Artist Ramon Riley, right, at a recent NEXTpittsburgh arts event.

Thanks to a new round of funding, 22 chosen fortunate artists and organizations from the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Program (ABAP) are able to create or continue with their original works, from music to writing to documentaries.

The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments recently awarded over $320,000 in grant money to selected applicants, funding individual projects that range from documentaries and plays to art residencies and even a fashion collection.

Germaine Williams, The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Senior Program Officer for Arts and Culture, recognizes the barriers organizations such as ABAP face. “We know that racial disparities in wealth, income and educational attainment present special resource challenges to organizations committed to presenting art rooted in the black experience,” he said. “The region is home to many artists and organizations passionately committed to representing the diversity of the black experience through traditional art forms and ground-breaking contemporary work.”

One of the 22 awardees is Yvonne McBride whose funding will go towards “Crossroads: An Oral History.” This venture serves as a companion piece to McBride’s novel “Cozy Lee Luke at the Crossroads of the World,” a historical fiction recounting Pittsburgh’s Hill District during the late 1940’s—a time of thriving business, glamorous night life and contagious jazz scene.

“I wanted to get the essence of that time period into the novel,” she says. In doing the research she wanted to “pass down these stories that were so rich and lively and so funny and flavorful .”

This is the second grant McBride has received through ABAP. She notes that with the help of the program, Pittsburgh’s community is especially supportive of individual artists and their work. “As an emerging artist you never know if what you think is valuable will resonate with people. They [ABAP] funded twice which is a confirmation to me that what I’m working on is something of interest. It makes me feel good that they support it, and if they do then the larger community will find value in it as well.”

The full list of awardees includes:

Individual artists: 

Michael Chapman, $6,500, to collaborate with Jasiri X on new songs with acoustic.

Kendra Dennard, $3,500, to develop a new version of the Viva: BLACK documentary.

Sharon Flake, $15,000, to create a stage play based on the novel, “The Skin I’m In.”

Paradise Gray, $15,000, to develop “The Paradise Collection,” an archive of historical Hip-hop media and memorabilia.

Heather Hopson, $15,000, to develop the blog, “Diary of a First Time Mom.”

Billy Jackson, $15,000, to produce the documentary, “Wendell G. Freeland-The Silent Soldier.”

Jazmin Jackson, $14,069, to create a 35-piece fashion collection and photo book.

Yvonne McBride, $14,200, to develop the oral history project titled, “Crossroads.”

Ayanah Moor, $7,574, to create a new performance piece titled, “FLOW.”

Bridgette Perdue, $2,750, to create a series of new songs inspired by research on African and African American music dating back to the 1700s.

Ramon Riley, $15,000, to create 30 new works for the exhibition, “Braddock: ComingHome.”

Dameta Skinner, $13,015, to support the expansion of the Hip-Hop Academy 3-D program.

Candace Walker, $15,000, to develop a solo, multi-media performance titled “Kandake Live!”

Anthony Williams, $10,000, to support a series of workshops, titled “Black Men Loving Black Men.”

Brett Wormsley, $10,881, to produce a documentary on U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves.


City of Asylum Pittsburgh, $10,000, to host an artist residency with Oliver Lake to develop a new jazz-based artwork.

Community Theater Project Corporation, $15,000, to support an artist residency with Joy KMT to develop a new work for stage performance.

Melting Pot Ministries, $15,000, to support an artist residency with Chrystal Bates-Matuscak to develop a staged production based on the stories of first-generation African immigrants.


Kente Arts Alliance, $25,000, for FY 2015 unrestricted support.

Kuntu Repertory Theatre, $50,000, for expenses related to organizational dissolution

Nego Gato, Inc., $8,000, for FY 2014 unrestricted support.

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, $25,000, for FY 2014 unrestricted support.