Year End Report: A Look at the Projects Creative Capital Helped Bring Into the World

This was the busiest year to date for Creative Capital: in 2017, we helped 25 artists’ projects premiere to the public—more than ever before. These works span all genres from documentary to dance to memoir, and they debuted all over the country in places like New Orleans and San Francisco, and even in some places abroad.

When artists receive a Creative Capital Award, we commit to supporting them through the development of their projects. Artists receive funding and support at key stages during the lifespan of their work, helping their practices become more sustainable and successful. This approach supports awardees to slow down and make the work that they really want to make, giving it a larger impact once it premieres to the world.

Thank you to our generous community of supporters who made all of this possible!

Here’s a glance at the projects we helped premiere in 2017, listed in chronological order.

Jeff Becker (2016 Awardee)
Sea of Common Catastrophe
Atlanta, GA & New Orleans, LA
Jeff Becker’s fantastical set design and direction are brought to life in this tale about four companions who lose each other amid the changing landscape of upscale living built upon the fragments of their displaced communities. Sea of Common Catastrophe premiered in New Orleans and Atlanta.
Update: Jeff Becker will bring his project to the Irondale Theater in Brooklyn in June of next year!
“It was clear that many of these adverse effects were calculated and planned to force people to leave. This is the setting in which Sea of Common Catastrophe was conceived, in an ocean of change that forever transformed the city.” — Jeff Becker

Read our interview with Jeff Becker

Yara Travieso (2016 Awardee)
La Medea
Brooklyn, NY

Yara Travieso reinterprets the tale of Medea into a Latin-disco, pop musical that is simultaneously a show, and a livestream feature film. The performance premiered at BRIC in Brooklyn and went on to screen at various cinemas. Yara’s La Medea is brave not only in how it reimagines Medea as a spokeswoman for violence and oppression against women, but also in how she layers multiple ways of approaching the piece.
“Medea is also this magnificent voice for women. A radical revolutionary figure never before seen in fiction, giving voice to the great injustices enforced by Greek men…” — Yara Travieso
Read our interview with Yara Travieso

Travis Wilkerson (2015 Awardee)
Did You Ever Wonder Who Fired The Gun?
Park City, UT

This searing documentary premiered at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Originally set up as a live documentary, Travis eventually switched to voiceover to tell the history of his family from Alabama. In the 1940s, his grandfather shot and killed a black man, Bill Spann, in rural Alabama, never to be tried or condemned. Throughout the documentary, Travis returns to the town again and again as he struggles to uncover the facts about his grandfather and his victim.
Update: Since his premiere, Travis has toured the film at many film festivals, including the New York Film Festival. Distribution rights for the film was recently purchased by Grasshopper, and it will open at Film Forum in February, 2018.
“More and more, I don’t really believe in the past at all. Things that happened continue to exist in our present world.” — Travis Wilkerson
Read our interview with Travis Wilkerson

Wakka Wakka Productions (2013 Awardees)
Made in China
New York, NY

True story: an American woman found a handwritten “cry for help” in her Halloween decorations purchased at Kmart. Wakka Wakka take the story from there in their puppetry performance Made in China. Premiering at 59E59 Theater in New York, the show garnered a four-star review from Time Out New York and was a New York Times Critics Pick.
“The audience is invested deeply in the puppets because, in fact, it’s the audience who decides what the puppets feel or mean or think in any given moment.  Puppetry requires that.” — Gabrielle Brechner
Read our interview with Wakka Wakka

Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen (2015 Awardees)
Austin, TX

Filmmakers Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen’s documentary Spettacolo explores how villagers of a small Italian farming town use theater to confront their issues by turning their lives into an annual play. The documentary premiered at SXSW in Austin, TX, and went on to tour the country and receive great reviews from the LA Times, AV Club and more.
“In… these cases, the creation of art is granting these people the power to actually transform their lives and understand themselves.” — Jeff Malmberg
Read our interview with Jeff and Chris

Mike Crane (2015 Awardee)
Berlin, Germany

Set entirely in the studios of the longest-running 24-hour news station in Ramallah in the West Bank, Mike Crane’s episodic teledrama, UHF42, focuses on the ongoing struggle to maintain a newscast under military occupation. The first two episodes premiered at the Berlinale Forum, and more episodes were released at documenta 14 in Athens, Greece.
Read our full synopsis on the premiere of UHF42 by Mike Crane

Bruce Yonemoto and Juli Carson (2008 Awardees)
The Edge of the World at the Edge of the Earth
Los Angeles, CA

Bruce Yonemoto and Juli Carson examine how natural history is intertwined with the current political moment in their film installation that premiered at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex in Los Angeles.  Christopher Knight wrote in the LA Times, “This installation, framed by the chilling, authoritarian power of fake news — is surreptitiously timely.”
Read our interview with Bruce and Julie

