The Philadelphia-based Leeway Foundation, a grantmaking organization that supports women and trans artists using art to create social change, is seeking applicants for its upcoming art and change grant.
The project-based grants of up to $2,500 are available to artists of all mediums, traditional and nontraditional, who reside in Bucks, Camden, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery or Philadelphia counties. Grant applications are due on March 1 and August 1.
A look at a previous grantee
Qui Alexander is a self-described queer and trans person of color who lives and works in West Philadelphia. In 2014, he was awarded an art and change grant to produce Bodywerq, a collection of filmed yoga instruction along with a documentary that highlights queer and trans yoga practitioners.
The project is designed to help queer, trans, and people of color feel comfortable practicing yoga. Alexander is currently a yoga instructor at Studio 34.
“Even though I was teaching these classes,” he said, “I wasn’t getting a lot of queer people or people of color.”
Those who did come often did not venture back because they felt out of place in the classroom. “The average yogi has no idea that many people feel isolated from the yoga community,” he said.
With an idea to help more queer and trans people benefit from yoga, Alexander applied for a grant from the Leeway Foundation, a process he called “super accessible.”
Similar to many of his peers, Alexander’s support from Leeway represents his first grant. It has lent his work a new level of credibility.
“It’s really important to think about wellness and healing from a social justice perspective,” he said.
In addition to a project that addresses some element of social change, artists are required to have a “change partner,” a person, organization or business, usually in the community, which is connected to the work.
Change partners may include mentors, editors, collectives, art spaces, theaters, nonprofits, dance studios, radio stations, and production companies.
“We support artists that engage in a reciprocal process with the communities that they are working with,” said Sham-e-Ali Nayeem, the program director at the Leeway Foundation.
Discovering unknown talent in the community
Founded in 1993 to support women artists in the Philadelphia area, the Leeway Foundation began to examine its direction soon afterward. By the late 1990s, “the foundation expanded to contribute to larger movements of social justice,” Nayeem said, and in 2006, grant eligibility included trans artists.
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Most of Leeway’s grantees are working in communities and may not even consider themselves artists, Nayeem added, because the fine arts world tells them they are not.
Leeway has supported culinary artists and hair braiders, for example, and some of its artists do not have formal training or fine arts credentials.
Artists can bring their ideas to frequent grant information sessions for “one-on-one help,” Nayeem said. “If you have an art for social change idea that involves your art practice impacting your community, please consider applying for a Leeway grant.”
In addition to the art and change grants — roughly 42 are awarded each year — Leeway also offers the transformation award, unrestricted support of $15,000 for women and trans artists who have demonstrated their commitment to social change work for at least five years. The deadline for that award is May 15.
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