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June 29, 2020

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Alyssa Larkin

Carol Fox and Associates






Nine ALAANA Artists Will Radically Reimagine A Racially Just Society


Artists Will Receive $256,000 to Support Eight Year-Long Neighborhood-Based Projects in Chicago


CHICAGO – Threewalls, a Black-led non-profit organization providing support and visibility for ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American) contemporary visual artists in Chicago, today announced the 2020 recipients of the RaD Lab+Outside the Walls fellowship. Awarding grants of $32,000 for 8 total projects, nine fellows will imagine alternative ways towards racial equity through the lens of radical imagination and racial justice. Dedicated to ALAANA artists who are working at the intersection of art, community and justice and doing so to build a racially just society, the fellowship is generously supported by the Surdna Foundation, who awarded Threewalls $1.2 million in 2019 to expand the organization’s racial justice work.


Program fellows will spend a year researching, developing and testing an idea that addresses a racial justice issue pertinent to their neighborhood community. 2020 Fellows Jenna Anast, Ireashia Bennett, Aquil Charlton, Safiya Eshe Gyasi & Chineze Mogbo, Felicia Holman, Salvador Jimenez-Flores, Youree Kim and Chandra Christmas-Rouse will address a wide range of racial justice issues, including dismantling weaponized media, food apartheid, environmental and educational racism, segregation, ableism, abolition, decriminalization of mentally disabled People of Color and disinvestment from Black communities. Each project will engage community members based in Chicago neighborhoods, including Bronzeville, Bucktown, Little Village, North Kenwood, Pilsen, South Shore, Uptown and Washington Park.


“The artists and creatives we have awarded represent critical and imaginative thinking necessary to create a racially just Chicago, and by extension a racially just world,” said Threewalls Executive Director Jeffreen M. Hayes. “Our organization has radically reimagined what it means to truly support ALAANA artists, with funding going towards not just their projects but also their needs as individuals. Additionally, recognizing that many of our artists are part of communities in which the coronavirus has had a disproportionate impact, we increased the award amount to $32,000.”


Fellows are offered technical and creative assistance throughout the program, including financial and digital coaching sessions, creative counseling and accessibility workshops. Threewalls serves as a thought partner and engages the fellows by offering curatorial and administrative support.


“This year’s RaD Lab+Outside the Walls fellows demonstrate the power of artists to challenge the status quo and reimagine a more just world in which everyone can thrive,” said Robert Smith III, program officer of the Surdna Foundation’s Thriving Cultures program. “As communities across the nation work together to dismantle anti-black racism, we are proud to partner with Threewalls to support this powerful cohort of artists to work within their communities to use their collective experience, strategies, and creativity to realize a racially just Chicago.”


The fellowship takes place sequentially over two years, with fellows developing their projects in RaD Lab during the first year and Outside the Walls in the second year. Once completed, fellows will receive an additional $32,000 and their research projects will be presented as installations and interventions in their neighborhood.


“We deeply appreciated all who applied for this fellowship, reflecting the expansive and distinctly creative force of ALAANA communities in Chicago,” said Threewalls Director of Programs Barak adé Soleil. “The 2020 cohort affirms complexities of our culture that cannot go unnoticed; dynamic intersections of disability, queerness, Black feminism, migration and healing that shape how they will collectively reimagine – within and across this city’s neighborhoods – a more equitable future.”


Fellows were selected through an open call process and reviewed by an external panel of individuals who are actively involved in artistic work, who identify as members of an ALAANA community and the majority of whom are Chicago-based. 2020 panelists were Addis Aliyu, Justin Cooper, Chandra Méndez-Ortiz and Nikki Patin.


About the Surdna Foundation

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States –communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. Learn more at


About Threewalls

Threewalls was founded in 2003 to provide support and visibility for the visual arts community in Chicago. In 2016, the organization was reimagined through the lens of blackness and is an evolving Black-led nonprofit organization, that unapologetically celebrates blackness, intersectionality, and exists through Black feminist practice. Threewalls fosters contemporary art practices that respond to lived experiences, encouraging connections beyond art. We center ALAANA (African, Latinx, Arab, Asian, and Native American) artists, creatives and collaborative projects, especially those which are best presented outside of traditional art spaces. Learn more at


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