3Arts is honored to announce the ten recipients of its 5th annual 3Arts Awards, presented to women artists, artists of color and artists with disabilities working in the performing, teaching and visual arts—including this year the inaugural dance category honorees. The awards were presented Monday, Oct. 22, by the 3Arts Board of Directors and Awards Host Committee in a celebratory gathering at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Additionally, 3Arts marks a major milestone this year: over $1 million in total grants to more than 100 Chicago artists in the past five years.
3Arts Awards honorees each receive an unrestricted $15,000 award to put to use according to their individual needs and priorities. The 2012 recipients are: choreographers Monique Haley and Nejla Yatkin; vocalist Dee Alexander and instrumentalist Lanialoha Lee; teaching artists Miguel Aguilar and Avery Young; lighting designer Heather Gilbert and director Halena Kays; and visual artists Harold Mendez and Maria Vergara. Full bios for the honorees follow at the end of this release. “As we unveil the 2012 3Arts awardees, we also celebrate a major milestone for our organization. In our first five years, 3Arts has distributed $1,000,000 to artists across the city—a testament to our dedication to supporting a diversity of artistic voices in our community. Through cash awards, residency fellowships, and promotion, 3Arts helps artists take risks, experiment and focus on the creative process that fuels their art and all of the people it touches,” said 3Arts Executive Director Esther Grimm.
Driven by the belief that the vitality and creative spirit of Chicago is reliant upon a diverse spectrum of artistic voices, 3Artsadvocates for women artists, artists of color and artists with disabilities working in the performing (dance, music and theater), teaching and visual arts. In addition to the 3Arts Awards program, 3Arts enables past awardees to fundraise for project support via a web-based crowd-sourcing support platform called 3Arts Artist Projects (3AP). Through this initiative, 3Arts aims to extend and deepen support of its awardees, helping them build momentum in their careers. Unlike similar crowd-funding programs 3Arts does not charge a fee to the artist and 3Arts will match 1/3 of each project’s funding goal, allowing great projects to see the light of day and introducing Chicago to some of the most brilliant artists among us. For more information on 3Arts, please visit www.3arts.org.
The recipients of the 2012 3Arts Awards are:
Monique is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a bachelor’s degree in performing arts specializing in jazz dance. She completed nine years with River North Chicago Dance Company in 2010 and has also been a member of the Bermuda Dance Company and the Eleone Dance Theatre of Philadelphia. Her choreography has been featured in the AIDS benefit Dance for Life Chicago, and she has been a featured dancer in Dance Spirit Magazine. In Chicago and around the country, Monique keeps busy as a frequent substitute teacher for Lou Conte, on faculty as an Adv/Pro Jazz teacher at Visceral Dance Studios and Intrigue Dance Studio, choreographing for high school and professional companies, and travelling to teach master’s classes at the collegiate and professional level. Recent choreographing and performance credits include: Chicago at Peninsula Players Theater (June); Aida at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre and off-Broadway (dance captain/ensemble member and associate choreographer); My Fair Lady (associate choreographer), Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (Mrs. Potiphar) and Hair (Tribe) at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora; and choreographing works for the Chicago-based companies Dance Works Chicago and the Muntu African Dance Company. Monique set a work this past December with Ballet Nebraska for their show “Momentum,” and her newest choreographic work will be set this month at her alma mater, the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Nejla has Turkish roots and is originally from Berlin, Germany. Her honors include: the 2012 and 2011 Award for Overall Excellence in Choreography (New York International Fringe Festival); the Forth Fund Award; the 2011 National Performance Network Creation Fund; and the 2009 Princess Grace Award – Special Project and 2008 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship (Princess Grace Foundation in New York). She was an Artist Resident at the University of Notre Dame from 2008 to 2012, and from 2001 to 2008 she was a tenured Professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. In her work she explores the beauty as well as complexity of memory, migration, transformation, identity and multiculturalism through movement. Her recent dances have been inspired by stories and events of significant places in the world. Such was the case with the Berlin Wall Project (a work exploring stories about the Wall going up, existing and coming down) and Dancing with Cities (a traveling site specific work around Urban sites), which traveled to Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, France, Germany and New York, and will travel to Puerto Rico and Colombia in 2013. Najla’s latest work—Oasis, Everything you ever wanted to know about the Middle East but were afraid to Dance—is a full-length, multi-media dance theatre work inspired by the Middle East, and will premiere next year at the Bates Dance Festival and then go on tour nationally and internationally. Her critically acclaimed dance theatre piece Wallstories, part of her ongoing Berlin Wall Project, premiered October 2009 at Dance Place and was performed at the Kennedy Center before travelling to Mexico and New York in 2010.
