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Local News Archives: Announcing 2007 Artist-in-Residency Grant Recipients
Local News

Announcing 2007 Artist-in-Residency Grant Recipients


The Palm Beach County Cultural Council Board of Directors awarded 2007 Artist-in-Residency grants to Step Afrika!, a dance troupe from Washington, D.C. and Mari Omori, a visual artist from Spring, Texas.

The Cultural Council’s Artist-in-Residency grant program provides funding for community-based artist-in-residency projects that emphasize long-term, in-depth interaction between professional artists and an identified group of participants. The programs mission is to forge partnerships between artists and host nonprofit cultural (arts, science, historical) organizations to benefit residents of Palm Beach County.

The awarded projects are:

Step Afrika!, dance troupe working with host organization Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center.
Project Title: Step Up to College
Award: $10,000

Step Afrika! will conduct workshops for eight after school step clubs serving approximately 260 elementary, middle and high school students during one week in December 2006. In the workshops students will learn the history, development and choreography of stepping. The step teams will then work with coaches through March 2007, when Step Afrika! returns and the teams will perform for thousands at the 2007 Afro-Arts Festival at the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center on the campus of Palm Beach Community College in Belle Glade.

Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 by current Executive Director C. Brian Williams. It consists of approximately 10 dancers who expand the traditional art form of stepping, highlighting its connections with dance forms from around the world as well as its origins and history in American percussive dance.

Stepping was created by African American college students using the body as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps, and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.

Ms. Mari Omori, visual artist working with the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
Project Title: The Culture of Tea: Shared Experiences, Individual Expressions
Award: $20,000

Ms. Omori will use the serving of tea to teach artistic expression and appreciation of shared cultural values and perceptions among several diverse local organizations and various age groups. Consistent with the Morikami’s mission of bridging east and west culture, the resulting artworks (including language arts, fiber arts and film) and final exhibit displaying them will reflect relationships to the community, others and nature.

The project provides a refreshing new look at an ancient tradition, encouraging participants to savor the lost art of conversation over tea and take the time to reflect on what they have learned. G-Star film students will document the entire artistic process as community groups such as elementary and middle school students, Parenting Grandparents, Palm Beach County Literacy Coalition members, artists, and the Morikami’s young professionals meet over tea. These participants will discuss the tea ceremony and take part in exercises such as learning Japanese tie-dyeing, quilting and writing/drawing comments about the tea experience. This material, including the documentary, will be used to create an innovative installation that will debut at the Morikami in October 2007.

Ms. Omori specializes in constructing bold, textured sculptures, massive room-size installations, and collages, all made with distinct imprints of tea and quilted paper derived from teabags.

These two awarded projects were chosen by a community-based grant panel consisting of Nan Barnett, Florida Stage; Margot Emery, Core Ensemble; Katie Klein, Klein Dance Company; Steven E. McCraney, Cultural Council Board; Sam Perry, Artist; Elayna Toby Singer, Art in Public Places Administrator; and Victoria Skinner, Visual Artist. After reviewing the applications, the panel met on September 7, 2006 to view slides and other work samples provided by the artists. Based on the criteria and the applications provided, of the eight proposals submitted and reviewed, these two were recommended for funding. The Cultural Council Board approved the recommended projects on September 26.

The $30,000 Artist-in-Residency grant program began four years ago and is funded annually through the Cultural Council’s share of State of the Arts specialty license plate revenue.

Step Afrika! Photo: Bmac Teaches: Photo Credit Paul Woodruff.
Mari Omori Photo: Kimono
Mari Omori Photos: Shape of Time

Larry Boytano
Public Relations Coordinator
Palm Beach County Cultural Council
1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 300
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Tel. (561) 471-1601
Fax (561) 687-9484