$1.5 Million for “Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions” in the Field of Dance and Movement-Based Performance
MENLO PARK, Calif. (June 16, 2020) – Ten Bay Area nonprofits have been awarded major grants to partner with world-class artists to create new works of dance and movement-based performance and premiere them in local communities, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced today. The grants will support new work by artists deeply rooted in their communities who are also innovators and celebrated leaders in their fields. The works they create will explore themes of identity, shared histories, connections to place, as well as common challenges and hopes for the future.
“The Hewlett Foundation has long supported the arts because of their power to infuse people’s lives with beauty, offer solace, and build empathy—and that’s especially important right now,” said Emiko Ono, Performing Arts Program Director for the Hewlett Foundation. “At a time when our country is grappling with its failures and trying to chart a path forward, these artistic projects can illuminate the lives of individuals and our diverse communities, provoke debate, and help reimagine our shared future.”
While the projects awarded today were conceived and planned before the pandemic or the current Black Lives Matter protests across the country, the themes they will tackle—including racial justice, inequality, and rising xenophobia around the world—are strikingly relevant to the challenges our society confronts today.
“Art is important right now because it can lift our spirits when things feel very dark,” said Yayoi Kambara, lead artist for “IKKAI means once: a transplanted pilgrimage”, commissioned by Japanese American Citizens League, San Jose Chapter. “Particularly for my community and many others, it can feel as though our stories aren’t told in popular media. This commission will enable us to tell a story about our community with a new perspective to a broad audience. It will also allow us to have discussions about how we want to move forward as a community, what are the stories we want to tell, and what we want our future to look like.”
Since 1967, the Hewlett Foundation has made more than $375 million in grants to performing arts organizations. The Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions are a five-year, $8 million initiative that is among the largest of its kind in the United States, launched in January 2017 to mark the foundation’s 50th anniversary. The initiative awards 10 grants of $150,000 each to local nonprofits annually in one of five performing arts disciplines. Previous years’ grants were awarded in the disciplines of music composition, theater, and spoken word performance. Applications for the next round of the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, in folk and traditional arts, will open later this year, and a final round of awards will support film and media. The new works created with this year’s awards will premiere in Bay Area communities over the next three years.
2020 Hewlett 50 Arts Commission Awardees
- Brava! for Women in the Arts with Vanessa Sanchez – “Ghostly Labor” illuminates a history of abuse, activism, and perseverance by Chicana and Native women working in the United States-Mexico borderlands.
- Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants and ARTogether with Prumsodun Ok – “A Deepest Blue” uses a founding myth common to Cambodia and Japan to contemplate humanity’s relationship with and responsibility to our threatened oceans and the natural world.
- Circo Zero with Ishmael Houston-Jones – “TRY” is an experimental improvised dance that aims to subvert traditional notions of race and masculinity.
- Dancers’ Group with Joanna Haigood – “The People’s Building” investigates movement and visual storytelling in relation to the history, architecture, and metaphors inherent in San Francisco City Hall.
- Green Music Center with Liz Lerman – An evening-length dance-theater piece, “Wicked Bodies (Sonoma)” wonders about the persistence across time and culture of old crones, evil stepmothers, and powerful institutions’ use of the female body as a source of fear.
- EastSide Arts Alliance with Amara Tabor-Smith – “This too shall pass” is part of a ritual dance theater project addressing the well-being, displacement, and sex-trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland.
- Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu with Patrick Makuakāne – “MĀHŪ” is a work of multi-media hula dance theater that aims to reclaim and celebrate the traditional place of honor, respect, and influence given to māhū (transgender) people in ancient Hawaiian society.
- Japanese American Citizens League, San Jose Chapter with Yayoi Kambara – “IKKAI means once: a transplanted pilgrimage” incorporates modern dance, Bon Odori, storytelling, and taiko to guide audiences through the impact and legacy of Japanese American incarceration during World War II.
- Filipino-American Development Foundation with Alleluia Panis – “Nursing These Wounds” investigates the impact of colonization on Pilipinx health and caregiving through the lens of Pilipinix nurses’ history.
- Margaret Jenkins Dance Company with Margaret Jenkins – In “Global Moves,” artists from China, India, Israel, and the United States explore the current waves of isolation and xenophobia in their countries and around the world, using cultural texts as prompts to make a work of hope and unity.
Awardees were decided based on five selection criteria: artistic excellence, project concept, project design, audience and community impact, and financial capacity. A group of 30 finalists for the awards was nominated by a national panel of dance experts whose members included:
- Ana Maria Alvarez, Contra Tiempo Dance Company, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Virginia Johnson, Dance Theatre of Harlem, New York City, N.Y.
- Lily Kharrazi, Alliance of California Traditional Arts, San Francisco, Calif.
- Carla Peterson, Maggie Allessee National Center for Choreography, Tallahassee, Fla.
- Pamela Tatge, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Becket, Mass.
- Sixto Wagan, University of Houston Center for Art and Social Engagement, Houston, Texas.
The Hewlett Foundation Performing Arts Program staff selected this year’s 10 recipients from among the finalists.
For more information about the Hewlett 50 Arts Commissions, please visit www.hewlett.org/50commissions.
About the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is a nonpartisan, private charitable foundation that advances ideas and supports institutions to promote a better world.
For more than 50 years, the foundation has supported efforts to advance education for all, preserve the environment, improve lives and livelihoods in developing countries, promote the health and economic well-being of women, support vibrant performing arts, strengthen Bay Area communities, and make the philanthropy sector more effective.
The foundation’s Performing Arts Program makes grants to support meaningful artistic experiences for communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, to provide Bay Area artists with access to relevant services, to enable equitable access to high-quality arts education opportunities for Bay Area youth, and to build the advocacy capacity and strengthen the infrastructure for the arts.