Dee is among the premier vocalists and songwriters in American music today, and one of Chicago’s most gifted and respected artists. Her performances span virtually every music genre related to the African diaspora: gospel, blues, neo-soul, rhythm-and-blues and world music. But her true heart belongs to jazz, and she gravitated toward jazz at an early age, with Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald among her major influences, as well as Chicago saxophonist Henry Huff. Her 2007 “Sirens of Song” tribute to Nina Simone and Dinah Washington (commissioned by the Jazz Institute of Chicago) at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion introduced her to a larger audience and helped her garner world recognition, resulting in frequent tours of France, Finland, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Poland. Dee boasts long and fruitful associations with Chicago’s jazz elite (including Ramsey Lewis, Orbert Davis and Nicole Mitchell), and leads two of her own bands: the Dee Alexander Quartet and the Evolution Ensemble, which emphasizes her original compositions. Her accolades include “Chicagoan of the Year” (Chicago Tribune, 2008) and “Jazz Entertainer of the Year” (Chicago Music Awards), and her 2009 album Wild Is The Wind received five stars (highest honor) from Downbeat Magazine, which named it among the Top Ten recordings of the new millennium. She is a member of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) and has performed frequently in major AACM productions, as well as in other large-scale works on Chicago stages and television; recent projects include re-interpreting the music of James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.
Lanialoha is a native Hawaiian born and raised in the Chicago area, and a third-generation descendant of the first Polynesians who migrated to the Midwest. Her Grandmother, understanding the dearth of Pacific Island cultural and musical resources available in the Midwest, left Hawaii and came to live with her family in Buffalo Grove. She spent 15 years instilling Hawaiian values within Lanialoha and then passed on the knowledge she accumulated over a lifetime. Simultaneously, Lanialoha pursued academic music studies at Buffalo Grove High School, VanderCook College and the University of Southern Colorado, working towards a music education degree. After completing her academic studies, she pursued studies with master teachers of other pacific island cultural arts with an emphasis on repertoire. She toured as a performing artist in the venues these master teachers performed in, andhHer continuing work as a profess
ional performing artist in forms of music and dance has encompassed chanting, vocal work and instrumentation characteristic to both Western and Pacific Island cultural arts. It was ultimately the `ukulele that proved to best serve her musical mission of realigning the Western world’s perception of Pacific Island music. She has traveled nationally and internationally, educating audiences at `ukulele festivals, workshops and concert performances. Her work as an artist and advocate for the Pacific Island arts has been featured widely in the media, and throughout her 14 year residence at the Old Town School of Folk Music, she has taught hundreds of `ukulele students.
Miguel Aguilar received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000, with a concentration in Painting & Drawing. He gained experience as a freelance graphic designer in offset printing, product packaging and apparel design. In 2003, Miguel founded Defiance Gallery and curated international graffiti art exhibitions. He has also been contracted as a graffiti artist for Fortune 500 companies including: Nike, Sprite, Ford, Jeep and U.S. Cellular. In 2011, Miguel received a Masters of Art in Teaching from SAIC, along with an Illinois State Board of Education Arts certification Type 10 (K-12). He currently works at Yollocalli Arts Reach as Program Coordinator and is an adjunct professor in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Indoctrinated with the 400+ years of the African-American experience, history, culture and art, Avery’s work blends phonetics, linguistics, hymns, jazz and hip hop to depict the politic and inspiring attributes attached to the stories of a people. A Cave Canem Fellow, Avery has worked as a teaching artist, mentoring and shaping youth in the craft of creative writing and theatre. He taught primary and secondary grade levels in education facilities that expand ethnicity, socio-economic characteristics and academic benchmarks, and has written curriculum for Columbia College Chicago, Young Leeds Authors, True Star magazine and Chicago Public Schools Art Integration Department. His curriculum, which has been used in educational systems through the United States and abroad, encourages youth to value their voices and assists teachers with various ways to present Language Art lessons. Avery is a champion for such causes as HIV awareness, eliminating misogyny and sexism against women in arts and media, educational reform and art integration inside the workspace. His essays on these various subjects have been published in AIMPrint, The Teaching Artist Journaland swaggerzine. His written work also appears in such anthologies as Callallou, To Be Left With The Body, Warpland, Coon Bidness, Reverie Review, War Diaries, Make Magazine, The Spaces Between Us and Fingernails Across The Chalkboard. Avery has performed in the Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Lollapalooza, WordStock and is featured on such compilations as New World Reveal-A-Solution, Audio Truism, Catfish Haven’s Devastator and New Skool Poetics. He is currently working on a manuscript and music for an upcoming album.
