May 22, 2024


Super Art is Almost

36 projects by artists of color receive funding

Hartford’s Free Center awarded a total of $329,500 to 36 art projects — visual arts, theater, podcasts, dance, video, fashion, music, publishing, etc. — as part of the center’s Independent Artists Fund, which seeks to support work from artistic communities of color.

Richard Hollant, director of Free Center, said projects were chosen from 143 submissions. Originally, the fund planned to distribute $120,000, but Hollant said the quality of the submissions led the center to increase the cycle to $329,500. Across the 36 projects, about 250 artists of color are involved, he said.

The scale of the funding, he said, reflects a desire to showcase the entire BIPOC artist community.

“It’s not about creating a community. The community is already there. It’s about lifting up that community so it can be seen as a whole as opposed to just seeing breakout folks in the community, which undermines the scale of how big the community is,” he said.

Jasmine Jones is a member of the community. She created Aislin magazine (, which received $10,000. Jones said the Hartford-based magazine was created “to showcase and uplift new talent in art, music, fashion, and writing, as well as talent and businesses who might not necessarily be new, but may be struggling to really thrive for some reason or another that is out of their control.”

Jones said she will spend the money producing the magazine and paying artists who create the content.

Chiziterem Uwaga also received $10,000, for AFReats. Uwaga’s culinary podcast also is on YouTube. On the half-hour show, which is filmed in Hartford, three Black people eat foods made by a Black chef and discuss the personal sensory memories evoked by the aromas and tastes.

Uwaga called the show “conversation around food and the black diaspora.”

“Food is probably the greatest sector of cultural interaction. If we were having a cultural conversation, it would be best to have this discussion around a dinner table,” he said. “All of the conversation is about food, but it stems from food and goes into other things. Someone can talk about a memory, talk about what that food makes them think of.”

Hollant said that artists couldn’t be associated with a nonprofit organization, and they had to commit to finish their project within a year of funding. Artists were asked to calculate the actual cost of creating their artworks, using $35 an hour as a baseline standard, higher for artists with more experience.

Hollant said Free Center wanted this funding opportunity to nurture artists’ noncomformist tendencies.

“So often funding is predicated on foreseeable outcomes,” he said. “These artists are disinterested in following the norms of their crafts to get things done. They doggedly pursue that. We call it ‘the rebel yell.’ There isn’t a lot of funding for the rebel yell, where you don’t know what you’re going to get.”

Jones praised the fund’s application process. “There are too many grant and funding opportunities that are not accessible because of their requirements and because of how daunting their application process can be,” she said. “This really limits the type of person who can apply and as a result, we see the same type of people getting funded over and over again.”

Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Artists of Color Unite! Board helped Free Center ( pick the recipients. Hollant said he hopes the funding will become an annual award. Recipients are:

  • Balam Soto, $20,000 for an art installation, “The Artificial Intelligence of Nature: Rainforest Lights.”

  • Danessa Pedroso, $5,000 for a ceramics project, “Warm Jungle Canva Project.”

  • Chiziterem Uwaga, $10,000 for a culinary podcast, “AFReats.”

  • Lauren Horn, $15,000 for a dance project, “Renaissance Gyal.”

  • Chantal Edwards-Matthews, $7,000 for a dance project, “The Center Fold.”

  • Joseph Young, $10,000 for a video project, “Kemet Clubhouse.”

  • Kimolee Cowell, $5,000 for a video project, “Chose,” and a book launch, “Single Ladies’ Bucket List.”

  • Edward Soto, $20,000 for a video project, “Beige.”

  • Pedro Bermudez, $10,000 for a video project, “Surround Space.”

  • Anne:Gogh, $7,000 for a fashion project, “Calvo.”

  • Esther Shuyue Cao , $7,000 for a music project, “Jingweir.”

  • Jocelyn Pleasant, $10,000 for a music project, “The Lost Tribe Presents Diaspora Stories: Hartford.”

  • Lee “Mixashawn” Rozie, $7,000 for a music project, “Rock Steady Resurrection.”

  • Khaiim Kelly, $6,800 for a music project, “Hart for Days.”

  • Daniel Salazar Jr., $11,000 for a music project, “Guitar Under the Stars.”

  • Azeem Kareem, $9,000 for an agriculture education project, “Garden Thoughts.”

  • Colleen Fitzgerald, $6,500 for a performance project, “Ancestral Body.”

  • Chakaria Jackson, $9,000 for a performance project, “Art and Rhymes.”

  • Kim McSpadden, $5,000 for a poetry-film project, “The Single Out Experience.”

  • Tao LaBossiere, $10,000 for a public art project “The Oneness of Being in Still Waters.”

  • Olusanya Bey, $10,000 for a publishing project, “The Art of BEing HUmxn (An Owner’s Manual).

  • Lionel Beato, $3,700 for a publishing project, “Scarfo.”

  • Jasmine Jones, $10,000 for a publishing project, Aislin Magazine.

  • Joseph Abad, $10,000 for a publishing-photography project “Going to Work: Connecticut.”

  • Trae Brooks, $5,000 for a sculpture project “The Future is Black and Malleable.”

  • Zulynette Morales, $10,000 for a storytelling project “A Little Bit of Death Part VI.”

  • Cin Martinez, $15,000 for a theater project, “Moonlighters.”

  • Tammy Denease Williams, $15,000 for the theater project, “Hidden History Series.”

  • Andres Montiel, $8,000 for the visual arts project, “Tree Stories.”

  • Paeyton Hammond, $3,500 for the visual arts project “Youth COVID Art Display.”

  • Diana Aldrete, $5,000 for the visual arts project “Invisible Suffering.”

  • Lindaluz Carrillo, $8,000 for the visual arts project “In Tension.”

  • Ysanne Marshall, $6,000 for the workshop-retreat “First Words.”

  • Jackie Bright, $6,000 for the workshop-retreat “CARE-GIVE-CREATE-HEAL: Healing Through Creativity for Caregivers.”

  • Nzima Hutchings, $8,000 for the workshop-retreat “Every Kinda Lady Literary Art Wellness Retreat: Poetic Monologues in Production.”

  • Constanza Segovia, $16,000 for the workshop-retreat “Creative Entrepreneurs.”

Susan Dunne can be reached at [email protected].