Spotlight on 2020 Johnson Fellowship Nominees: Music as the Heart of Equitable Neighborhood Development

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Jul 20, 2020

This last post in our ARTSblog series featuring nominees for the 2020 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities celebrates Eddy Kwon—musician, educator, program designer, and facilitator of equitable community development. Integrating music as a fundamental component of Price Hill Will, a community development organization in Cincinnati, Kwon’s impacts are many and draw upon their own unique artistry and artistic vision, sustained work in creative youth development, and innovative initiatives in creative citizenship. First, Eddy Kwon is a composer, violinist, jazz musician, and improviser, performing as a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and with musicians from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Kwon is equally a community leader who works daily at the intersection of creative youth development, creative citizenship, and equitable community development. 

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Spotlight on 2020 Johnson Fellowship Nominees: The Power of Cultural Roots to Ground & Enlighten

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Jul 14, 2020

Musical traditions hold a unique power in cultural belonging and identity for the communities and cultures from which they grow. Preservation and performance can be a political act of cultural self-determination, expression, and continuity. The stories, meaning, and sounds embodied by traditional music can gain new power for new audiences and broader communities, when linked to contemporary issues and concerns. The four extraordinary musicians featured in this installment of our blog series celebrating nominees for the 2020 Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities draw upon cultural traditions and sometimes stretch and merge them with other forms to embrace a broader holistic view of culture and humanity. These musicians are: Dom Flemons, American roots ambassador; the Reverend John Wilkins, a bearer of blues-influenced gospel of Mississippi hill country; Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, a Black Indian and jazz-rooted genre-blind innovator; and Tiokasin Ghosthorse, master player of the ancient red cedar Lakota flute. 

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Spotlight on 2020 Johnson Fellowship Nominees: Creating Space(s) to Activate Artistic and Cultural Movements

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Jun 30, 2020

Venus De Mars and Luke Stewart are among the 11 exemplary music artist nominees for Americans for the Arts’ 2020 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities featured in our ongoing ARTSblog series. At different career stages, these artist-activists may be considered by some on the musical fringes. What they hold in common is a steady and deliberate dedication to bringing their communities out of the margins and advancing and improving conditions for them to thrive. As a punk rock singer-songwriter and transgender woman, Venus’ performances, speaking, and compassionate presence have created spaces of affirmation and communion for transgender people and fostered openness and understanding among audiences across the gender spectrum. Luke moves effortlessly between artist communities in jazz, DIY punk rock, and, most of all, improvised music. He uses his improvisation skills to be alert to and advance conditions that will allow musicians across these genres to create, perform, and learn from one another, while expanding appreciation and audiences for their work.

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Spotlight on 2020 Johnson Fellowship Nominees: Women Musicians Elevating Black Culture, History, & Contemporary Music for Change

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Jun 16, 2020

In this blog, we feature Courtney Bryan and Ashleigh Gordon, two of the 11 music artists who were the exemplary nominees for the 2020 Johnson Fellowship. As consummate musicians in contemporary genres, each thrives on the stimulation of artistic collaboration with fellow musicians, poets, writers, and dancers, but also drives the collective work that builds strength as socially engaged artists. These artists advance self-representation and advocate for cultural equity in the music field, creating music and curating programs that showcase and elevate Black culture and excellence. Importantly, themes of racial justice serve as sources of inspiration and a reservoir of strength in their ongoing support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Committed to spirit and always to beauty, Bryan’s music responds to the present, confronting contemporary social injustices in her home city of New Orleans and across the globe. In her home community of Boston, Gordon is a musical force whose goal is to foster cultural curiosity about, and celebrate the music of, Black composers.

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Spotlight on 2020 Johnson Fellowship Nominees: Celebrating How Artists Transform Communities

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, May 19, 2020

We need to celebrate the important work that artists do every day. They imagine creative courses to solve problems. They create welcoming spaces to exercise cultural and civil rights and to challenge the status quo. They orchestrate rituals of spiritual and emotional healing. They configure single words, movements, marks, sounds to make meaning, purpose, and full-on expressions of beauty that remind us of the most fundamental things we humans share. Especially now, as we strategize to ensure that artists are supported and integrated into COVID-19 recovery and reconstruction, we need ready stories of their unique contributions substantiated with the real impacts of their approaches. Beginning with this post, a new ARTSblog series will celebrate the 11 music artists who were the exemplary nominees for the 2020 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. Vastly different in their artistry—from classical orchestral work and blues, gospel, and American roots traditions to punk rock, improvisational, and genre stretching forms—each artist in their own right is advancing community, civic, and social goals.

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