3Arts was created seven years ago to help women artists, artists of color and artists with disabilities working in the performing , teaching and visual arts.
One of the honorees this year is a deaf actor who was selected for teaching.
Actor Robert Schleifer has taught acting all over the world. When he learned he would be given $15,000 for his work, he was shocked.
"First they send me an email saying I qualified the application, I am able to win $15,000, and I was like is this a scam, forget it. A few days later, I showed my friend, 'Read this scam… Ok, let me read again.' I saw a phone number. I called to see if it was real," said Robert.
3Arts Executive Director Esther Grimm says nominators are local and anonymous. Artists are never told who submitted their names.
"We have a pool of anywhere from 110 to 125 artists each year," Esther said. "The nominators are looking for artists with a distinctive artistic voice, technical acumen artists for whom $15,000 would make a difference and who need recognition."
"I'm the humble facilitator for the panel that selected Robert," Esther added. "He is a remarkable teaching artist doing incredible work in Chicago. He is dedicated to helping theater artists and other people learn how to express themselves physically."
Recipients' awards are unrestrictive.
"That means that there are absolutely no string attached. An artist might put the money in his bank account, an artist might buy and they often do buy new computer equipment to further their work. Sometimes, they take research trips, travel the world," Esther said.
"I don't know what to do with the $15,000 right now," Robert said. "Save it."
To learn more about 3Arts go to www.3arts.org