Elisabeth Subrin (2001 Awardee)
A Woman, A Part
New York, NY

After a long career of experimental film and video art, Elisabeth Subrin turned to narrative film in her debut feature-length film to focus on the struggles of women in the entertainment industry. A Woman, A Part premiered at IFC Center in New York in March to rave reviews and later was picked up for distribution by Netflix.
A Woman, A Part is shot through the consciousness and gaze of a woman, and at times this is very confusing for men, especially men who have not encountered any seriously adverse situations where they were forced to experience the world from a marginalized perspective.” — Elisabeth Subrin
Read our interview with Elisabeth Subrin

Yance Ford (2012 Awardee)
Strong Island
New York, NY
Strong Island is a personal examination of the violent death of Yance Ford’s brother 25 years ago, and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free. The documentary premiered at Sundance and went on to show at New Directors New Films at MoMA and Film Society of Lincoln Center, and was distributed nationally by Netflix.
Update: Strong Island recently won Best Documentary at the 2017 Gotham Awards!
“The question wasn’t what happened to him, it was why. Even though the film is situated on my family, the intimacy of shifting the question to why is what makes the film so personal.” — Yance Ford
Read our interview with Yance Ford

Kenya (Robinson) (2016 Awardee)
CHEEKY LaSHAE: Karaoke Universal
New York, NY

Inspired by the way karaoke allows the audience to become the performer and vice versa, CHEEKY LaSHAE—Kenya’s avatar embodied by a revolving cast of characters—presents Karaoke Universal. The work premiered at Pioneer Works, and Kenya recently brought CHEEKY LaSHAE to a performance at the High Line, both in New York.
Update: Kenya is one part of an duo exhibition with Doreen Garner, White Man on a Pedestal, now on view at Pioneer Works. Kenya will perform Cenotaphic there on Dec 17.
Read our interview with Kenya (Robinson)

Anna Sew Hoy (2015 Awardee)
Psychic Body Grotto
Los Angeles, CA

Inspired by man’s vain attempts to control nature (like the cementing over of the LA River), Anna Sew Hoy’s site-specific sculpture envelops the viewer, contrary to traditional grandiose public art works. The sculpture premiered at Los Angeles’s newest park, the LA State Historic Park with the help of Los Angeles Nomadic Division.
“Contemporary city life dictates that every day we wake up in rooms made of right angles. Space is organized into grids, latitudes and longitudes. I find this oppressive.” — Anna Sew Hoy
Read our interview with Anna Sew Hoy

Stacey Steers (2012 Awardee)
Edge of Alchemy
San Francisco, CA

Stacey Steers takes images from the past to create original short animated films. Using thousands of handmade collages, Stacey Steers created Edge of Alchemy, which premiered at Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco, and the San Francisco International Film Festival.
Update: Edge of Alchemy was part of a presentation of Stacey’s work at the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland this past August.
“I think it’s quite difficult to talk about certain types of emotionality that are very central to our existence, but we can SEE it. We all recognize it. It’s one of the great powers of the cinema to allow us to behold those moments at a monumental scale.” — Stacey Steers
Read our interview with Stacey Steers

Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born (2016 Awardee)
Poor People’s TV Room
New York, NY

Inspired in part by the Women’s War of 1929 in Nigeria, Poor People’s TV Room is a multidisciplinary performance work by Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born that plays in a discursive performance space concerned with the entanglement of visibility and shared embodiment. The work premiered at New York Live Arts in April.
Hopefully the piece that we are making operates in this space of trying to excavate something hidden to the surface. Maybe out of my own concerns about invisibility around blackness or darkness, and making presence–making something more visible. I am dealing with black women being seen, shaping how they are being seen, but also making sure that what is seen is three- and four-dimensional. I am interested in seeing how we can make spaces where certain spirits can rise that you didn’t know about, that were hidden.” Okwui Okpokwasili

James Scruggs (2016 Awardee)
New York, NY

Inspired by the “three-fifths compromise” of 1787 that counted slaves as only three-fifths of a person, James Scruggs examines how black men and women have been mistreated over the ages in the US. The work is an interactive, dark and humorous twist on a theme park, called “SupremacyLand,” and the people who work there. 3/Fifths transformed the 3-Legged Dog space in Lower Manhattan.
Update: James Scruggs has begun taking the work on the road with a new version of the show at Sleeping Weazel in Boston to rave reviews.
Read our interview with James Scruggs

Jeanine Oleson (2015 Awardee)
A human(e) matter
Los Angeles, CA

Jeanine Oleson works with craft, performance, and video with absurdist twists that will make those who are paying attention laugh. A human(e) matter premiered at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in the exhibition “Conduct Matters.”
“If anything, creative works are a movement of materials from one place to another for examination. Images are transmitted in this way and it’s changed how the sensory is understood in the world.” — Jeanine Oleson
Read our interview with Jeanine Oleson

Kyle Abraham (2013 Awardee)
Dearest Home
San Francisco, CA
Kyle Abraham debuted his most personal work to date, Dearest Home, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Kyle took personal moments in his life, plus a series of conversations and cross-cultural workshops and developed a series of duet and solo dance pieces. Dearest Home went on to tour the country, including performances at The Kitchen in New York.
“I’m not dancing in this show, but I feel more present in this work than I’ve felt in any other work.” — Kyle Abraham
Read our interview with Kyle Abraham

