3Arts Awards marks 15 years with nearly $500,000 in grants

published: Oct. 25, 2022

3Arts Awards marks 15 years with nearly $500,000 in grants to women, artists of color, and artists with disabilities

By Darcel Rockett
Chicago Tribune, Oct 25, 2022

Peregrine Bermas was having a not-so-stellar day before the call about being awarded a $30,000 grant from 3Arts, a nonprofit grant-making organization that has distributed $5.8 million in funds since 2007 to more than 1,800 artists—the majority of whom were women, people of color, and artists with disabilities.

As an artist whose teachings intersect spaces like herbalism, illustration, meditation, and movement practices, Bermas’ work connects land-based relationships with collective care and culture. Bermas uses the pronoun they. Their work can be seen by way of a series of educational coloring zines, a Freedom Fighter Herbs site, an herbal mutual aid effort and through community workshops centered on uplifting practices and techniques unique to individuals’ cultural heritage.

“I try to uplift in the spaces that I’m showing up to,” Bermas said. “Wanting to leave lots of brave space for other folks to share their stories and their medicines. It’s not hierarchical in that way that we are sometimes taught medicine happens, like there’s one person who knows everything. In reality, we’re all the experts of our own experience. And we all each know our individual bodies best. All of that comes into my work these days.”

Peregrine Bermas is one of 10 local teaching, performing, and visual artists who will receive the unrestricted grants from 3Arts at its 15th annual award celebration to be streamed on YouTube on Nov. 7. Other 2022 winners of the unrestricted $30,000 grants include dance artists Winifred Haun and Sarita Smith Childs; musicians Akenya and Nashon Holloway; teaching artist Simone Reynolds; theater artists Miranda Gonzalez and Omer Abbas Salem; and visual artists Rozalinda Borcilă and zakkiyyah najeebah dumas-o’neal. Winners were chosen by a juried panel of artists and arts leaders, said 3Arts Executive Director Esther Grimm, who is celebrating her 20th anniversary with the organization.

“There’s something about this moment in the world that many of these artists are addressing in the most outstanding kind of way, crossing beyond a singular discipline in the traditional sense and into activism and working with all kinds of people and communities and generating ideas and making art that’s sort of a more permanent nature and more ephemeral,” Grimm said. “It’s more about this moment and us coming together and that’s a beautiful thing to learn from every single year.”

Another 10 artists will receive $2,000 each through the “Make a Wave” artist-to-artist grant wherein former 3Arts Award recipients select the winners. The grant is a surprise “wave” of support to Chicago’s cultural communities. This year’s grant winners are Zahra Glenda Baker (vocalist, storyteller and teaching artist); Maggie Brown (vocalist and teaching artist); Stephanie “Stef Skills” Garland (street art muralist and educator); Leah Ra’Chel Gipson (interdisciplinary artist and scholar); Terry Guest (playwright, actor and director); Malik Johnson aka 99TheProducer (cellist, composer and producer); Ivan Lozano (visual artist and podcaster); Elisabeth YJ Seonwoo aka Kerberus (dancer and educator); Andrea Yarbrough (maker, curator and educator); and Wai Yim (actor, director, choreographer and playwright). Three $50,000 “Next Level/Spare Room” award winners will be announced at the online ceremony, bringing the total amount of grant money to be awarded this year to nearly $500,000.

Miranda Gonzalez, a founding ensemble member of Chicago’s all-Latina theater company Teatro Luna, was surprised when 3Arts told her about her win. Having been nominated four times, the mother of three just keeps grinding. Next on her to-do list: Invest the $30,000 and make it grow for her family, and finish a second draft of a play about the Underground Railroad that led from the U.S. to Mexico, a commission by the Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles. Gonzalez, a writer, director, producer and consultant who has devised and developed plays since 2000, is the producing artistic director at Urban Theater Company in Humboldt Park. She hopes her win sheds light on nontraditional ways one can be involved in the arts.

“No one gets to say how or who makes great art—no one,” she said. “Creativity comes from within; it comes from your life. It comes from the way that your imagination works. And no one can put a price tag on that, no one can put a structure around that. Your process and your structure is your own. So what I really want this 3Arts award to do is to encourage anyone who has a passion for creating to go for it no matter the avenue.”

Bermas can relate. Growing up envisioning careers as an artist, teacher, astronaut, and geologist, Bermas made their own way after studying art history and not seeing a lot of reflections of people like them in the art historical canon.

“And in some way, shape, or form, I am living the life that I had dreamed of when I was a child and I’m really just in awe of that,” Bermas said. “I was meant to go to school for pharmacy or physical therapy and in some ways, I’m also doing those things.”

Grimm remembers when the awards began and thinking it would go for a few years and then sunset. But the program has strengthened.

“The network of artists has gained traction,” she said. “Fifteen years is never going to be enough. We need to set our sights on another 30. That’s the exciting part for me is to think about the flow forward. My hope is that we will have 800 people signed up for our Nov. 7 event because every one of those people deserves another round of applause — all the creative workers in our area who are doing everything they can to enliven us, to provoke us, to make us think, to move us forward.”

Free registration is required for the award ceremony at 3arts.org/event/.