Free Street and Old Town School of Folk Music Win Joyce Awards

Free Street and Old Town School of Folk Music Win Joyce Awards

Pictured: Ricardo Gamboa

Two collaborations between artists of color and cultural organizations in Chicago have each won $50,000 from The Joyce Foundation’s annual Joyce Awards competition.

Free Street Theater will commission a new play, MEET JUAN(ITO) DOE, from playwright Ricardo Gamboa, and Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music will commission Quantum Music/Englewood from celebrated saxophonist and composer, Ernest Dawkins, and accomplished percussionist and sitar player, Rahul Sharma.

The Joyce Awards supports artists of color in major Great Lakes cities. The Chicago-based foundation has awarded nearly $3 million to commission 55 new works since the annual program started in 2003. A distinctive feature of the Joyce Awards is that a winners’ work must include the process of engaging community members to inform and shape their art.

“Free Street has been making community-engaged, Chicago-specific performance since 1969. For almost 50 years, we have been at the forefront of making theater that is diverse and inclusive – well before these became buzzwords in the field. We are thrilled to have the support of The Joyce Foundation in making MEET JUAN(ITO) DOE, a project conceived by Ricardo Gamboa that uses a grassroots and ensemble process to center the stories and contributions of Chicago’s Mexican-American community,” said Coya Paz, artistic director of the Free Street Theater. “At a time when families are being torn apart by deportations, when American citizens are being told they don’t belong in the country that raised them, when being Brown or speaking Spanish is an everyday act of bravery, there is no more urgent time to invest in performance that tells the true stories of our city.” MEET JUAN(ITO) DOE will open in September 2017, following a series of interactive performances in public spaces during the summer.

Dawkins and Sharma will partner in creating a new work designed to engage 1,000 young musicians in an exploration of the musical heritage of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.  “We’re thrilled to have this opportunity to work with such exemplary artists in a celebration of the musical heritage of a section of our city that is more often cited for challenges rather than artistic achievements,” said Bau Graves, executive director of Old Town School of Folk Music. “The Joyce Award will set free voices that have long gone unheard.”

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