Chicago’s John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced hefty grants to 15 Chicago arts and culture organizations for diverse artistic exchanges around the world, and three Chicago-based dance companies with ties to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago are among the grant recipients. The grants are provided by MacArthur’s International Connections Fund, which was initiated in 2008 to enable Chicago arts organizations to launch new partnerships and creative projects with cultural organizations in other countries. The MacArthur Foundation’s mission is to support creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.
Red Clay Dance Company, an ensemble founded and led by Dance Center alum Vershawn Sanders-Ward ’02, a graduate of Columbia College’s Dance BFA program, will receive a $40,000 grant for an exchange with a contemporary dance company in Kampala, Uganda, to collaborate on teaching, town hall discussions, and new work that will be performed in each country. “My artistic work is deeply rooted in my identity as a black woman and culturally in the rich history of Africa and the African Diaspora,” says Sanders-Ward. “My artistry serves as an entry point for audiences to examine and dialogue about societal issues such as racism, sexism, and classism. The work seeks to create a space for the viewer to reflect on their own personal basis in regards to these issues. My Afro-contemporary esthetic is anchored in the rhythms and accents of West African dance combined with the coolness and edge of the hip-hop culture, sprinkled with modern and ballet movement vocabulary.”
The Seldoms, a Chicago-based ensemble founded and led by Columbia College Dance Center teacher Carrie Hanson, will receive a $50,000 grant to collaborate with visual artists in Scotland to explore and translate the compositional process of visual art and dance, and lay the groundwork for a new multimedia performance piece. Now in its 14th season under Hanson’s direction, the company is committed to bringing audiences an expanded experience of dance that ignites thought and understanding of real-world issues. With dance at the center of the work, the company’s vision extends to a total action and environment and includes collaboration with practitioners in fields as diverse as architecture, installation, video, sound, and fashion.
And Mordine & Company Dance Theatre — whose founder and artistic/executive director, dancer/choreographer Shirley Mordine, established the Dance Center of Columbia College in 1969 and served as chair of the Dance Department until 1999 – will receive a $50,000 grant for a dance and cultural exchange with Delhi, India, that will allow three choreographers to share the styles and techniques of each, offer dance workshops, and create new work. Mordine & Company, the Midwest’s longest-running contemporary dance company, has performed throughout the United States as well as internationally at numerous festivals and has toured to Australia, Israel, Mexico, and Yugoslavia.
“The annual International Connections Fund enables some of Chicago’s diverse and vibrant arts groups to innovate and reach new global audiences,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Many of these artistic partnerships also engage Chicago youth, connecting them to other cultures and expanding their horizons.”