Nine Chicago artists of color awarded two-year fellowships by Threewalls

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has not been kind to the arts globally, but it's not all bad news here in Chicago. Nine local artists of color were recently awarded two-year fellowships to pursue major creative projects as RadLab Fellows at Threewalls.

"Threewalls recently awarded nine artists and creatives $32,000 to help advance racial equity through their artistic and creative practices," said Jeeffreen Hayes, the organization's executive director. "We're very fortunate to be able to support artists."

The award has traditionally been $25,000 per year, per artist, but the amount was raised this year to account for increased need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The awarded artists span a broad range of mediums and social impact interests. ABC 7 spoke with two of the nine RadLab fellows.

Salvador Jimenez-Flores is using clay and sculpting to connect with elders in Little Village and spur conversation around environmental racism.

"How can we work through transgenerational trauma? How can we work through different struggles that we're dealing with?" Jimenez-Flores asked. "Clay, it's a great material for that. You put a lump of clay into a person and they are automatically, without even giving them any instruction, they start shaping it."

Ireashia Bennett is curated dialogues and meals to transform conceptions of health and wellbeing in their community of Washington Park.

"As a person who is Black, who is fat, who is disabled, I do not see myself in this Western vision of health," Bennett said. "The concept that I wanna kind of think about throughout this fellowship is reimagining health and well-being to kind of bring visible these intangible aspects of racism."

Along with money, fellows receive support for mental health, financial management, and project curation. The first year is dedicated to research, while the second year is intended to fully realize and showcase an artistic project.

Jimenez-Flores said that both the amount and the type of support is rare and welcome.

"When people and organizations invest in artists, they are investing in the community," Jimenez-Flores said. "And as artists, we're trying to figure out how we can create consciousness around those issues and potentially create positive change."
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