winners of the said grant were Ayo Alston, a Chicago-based musician, and dancer; Jenn Freeman “Po’Chop”, artist and burlesque performer; Nicole Marroquin; Andrea Carlson; Assia Boundaoui, documentarian; and Andy Slater, a Berwyn-based media artist.
In total, 63 grants were awarded covering ten art forms. This was the largest cohort of USA fellows in history with awardees coming from 23 states and Puerto Rico
Lynnette Miranda, USA’s program director, stated in a statement that the 2022 USA fellows were chosen for their extraordinary artistic vision, commitment to their communities both within their particular disciplines and the potential influence future generations.
After a three-month-long selection period, a panel of experts selected the awardees out of over 500 applicants.
Assia Boundaoui stated, “I am so, so very grateful for the fellowship and for this award. It’s especially meaningful because this is a Chicago-based organization.”
Assia Boundaoui is a filmmaker and journalist. She was born in Algiers and raised in Chicago. She interned at WBEZ-91.5 FM where she got her experience.
Boundaoui uses her art to lift up “erased history” in Chicago. She directed “The Feeling of Being Watched,” an investigative documentary that examined a decade of FBI surveillance of Bridgeview. She also used FBI documents to create the sequel, the “Inverse Surveillance Project.”
Boundaoui stated, “All my creative work has taken place here in Chicago. And even though I have lived abroad, traveled, and lived in other places, there is always a moment when I need to return home to be in production.”
USA, a national funding organization for the arts, is headquartered in Chicago and has provided direct support to more than 750 artists since 2006.
T. Ayo Alston, the awardee, uses music and dance to help foster and nurture the next generation. Alston is originally from Brooklyn, New York. She is the founder and Executive Director of Ayodele Drum & Dance in Chicago. This organization promotes the performance and study of African drums and dance. As a teenager, Alston was struggling with her self-image and mental well-being. West African music and dance provided “a salvation” for her.
She said that “[Youth] can use West African music, dance and dance to heal from a lot of turmoil they go through.” It did the same for me.
Alston stated that she is grateful for the grant and plans to save it.
Alston stated, “As artists, we’re always giving.” It’s all about service. If we can take a moment to acknowledge the positive impact we make on our communities, the people we touch, and the lives we touch… It’s profound to see organizations such as the USA.