Year in Review 2019: Supporting Contemporary Art Work Across the Country

What does supporting ambitious art projects look like? In 2019, Creative Capital helped 15 artists premiere nine projects all over the country, and looking back on the year, it’s clear that these projects represent a diverse swath of the cutting-edge art being made today. From a performance that combines music and standup comedy to talk about race and class to an installation space that allows an American public to interact with Iranians, these projects are leading the charge to define what art can do.

At the beginning of our 20th anniversary year, we committed $5 million to 58 new artists working on 50 projects through the 2019 Creative Capital Awards. Those artists joined us for an artist retreat over the summer to present their works in progress to a group of professionals working in the arts committed to helping that work become a reality. Watch our new video above that captures the transformative feeling of the Creative Capital Artist Retreat.

Finally, we accepted thousands of applications for a new award cycle that will be announced early next year. The artists who will receive 2020 Creative Capital Awards represent a radical vision of what art will look like in the future.

Thank you to our committed partners and community for making this work possible. If you want to help us support the careers of contemporary artists working in all disciplines both nationally and internationally, consider making a donation today—we raise every dollar we give away to these thought-leading artists.

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Below we look at nine projects completed in 2019 in chronological order—artworks that the Creative Capital Award helped make possible.

Gregory Sale (2013 Awardee)
Future IDs at Alcatraz
Premiered on Alcatraz Island, San Francisco
February – September

For over five years, Sale has worked with a team of activists and people with conviction histories to use visual arts to reimagine their status in society. An exhibition and robust series of programs at Alcatraz Island this year repositioned the historical prison as a site of transformation and rehabilitation, both for formerly incarcerated individuals and the public.

“I’m so appreciative of Creative Capital’s multilayered support in helping me realize the potential of this work.” —Gregory Sale

Read our interview with Sale

Mariam Ghani (2015 Awardee)
What We Left Unfinished
Premiered at San Francisco Film Festival, San Francisco
April 11-16

What We Left Unfinished is a close look at five unfinished films commissioned by the state of Afghanistan during its communist era—not only providing a new perspective on the turbulent time, but demonstrating the power and potential of the films beyond their propaganda value. The film premiered at Berlinale and stateside at San Francisco International Film Festival, with a recent screening at DOCNYC.

“The world premiere at Berlinale was also a beautiful full-circle moment, because I met Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, head of the Berlinale Forum program, at the Creative Capital Retreat, the very first time I pitched the project.” —Mariam Ghani

Read our interview with Ghani

Jennifer Reeder (2015 Awardee)
Knives and Skin
Premiered at Tribeca Film Festival
April 26 – May 2

After a substantial career of making experimental narrative films, Jennifer Reeder used Creative Capital’s support to create her first feature-length, Knives and Skin, a “midwestern gothic teen noir,” exploring the aftermath of a young girl’s disappearance in a rural, racially diverse town in Ohio. The film premiered at Tribeca in April, and has gone on to screen at countless film festivals and cinemas all over the world.

“I was able to maintain a lot of creative freedom because Creative Capital had invested that initial capital.” —Jennifer Reeder

Read our interview with Reeder

Cornell Alston and Kaneza Schaal (2016 Awardees)
Premiered at New York Live Arts, New York
April 17-27

Inspired partly by Alston’s experience in prison, and his journey as he made his way back into society, JACK & blends comedy, performance, and music to consider how we define the act of dreaming after trauma. After an initial debut in 2018 at BAM, JACK & premiered at New York Live Arts in April with a new companion installation.

“Thank God for Creative Capital!” —Cornell Alston

Read our interview with Alston and Schaal

Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, & Sable Elyse Smith (2016 Awardees)
Premiered at New Museum, New York
June 18 – October 6

This collaboration used diversion processes working with court-involved youth to inform their array of visual art, poetry, workshops, and curriculum. The work premiered in June at the New Museum through a residency and solo exhibition through their Summer Art and Social Justice program.

“Creative Capital has always been specific about reminding us that they are there.” —Sable Elyse Smith

Read our interview with the artists

“There have been a series of opportunities that have led to other opportunities that came through Creative Capital. It’s like a fire had been started.” —Joseph Keckler

Joseph Keckler (2015 Awardee)
Let Me Die
Premiered at Opera Philadelphia & Fringe Arts, Philadelphia
September 21-28

Keckler collaged death scenes throughout the history of opera and formed a new work called appropriately, Let Me Die. The piece premiered in Philadelphia at FringeArts and Opera Philadelphia, and is currently being adapted to an installation. Almost immediately after the performance, Keckler hit the road to open for Sleater-Kinney.

“There have been a series of opportunities that have led to other opportunities that came through Creative Capital. It’s like a fire had been started.” — Joseph Keckler

Read our interview with Keckler

Ghana ThinkTank (2013 Awardees)
American Riad
Premiered in Detroit’s North End
Open to the public September 22

Ghana ThinkTank proves that it’s possible to critique how the world economy oppresses and marginalizes people while simultaneously providing cultural spaces with their project, American Riad, which uses the Muslim architecture feature, the riad to provide an arts hub in Detroit’s North End. While it’s still under construction, Ghana ThinkTank opened the riad to the public this September.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do all the thinking and organizing that we had to get here if it wasn’t for Creative Capital.” — Christopher Robbins

Read our interview with Ghana ThinkTank

Jon Rubin (2015 Awardee) and Sohrab Kashani
The Other Apartment
Premiered at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh
September 24 – July, 2020

Rubin and Kashani created a cultural space that uses creativity to circumnavigate the Iranian and US governments that are at odds with each other. The artists have created an apartment arts space that exists simultaneously in Tehran and Pittsburg at the Mattress Factory—every object, talk, event, and art work on view at one space is meticulously recreated in the other, to help Iranian and US audiences unite as one.

“Having the Creative Capital approval and funding made it quite easy to approach institutions for additional support.” — Jon Rubin and Sohrab Kashani

Read our interview with Rubin and Kashani

Ahamefule J. Oluo (2016 Awardee)
Premiered at On the Boards, Seattle, December 5-8, 2019
Under the Radar, New York, January 8-13, 2020

Oluo continues to blend standup comedy, music performance and storytelling in new ways through his performance Susan, which tells the story of how his mother raised two children born to an absent Nigerian father. Susan premieres in Seattle in December, and then comes to New York for the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival in January, 2020.

“Especially now that we’re getting everything up and running, Creative Capital has been really helpful.” — Ahamefule J. Oluo

Read our interview with Oluo

If you want to help forward-thinking artists make innovative art works like this, donate to Creative Capital today!

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