(Featured image is “Trailblazer of the Arts” Spark Award winner Aitina Fareed-Cooke)

In 2021, a year marked by turmoil and transformation, Arts Services Inc. (ASI) had a record-breaking nine Erie and Chautauqua County artists selected to receive $10,000 each in funding from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for their Round 3 Support for Artists grant program. These grants represent a portion of the $1.6 million total received by over 55 artists and organizations in Western New York through this round of funding.

ASI has served as a fiscal sponsor for many individual artists over the years but 2021’s resounding success rate is owed completely to the hard work and intrepid spirit of the artists who did not let a chaotic year deter them. Grant funding for individual artists is often scarce with most large pots of arts funding available only to nonprofit organizations. Through fiscal sponsorship, Individuals are able to use ASI’s nonprofit status to apply for larger local, regional and national funding opportunities but are still required to do the logistical planning of their project and the grant writing themselves.

The funding received by these nine individuals will be used for the completion of artistic projects that will allow for significant growth in their development as an artist. “The NYSCA funding will give me the ability and resources to complete a project that I have been working on for close to six years,” said grant recipient Gary L. Wolfe. “NYSCA’s award has been a great encouragement and validation for the work I have been doing.   I am particularly thankful for ASI’s support and guidance in shepherding the proposal.”

Wolfe’s project entitled, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” is an immersive installation project that interweaves the static images of representational painting with the kinetic images of video technology.  “It addresses issues of human vulnerability, shame and value under the ubiquitous gaze of technological and online surveillance,” describes Wolfe.

Individual artist grants such as these are particularly meaningful to artists after a year coping with losses due to the pandemic. “At times it can be difficult to manage passion projects as they can consume time, energy, and funds away from the work that keeps business flowing,” commented recipient Aitina Fareed-Cooke of Get Fokus’d Productions. “When opportunities arise in which an artist like myself can focus attention on an area of curiosity without financial limitations, it can open up a whole new world of innovation.” 

Fareed-Cooke’s project is entitled “Tales From the Porch” and will tell the stories of minority business owners in the region. “My vision is to capture visual stories of a variety of minority business owners living within New York State and translate them into poetic visuals to be shared with others in hopes to ignite thought and expand perspectives.”

The good news of their award reached recipients on December 13th through an official announcement by Governor Kathy Hochul. Applications were accepted in the fields of choreography commissions, composer compositions, film and media, folk and traditional arts, interdisciplinary, literature, theater commissions and visual arts. Priority was given to applicants that will use their projects to serve historically underrepresented communities. 

The following artists and projects sponsored by ASI were chosen for funding:

  • Aitina Fareed-Cooke: Tales from the Porch
  • Audrey Kay Dowling: Finding Truth
  • Celeste Lawson: The Whale Speaks
  • Gary Earl Ross: Stoker’s Guest
  • Gary L. Wolfe: Who Told You That You Were Naked?
  • Phil Hastings: Telephone
  • Saira Siddiqui: The Peace Dots Project
  • Stephen David Oliver: Infinite Distances
  • Stephen Solook: The Dyslexic Vibraphonist

Congratulations to these talented individuals!