Wally Cardona (2013 Awardee)
The Set Up
New York, NY

Every year for his project The Set Up, Wally Cardona invites master dancers from all over the world to teach their craft and form a new collaborative work. In 2017, Wally worked with dancers that specialized in Cambodian, Balinese Topeng and Javanese traditions at LMCC’s River to River Festival on Governor’s Island in New York.
“In The Set Up we try to continue to extend this momentary act of ‘trying to know’ a bit beyond the body of the person and place with whom it was engaged.” — Wally Cardona
Read our synopsis of The Set Up

The TEAM (2013 Awardees)
Primer for a Failed Superpower
Brooklyn, NY

How are Americans dealing with the fact that they’re not a superpower anymore? The artist collaboration known as The TEAM were asked this question in 2009 and their response became this performance of protest songs with an all-ages ensemble cast which premiered in August at Roulette in Brooklyn, NY.
“For the creative team and those members of the choir we’ve been developing the show with, the process thus far has been spiritually nourishing.” — Rachel Chavkin, Artistic Director
Read our interview with The TEAM

Cassils (2015 Awardee)
New York, NY

Through performance, video, sound art, and more, Cassils points to the struggles of and violence against the contemporary trans community in their exhibition which premiered at Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York. VICE News produced a powerful short documentary about Cassils and their months-long performance of collecting their urine to call attention to Trump’s repeal of the Obama-era order allowing trans teens to use the bathroom of their choice.
“As a transmasculine-identified person who chooses not to have a double mastectomy, I feel the problem does not lie within my body, but within society’s perception of my body.” — Cassils
Read our interview with Cassils

Kenny Fries (2009 Awardee)
In the Province of the Gods
National book release

Kenny Fries most recent memoir finds him traveling all over Japan exploring how the country views disease and disability as he struggles with finding out about a recent diagnosis of HIV. To promote the book, published by University of Wisconsin Press, Kenny spent 2017 traveling the world for interviews, readings, panel discussions and more.
“Kenny Fries writes out of the pure hot emergency of a mortal being trying to keep himself alive. So much is at stake here—health, affection, culture, trauma, language—but its greatest surprise is what thrives in the midst of suffering. A beautiful book.” — Paul Lisicky
Read our interview with Kenny Fries

Tahir Hemphill (2012 Awardee)
Hip Hop Word Count
San Francisco, CA

Tahir Hemphill produced a searchable database of lyrics from over 50,000 hip hop songs from 1979 to present day. Using his Hip Hop Word Count, he has created powerful sculpture as well as curriculum teaching high school students to mine databases for meaning. His project premiered at an exhibition at California College of the Arts in San Francisco entitled Mapper’s Delight.
Watch our video profile of Tahir Hemphill

Dan Schneidkraut (2015 Awardee)
Vore King
Brooklyn, NY

Dan Schneidkraut examines how the weird and occult blossoms in a small town in Minneapolis through his hilarious documentary, Vore King, about R.P. Whalen, horror film guru and vorarephilia afficiando. The documentary premiered at Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn.
“I can guarantee that it’s not like any documentary anyone has seen before.” — Dan Schneidkraut
Read our interview with Dan Schneidkraut

Patty Chang (2012 Awardee)
The Wandering Lake
Queens, NY

Patty Chang connects the body to global events in surprising ways: the work in her Queens Museum solo exhibition The Wandering Lake is a journey through mourning, care-giving, geopolitics and disparate places like the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of Western China and Newfoundland. The exhibition is currently on view through February 18, 2018.
“For this eagerly awaited exhibition, her largest to date, Ms. Chang… has created an integrated, multidisciplinary installation of mostly new work that reframes her early investigations of identity and its straying boundaries.”— New York Times

Read our interview with Patty Chang

Zach Blas (2016 Awardee)
London, UK

What would it look like if there was an alternative to the internet? Zach Blas uses speculative queer fiction in a multi-disciplinary exhibition that critiques and provides alternatives to the oppressive, hegemonic forces of the internet. Contra-Internet premiered at Gasworks in London.
Update: Contra-Internet will make its way to the US next year in an exhibition at Art in General in New York in January, 2018.
It is the largest project I’ve done. I’ve never been able to work at this scale before.” — Zach Blas
Read our interview with Zach Blas

Carolina Caycedo (2015 Awardee)
Be Dammed
Los Angeles, CA

Carolina Caycedo’s work mirrors the rivers and natural landscapes that she studies, and it has a layer of complexity just underneath the surface. Be Dammed concludes five years of on the ground research of how major dam projects affect the indigenous communities in which they are situated. Including video, a book that is a sprawling art piece, and performance, Carolina’s work can be seen in Los Angeles at The Main Museum and in LACMA’s exhibition “A Universal History of Infamy.”
Be Dammed is a process: a project that stretches in time, that has been unfolding, flourishing, and mutating. A very intimate part of it is my own process of decolonization under the call of undamming.” — Carolina Caycedo
Read our interview with Carolina Caycedo

Stay tuned for more because 2018 is already shaping up to be a busy year! Check out premieres from artists Jesse Bonnell, Jim Findlay, and Heather Kravas!

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