Heather has been a Chicago-based lighting designer for 15 years. Recent designs include: The Better Half (Lucky Plush Productions); Rent (American Theater Company/About Face Theatre); and Immediate Family (Martian Productions). Her work has been seen on many Chicago stages including Writers Theatre, Next Theatre, Court Theatre, The Hypocrites, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, Chicago Children’s Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Remy Bumppo and many others. Since 2008, Heather has served as the lighting designer for the record breaking production of Our Town that originated at the Hypocrites in Chicago and moved to New York for a historic 19-month off-Broadway run. From there the production moved to Los Angeles and has an upcoming run in Boston. Other regional work includes Milwaukee Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Alley Theatre, as well as theatres in her home state of Texas. Upcoming projects include: Then, One Night (Hearts and Brains Productions); Six Stories Tall (Adventure Stage); and The Aliens (A Red Orchid Theatre). Heather was a 1999-2001 recipient of the NEA/TCG Development Program Award. She serves as the Head of Lighting Design at Columbia College, and received her MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul.
Halena is the artistic director of The Hypocrites, where she both performs and directs. She is the co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys. She is a UT-Austin and Northwestern grad and a former member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care unit. With the Neo-Futurists she directed Burning Bluebeard, co-created and directed Daredevils andDaredevils Hamlet and the sight specific extravaganza Fake Lake. Halena is equally proud to have worked with many other respectable and disreputable theater companies in Chicago over the years. Memorable acting credits include: The Kid Thing (About Face/ Chicago Dramatists); The Fall of the House of Usher, Oedipus, Mud and 4.48 Psychosis (The Hypocrites); The Children’s Hour (Timeline); The Golden Truffle (Redmoon); and Fair Use and Theatrical Essays(Steppenwolf). Halena has been nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Citation for Best Supporting Actress and Best Direction, named one of “30 under 30” to watch by SixOSix magazine, and received a signed letter from Mr. Rogers saying she was “special” in 1978. She also just had a (remarkable) kid.
Harold uses a multidisciplinary approach to illustrate the relationships between landscape, visibility, politics and memory by employing stark, composed narratives. Mendez maps the liminal spaces of borders, charged sites with histories that address the political conventions of place, sites where something significant and hidden has seemed to occur. He received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Columbia College Chicago and attended the University of Science and Technology, School of Art and Design, in Ghana, West Africa. He was a resident at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA, and was featured in a 12 X 12: NEW ARTISTS/NEW WORK exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. He has exhibited nationally at the Museum of Modern Art / PS1, the Renaissance Society, the Knoxville Museum of Art and Project Row Houses, and will be included in the fourth installment of the Studio Museum's “F” series, Fore, which includes Freestyle (2001), Frequency (2005-06) and Flow (2008).
Maria was born in Santiago, Chile in 1981. Inspired by the arts as a young child, she would not let anything get in the way of her thirst for more art. It was not unusual for her mother to get voicemails from Maria’s high school letting her know her daughter had ditched school. When Maria would get home, her mother would look at her and say, “You were at the museum, weren’t you?” Without skipping a beat, Maria would pull out her museum ticket. Maria miraculously graduated from high school and she instantly took complete advantage of her newfound independence and freedom as an adult. In college Maria’s work took many forms: pencil, sketching, etching, acrylics and oils are just some of the types of materials Maria uses to create her art. Her talents led her to two full-ride scholarships for a Master’s Degree at two very prestigious universities: the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. Her mother was relieved knowing all the ditch days paid off.