Velocity Fund 2020 grantees announced, $5,000 awards to 12 Philadelphia based artists

The Velocity Fund announces its 2020 awardees, 12 artists and artist groups that will create art all around Philadelphia working with communities and outside normal art venues. Congratulations to all! Be sure to apply for this fund next time if you are a Philadelphia artist whose art works with communities in outside-the-box ways.

Close-up view of someone applying makeup on another person who has their hair half up and half down with flowers pinned in.
Photograph by 2020 grantee Kristal Sotomayor, from her project “Expanding Sanctuary.” Photo by Kristal Sotomayor. Courtesy Kristal Sotomayor and Velocity Fund.

Now in its third year of funding Philadelphia artists for art projects involving communities, The Velocity Fund once again places its funding with inspirational and experimental projects that lie at the boundaries of what defines art. The 12 projects (see below for full annotated list) share common missions of wanting to bring communities together; and wanting to stage the art and gatherings outside traditional “art venues” like galleries or museums.

This year’s projects span the city’s geography and engage communities with projects like gatherings of veterans and Iraqis in an Iraqi greeting hut constructed from locally harvested reeds; community memoir filmmaking about growing up QTPOC; lighting made by Latinx youth and placed in outdoor space at night to reclaim the space; a pop up traveling cabaret in a truck; temporary art installations in North Philadelphia public spaces to dispel negative stereotypes and reaffirm pride in culture around Norris Square.

There’s much more and it all sounds good. And the awards, provided directly to the artists and not channeled through a separate administrative organization, empower the artists and makers to create independently and work with communities where they are — outside traditional art venues. If we are thinking about new definitions of art going into the future; and if we are looking for ways to empower art to be in peoples lives and not only in museums and art fairs and auctions and galleries, The Velocity Fund is a good model. Read more below.

The 2020 Velocity Fund grantees

Yaroub Alobaidi – Al Mudhif The Traditional Reed Guest House
Nia Benjamin/Ninth Planet – Honey Honey Community Film Project
Diente Fo – Gente De Tierra
Annielille Gavino – De(scribing) Filipinx
Cecilia Gonzalez Barragan – Alumbra: Placemaking Through Light
John Jarboe/The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Company – Late Night Snacks Take Out Cabaret
Daiyon Kpou – JUICE Visual Art Exhibition and Film Showcase
Pedro Ospina – Reaffirming, Reviving and Reinventing
Melissa B. Skolnick-Noguera/Timbalona – Rumba en Filadelfia
Kristal Sotomayor – Expanding Sanctuary
Lendl Tellington – Philly 76′
Rashid Zakat – Hold it Down

Established with the support of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Velocity Fund is one of numerous Regional Regranting programs launched by the foundation to fund “under-the-radar artistic activity” by partnering with leading cultural institutions in cities across the nation where the level of self-organized artistic activity is the highest. It is administered by Temple Contemporary at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University.

Applications were reviewed by a distinguished panel of arts administrators, curators and artists: Karen Patterson, Curator at The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM); Deidre McPherson, Department Director of Public Programs at The Cleveland Museum of Art; Peter Nesbett, Keeper of Imaginative Futures (aka Executive Director) of Washington Project for the Arts; and Raúl Romero, Philadelphia-based artist and 2019 Velocity Fund Grantee.

This year’s grantees proposed a wide range of projects including portable cabarets, audio visual publications, light installations, collaborative sculpture, documentaries and exhibitions—each focused on connection with communities throughout Philadelphia. Many of these dynamic projects envision new forms of outreach during the pandemic. As panelist Peter Nesbett said:
“The pluck and resilience of Philadelphia’s independent cultural producers is inspiring, especially in our current moment. As for the projects we reviewed, many struck me as perpetuating a rich dialogue amongst the normally distinct realms of art, heritage, and folklore. I am excited to see the projects we were able to fund come to fruition.”

Karen Patterson also noticed a theme emerging in the pool of 77 applications for this year’s funding: “I was struck by the common thread running through the applicants this year. There was an urgent request to move more voices, more ways of seeing the world, into the spotlight. And not just a traditional spotlight of museums or institutions, but into communities, parks, and homes. It is my hope that these requests, these applications, signal a commitment to the creative process as a means of connecting people to their surroundings and to the world at large.” Raúl Romero added, “I’m excited to see how the Velocity Fund will help amplify the many voices of these artists that are so vital to be heard during these times!”

Due to continued health guidance prohibiting large gatherings, we will not be holding a public reception to celebrate the 2020 Velocity Fund grantees at this time.

The Daiyon Kpou team posing together with big smiles in an outdoor setting.
Daiyon Kpou’s “JUICE Visual Art Exhibition and Film Showcase” creates an affirming and supportive space for Black Philadelphia-based queer artists. Courtesy Daiyon Kpou and Velocity Fund.

2020 Velocity Fund Grantees with Project Descriptions:

Yaroub Al-Obaidi
Al Mudhif The Traditional Reed Guest House
Yaroub Al-Obaidi will build a mudhif, a traditional Iraqi ceremonial structure made entirely out of phragmites reed (which grows invasively in the Philly area). It will be created in collaboration with Seattle-based artist Sarah Kavage at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, as part of a larger project about the Delaware River Watershed. The mudhif, a welcoming space, will be activated by programming that builds on his social engagement work with Veterans and Iraqis.

