2019 Award Winners Announced!

The Charlotte Street Foundation and Spencer Museum of Art at KU are delighted to announce the winners of 2019 Rocket Grants Awards: Eleven innovative and public-facing projects were chosen from among an extremely competitive pool – all with a reach towards audiences outside of traditional arts venues and some with a specific focus on stimulating and sustaining the regional arts community. Rocket Grants continue to engage the region with experimental forms and ideas, support exciting new directions for artists, and amplify marginal voices

The selection panel was composed of four jurors – two national and two from the region: Shauta Marsh, Indianapolis; Shannon Stratton, New York; Joshua Miner, Lawrence, KS; and Glenn North, Kansas City.

A total of $60,000 was awarded to the selected artists and artist teams, bringing the program’s total awards to regional artists to date to $512,000. A public Awards Ceremony will be held on May 16, 2019, 5.30-7.30 PM – at which the new awardees will make 3-minute pecha kucha presentations about their projects. Please follow our Facebook page @RocketGrants for upcoming details about the venue and to RSVP.

Rocket Grants are in their tenth round of funding, regranting generous support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The eleven recipients funded this year bring the total number of cross-disciplinary projects supported to 103, which together have directly involved at least 259 artists. Hundreds of others have been integrally and peripherally included in the performances, publications, workshops, artist-run spaces, videos, public installations, events and websites that the awards have funded.

In the descriptions below the lead artist is identified in bold type. For more information, please click on the project name. For briefer descriptions of each project see the 2019 Project page.

R & D Awards ($2,000 up front with an option for $2,250 or $2,500 implementation funds)

Benjamin Wills: Airplanes ($4,250), Lawrence, KS: Every day, Benjamin Wills writes letters to prisoners. He has done this for years now and has written thousands of letters. Somewhere along the way, the correspondence gave birth to an art vision-an aggregation of objects and content that has provided the source material for work that he has been creating for the last six years.

In 2013 Ben received a paper airplane from an incarcerated person. This was the first of what became hundreds he has collected since. He discovered that each inmate has a unique way of designing and decorating their plane. While Ben continues towards his goal of collecting 1,000 planes, he will be using Rocket Grants funding to create a digital archive that will document each craft. This will enable participants to share their contribution in a more direct way, and their families will be able to search through the archives and see their participation amidst the collection.

Jason Piggie: Racial Equity In the 21st Century ($4,500), Kansas City, MO: This project will engage the community in a call and response filmed conversation, though means of a mobile viewing and recording booth. The initial ‘prompt’ conversation is composed of archived interviews with native-born Kansas Citians talking about their experiences of racism and segregation in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Project Awards ($6,000)

Meg Jamieson: Before an Immense Sky: A film for the sighted and the blind, Lawrence, KS: Before and Immense Sky is a deeply personal experimental film about marriage, sight, sound, and the boundless distance between people. There will be an audio description of the film made and distributed to blind and visually impaired audience members, while sighted audience members will experience the film without sound. Meg Jamieson wants to cultivate the visually impaired community in the art world, highlight the work of Audio Reader, and underscore the tenuous relationship between image and sound, as a parallel to the near/distance of marriage.

Haley Kostas , Sarah Magill, Conner Giles, Johnny Dawbarn, David Overholt, Teresa Leggard: RubiX, Kansas City, MO: RubiX is a performance outlet merging music and movement, by bringing local musicians, dancers, performing artists, visual artists and writers together to collaborate through a series of transformative events. This ever-changing platform is rearrangeable to match different spaces, themes, media and content with a rotating talent pool. RubiX intends to bridge gaps between audience and performer, and to increase community access to the performing arts.

Richard Renner, Frank Shopen, Matt Lord: Pop Up Art Adventure Playground, Lawrence, KS: A team of artists will collaborate on a series of Pop Up Art Playgrounds that will provide the experience of play and artistic creation to children in underserved neighborhoods of Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City, KS. Research shows that human brains learn best when we play; play supports emotional growth and contributes to creativity. Yet, young children increasingly have fewer opportunities for self-directed play as the school day, after-school and summer activities eat into their playtime. According to a 2008 research study, children play 8 hours less each week than two decades ago, making it harder for children to reap the benefits of self-directed play. The Art Adventure Playgrounds present a creative solution to this need. Rocket Grants funding and additional donations, will be used to obtain the training, materials and methods to provide more opportunities for kids to play – and create.

