Last night at the MCA, a packed theater clapped and cheered - probably even cried a little - watching a video introducing this year's 10 artist awardees who each received the 3Arts Award. Now, the award comes with an amazingly generous, totally unrestricted gift of $15,000, but more than the financial reward, or freedom, that comes with such a prize, each artist shared by video interview what the award made them feel like they could do. Bascially, the answer was anything. 3Arts got started just 5 years ago, rising after the sale of the storied Three Arts Building at the corner of Goethe and Dearborn in the Gold Coast. The building was sold for a sum hefty enough to start a foundation devoted to supporting and raising awareness for artists working in the fields of music, theater, and visual arts, focusing on women, people of color, and people with disabilities in recognition that their work is still underrepresented in mainstream culture. 3Arts provides both direct awards to artists and grants to arts organizations for their support of artists. 5 years later, the foundation's work is growing and the number of artists they reach is expanding.
At the awards ceremony, after a lively, foot-stomping performance by AfriCaribe, actor Kareem Bandealy gave an inspiring opening speech in which he covered all the truly liberating and transformative ways that his 2011 3Arts award affected him. He said that artists can do whatever they want - fix the breaks on their car, buy chocolate and steaks, or chocolate steaks, or allow him to seek appropriate care for a child on the autism spectrum. Kareem was light and charming and witty, and you could feel his gratitude and continued amazement that 3Arts gave him a green light for his career and his passion. He made it clear that the beauty of an unrestricted gift is that is helps an artist with their day to day life. By supporting the human, he said, you support the artist. Executive Director was emotional when she followed on stage to announce one generous family's $300,000 donation to 3Arts, ensuring, she said, that "3Arts will continue in perpetuity."
The stories of the individual artist awardees in 2012 are too many for me to list here, but I encourage you to check out the 3Arts website to learn about all of these artists - they have each struggled, perservered, and come out on top to achieve what they are most passionate about. They are each grateful and inspired to do more because of the validation and confidence has given them. There are many ways that individual donors can also support these artists, and 3Arts also has a relatively new program called 3AP - a sort of Kickstarter set-up where artists may have their projects funded by micro-donations (ie: $5, or $500) though 3Arts does not get a cut of those donations.
Last night showed just how important one organization is to supporting arists in Chicago, but it also clearly showed just how important and inspirational so many artists are to all of us every day.
Miguel Aguilar - Visual artist awardee
Visual Artist Awardee - Maria Vergara