Nia Benjamin
Honey Honey Community Film Project
Ninth Planet will produce the Honey Honey Community Film Project, a new film to premiere in November 2020. During the hype of the 2020 Digital Fringe Festival, we will invite QTPOC youth and young adults to film and submit their interpretations of scenes from our screenplay through open casting calls and community outreach. Together, the submitted scenes will form a mosaic of our community, telling the story of three queer teenagers facing the complexities of growing up.

Diente Fo
Gente De Tierra
A yearlong collaborative project by and for Black and Indigenous artists and activists in Lenapehoking. Centering the work and voices of those systemically silenced and excluded on topics of land, its use, and preservation. We will use 24 workshops over the year to rebuild connections throughout the community, and the land we occupy using art, crafting, and education, across four major themes of existence: Weaving, Community, Sustainability, and Earth.

Annielille “ANI” Gavino
De(scribing) Filipinx
De(scribing) Filipinx a weaving of historical research with Gavino’s personal memoirs, as a Filipinx immigrant turned 1st generation American and her mixed raced 2nd generation Filipinx- American daughter. This writing will be presented in a poly-disciplinary digital book. Screen dances, documentaries, drawings, soundscape, and photographs will be embedded after each chapter of this audio-visual book, giving a traditional static writing more interactive and engaging approach.

Cecilia González Barragan and Paola González-Rubio
Alumbra: Placemaking Through Light
Community art project with a social function looking to use the topic of light and public space as a means to enhance immigrant youths’ identity, cohesion, expression and democratic attitudes. Through a placemaking process and a grassroots approach, Latinx youths in South Philadelphia will transform public spaces into night-time destinations with a temporal light art installation designed and fabricated by them, creating cultural and social identity, public engagement and space appropriation.

John Jarboe, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Company
Late Night Snacks Take Out Cabaret
The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Company will build a truck that travels with a small band, one or two performers and includes a “cabaret pop-up team” (managing logistics and safety) traveling to at least six locations throughout the city. Think of this as a mini parade that ends in a socially distant show for a block of neighbors, showcasing the artists who live on or near that block. Ideally these shows are all free or pay-what-you-decide. In the biggest version of this idea, the truck opens up into a stage as the show begins.

Daiyon Kpou
JUICE Visual Art Exhibition and Film Showcase
Capturing and exhibiting the stories and lived experiences of our city’s vibrant communities, Black queer art is a necessary (but often overlooked) part of Philadelphia’s cultural history. Their project—a short film showcase and outdoor visual art installation held within a summer Pride festival—challenges these oppressive social norms by creating an affirming and supportive space for Black Philadelphia-based queer artists to more openly exhibit works.

Pedro Ospina
Reaffirming, Reviving and Reinventing
“North Philadelphia’s reputation stems from a past rooted in neglect and contrasts. I believe that, if given the opportunity and commitment, there is tremendous potential to transcend this negative image.” Ospina will create a series of artworks in public spaces and community gardens that would visually enhance and strengthen cultural pride in the Norris Square. Art works will be co-created and intended to reaffirm cultural diversity in the face of impending gentrification and racial tensions.

Melissa Beatriz Skolnick, Andrés Cisneros & Christian Noguera/ Timbalona
Rumba en Filadelfia
The Rumba en Filadelfia project will preserve the folkloric percussion tradition of rumba through a short documentary and multimedia exhibit.

Kristal Sotomayor
Expanding Sanctuary
Expanding Sanctuary is a (26 minutes) documentary about the campaign to end the sharing of the police database with Immigration and Customs Enforcement led by Juntos and the Latinx immigrant community in South Philly. The film follows community member Linda Hernandez’s growth into a prominent leader. The film documents the historic legislation that made Philly one of the first cities to end database sharing. The Velocity Fund will support the final color correction and sound mix of the film, in addition to a community town hall screening.

Lendl Tellington
Philly 76′
Philly 76’ is a multimedia project that looks at the cultural and political milieu from the City of Brotherly Love during America’s Bicentennial and its continued legacy.

Rashid Zakat
Hold it Down
Hold It Down is a music history document focusing on the DIY, site-specific characteristics of the West Philadelphia House Music scene from 1998 to 2006. The project briefly traces the cultural origins of this movement and the wider influence it has left on a global genre. Hold It Down will culminate in an interactive website, screening series and short documentary available for online distribution.

More About Temple Contemporary:
Temple Contemporary creatively re-imagines the social function of art. This mission is guided by an advisory council representing a broad spectrum of Philadelphia residents, including high-school students of color in our North Philadelphia neighborhood, faculty and students at Temple University and civic leaders such as nurses, public historians and block captains. Collaborating with these advisors has centered our position of creative public service and has necessitated a fundamental philosophical shift for the organization to recognize social engagement as the determining factor of our programming. This shift necessitates a foregrounding of curatorial accountability, reciprocity and exchange that forms the basis of Temple Contemporary’s social life and, by extension, our values. Our recent work has included Funeral for a Home, Symphony for a Broken Orchestra and The Ongoing Revolution. Temple Contemporary is an initiative of the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University.

People stretching and warming up in a dance studio and others sitting at a table with headphones and laptops working.
Nia Benjamin / Ninth Planet will produce the “Honey Honey Community Film Project.” Photograph by Kenzi Crash. Courtesy Nia Benjamin / Ninth Planet and Velocity Fund.