Emiel Cleaver: A Legacy of Leadership, Kansas City, MO: A Legacy of Leadership is a biographical documentary to be made by Emiel Cleaver about the life of Leon Mercer Jordan, a man whose story is not widely known. Jordan was an influential African American leader who challenged a corrupt political system in the 1960s and was considered the most powerful black man in the state of Missouri. This documentary follows his illustrious career from being appointed the first African-American police lieutenant in Kansas City, to starting the political organization Freedom Incorporated, and then his assassination in 1970. The short film also explores the legacy that Leon Jordan left on Kansas City politics.

b becvar & Secura Hatch (Lost Thought Productions): Glass Box, Kansas City, MO: Glass Box is an artist-run, community-focused, mobile art space, operating in several phases over the course of a year. Lost Thought Productions will be repurposing a box truck into a combined nomadic art gallery, collaborative installation space and video backdrop, and inviting underrepresented demographics of artists to create site-specific work. Six femme, queer, and POC artists will have the opportunity to create independent installations freely in a space that can then be taken directly to their communities. Each artist will roll up the door in locations across the city for a period of four weeks and invite the community in to engage with new perspectives. In this small space will unfold artist interviews, documentation screenings, art openings, and exhibitions – all free and open to the community.

Melaney Mitchell & Cory Imig: Impractical Spaces: Artist-run Galleries, Occupied Warehouses, Co-operatives, Pop-ups, and Other Ad Hoc Venues, Kansas City, MO: Impractical Spaces involves a symposium and a publication organized by Melaney Ann Mitchell and Cory Imig focused on the history and impact of artist-run spaces in Kansas City.

Artist-run spaces are galleries and collectives run by artists that provide alternatives to established institutions and commercial galleries of a city. These spaces respond directly to the needs of the local arts community. They are some of the deepest advocates for alternative practices, working with shoestring budgets to create contexts for and conversations about what artists are exploring. They are rich in risk, advocate for the sticky, the uncomfortable, the experimental, and the avant-garde. Kansas City’s art history is dependent upon them. Because of their DIY nature, and small budgets, the documentation of these spaces often falls short or remains ephemeral. Through conducting extensive research, hosting a symposium, and printing this free limited-run publication, Melaney and Cory would like to honor these Impractical Spaces and their impact on future structures.

Fally Afani: I Heart Local Music Magazine, Lawrence, KS: Over the past year, I Heart Local Music Magazine has been the only point of access connecting the Lawrence, KS local community with a diverse range of musicians and their work. The magazine highlights musicians of all genders and ethnicities, and thrusts their work into the spotlight via photographic documentation and great stories. Accompanying free, live events, highlight even more artists in the area by putting them directly in front of audiences in a public venue – many of which are accessible to all ages.

Lauren Irving: 432hz, Kansas City, KS: 432hz is a creative space for sound healers & artists to capture moments with an audience via live interactive sound and visual recording. The monthly series consists of a sound design DJ, an open mic segment for artists to express themselves, and a live recording of an acoustic jam using crystal singing bowls tuned to 432 hz.

The singing bowls will be mic’d, and the audio sent through a Cymascope and projected onto canvas. In this way sound-inspired art works will be created during the event. Each event is open to the community, and music and video recorded during the acoustic jam will be shared locally and distributed globally.

Project Award ($3,250)

Tyler Galloway, Steve Hebert, Michael Enriquez, Chase Castor, Hannah Lodwick: These Walls, Lenexa, KS: These Walls will amplify public discourse on housing inequity through an accessible, alternative photography exhibition by and for working-class people. Documentary cell phone photos by low-wage workers will visualize their struggles and joys alongside portraits of those workers by professional photographers. Participatory elements will capture public opinion to be shared with policy-makers. A newspaper/poster set, compiling workers’ stories, will bridge from the exhibition to public spaces, as will a take-away solidarity sign and sticker. Rocket Grants funds will cover all material and production costs.

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