ArtsBuild awards five black artists $10,000

By Yolanda Putman

Smooth jazz sounded from Swayyvo Morton’s sax this week as he and Anthony Wiley’s band set the atmosphere for ArtsBuild to announce its 2021 Racial Equity Grants for Individual Artists program recipients.

ArtsBuild gave each of the five local black artists $10,000 to improve and continue work in the community.

“It’s an honor and a privilege,” said award recipient and musician Anthony Wiley while playing the keyboard at the event.

ArtsBuild President James McKissic said the people honored are known for their artistry.

“You’ve seen them for years, drumming, painting and teaching kids, working in our community,” he said. “This is the least we could do to show them that we support the work they’ve done.”

Wiley has been an active artist in Chattanooga since 2018. This is the first grant he’s received.

His band includes bass player Jared White, drummer DJ Gates and saxophonist Morton whose music was used in a NBA.com video for Lebron James. Morton has also been featured in Tennessee Valley Credit Union commercials.

Other artists to receive the $10,000 grant include African drummer Christian Kofi Mawuko, musician Carl Cadwell, muralist The Artist Seven, and visual artist Charlie Newton.

“Getting recognition. Showing that black artists, artists of color are appreciated in Chattanooga and getting a grant to help us complete a project. This is a big deal,” said Newton, a local artist of 50 years. He’s putting his grant toward producing his new collection that will be exhibited in January at Stove Works.

Mawuko says the grant funding is a step in the right direction for ArtsBuild. He plans to use the money to study African storytelling in Ghana with Jazmine LeBlanc, co-founder of ELLA Library. He will teach the techniques he learns to local students.

“Not only are we learning something from Ghana, but we will come back and show kids how to embrace different cultures,” he said.

The money is from ArtsBuild’s Racial Equity Grants for Individual Artists program. The program goals include making arts funding more equitable by creating access to resources for artists of color in Hamilton County.

“We know that a lot of times artists of color and arts organizations that are led by people of color don’t receive the same amount of funding as mainstream arts organizations. So, we’re just doing our part to promote equitable funding in our local arts sector,” said McKissic.

He and an ArtsBuild board member sported “Black Art Matters” T-shirts to celebrate the event.

Over the next two years ArtsBuild will give grants to African-American, Latino, indigenous and Asian artists. It is also raising money to award a round of grants just for artists who are women of color, said McKissic.

This year’s program was made available for artists who identify as Black or African American and are living and working in Hamilton County.

Artsbuild held a similar program around 2017. It awarded $10,000 each to 20 artists of color, but the program ran out of funding, said McKissic.

Funding for the new program is provided by individual donors, Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation and Footprint Foundation.

The five award recipients were selected from among 20 applicants, said Miriam Manda, manager of grants and community engagement at ArtsBuild.
The funding was made available in three categories including Artist Works, Equipment and Professional Development.

McKissic said ArtsBuild gives about $1.5 million a year in grants and he encourages artists to visit the ArtsBuild website for more information.

“We give out grants all the time at ArtsBuild,” he said. “People should visit our website to see all we do and how they can support our fund too.”

The following is a list of the five ArtsBuild $10,000 award recipients and how they plan to spend their grant. The list is from ArtsBuild’s news release.

Charlie Newton is the founder of SPLASH, an educational program offering art classes to low-income youth in Chattanooga. Funding from the REGIA grant will support The Black Bible, a large-scale art exhibition at Stove Works exploring Black spirituality, debuting in January 2022.

Christian Kofi Mawuko, originally from Ghana, has spent the last 35 years as a professional teaching artist in Hamilton County Schools, providing Ghanaian drumming, dance and African storytelling. The REGIA grant will fund professional development through research with Ghanaian traditional musicians and storytellers in partnership with Jazmine LeBlanc, co-founder of ELLA Library.

Anthony M. Wiley is a musical artist, and producer. As a recipient of the REGIA grant, Wiley will collaborate with other local Black artists and music producers to create a new album. Anthony will also partner with Dynamo Studios to offer Howard Connect Academy students the opportunity to film a documentary about the album production.

The Artist Seven is the host of the semi-annual Burnin’ Bridges Mural Jam, in which local and visiting artists create murals together in formerly industrial spaces. As a recipient of the REGIA grant, he will create a new landmark mural installation at 110 E. 7th Street in downtown Chattanooga.