Hewlett Foundation Announces $1.5 Million in Grants for New Dance Works

Amara Tabor Smith, along with the EastSide Arts Alliance, is one of 10 recipients of grants from the Hewlett Foundation announced Tuesday. (Jean Melesaine)

Three years ago, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission, a major five-year, $8 million initiative to commission “50 exceptional works of performing arts.” Each year since, the foundation has awarded 10 grants to Bay Area nonprofits that work with artists for the creation of new works.

The Hewlett Foundation announced this year’s awardees, all in the field of dance and movement-based performance, on Tuesday. The 10 awardees will receive $150,000 each to bring their projects to fruition over the next three years; they include organizations in the Bay Area both small and large, such as the EastSide Arts Alliance in Oakland and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. A full list is below.

“While the projects awarded today were conceived and planned before the pandemic or the current Black Lives Matter protests across the country, the themes they will tackle—including racial justice, inequality and rising xenophobia around the world—are strikingly relevant to the challenges our society confronts today,” according to a press release announcing the $1.5 million in grants, chosen by a national panel of dance experts.

The arts have the ability to “infuse people’s lives with beauty, offer solace and build empathy—and that’s especially important right now,” Emiko Ono, Performing Arts Program Director for the Hewlett Foundation, said in a statement. “At a time when our country is grappling with its failures and trying to chart a path forward, these artistic projects can illuminate the lives of individuals and our diverse communities, provoke debate and help reimagine our shared future.”

Since its founding in 1967, the Hewlett Foundation, based in Menlo Park, has awarded more than $375 million to arts organizations. (The foundation also supplies funding for KQED Arts.) Previous awardees in the Hewlett 50 Arts Commission include the disciplines of music composition, theater and spoken word performance; future grants for folk and traditional arts, film and media will be announced in the future.

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2020 Hewlett 50 Arts Commission Awardees

Brava! for Women in the Arts with Vanessa Sanchez
“Ghostly Labor” illuminates a history of abuse, activism and perseverance by Chicana and Native women working in the US-Mexico borderlands.

Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants and ARTogether with Prumsodun Ok
“A Deepest Blue” uses a founding myth common to Cambodia and Japan to contemplate humanity’s relationship with and responsibility to our threatened oceans and the natural world.

Circo Zero with Ishmael Houston-Jones
“TRY” is an experimental improvised dance that aims to subvert traditional notions of race and masculinity.

Dancers’ Group with Joanna Haigood
“The People’s Building” investigates movement and visual storytelling in relation to the history, architecture and metaphors inherent in San Francisco City Hall.

Green Music Center with Liz Lerman
An evening-length dance-theater piece, “Wicked Bodies (Sonoma)” wonders about the persistence across time and culture of old crones, evil stepmothers and powerful institutions’ use of the female body as a source of fear.

EastSide Arts Alliance with Amara Tabor-Smith
“This too shall pass” is part of a ritual dance theater project addressing the wellbeing, displacement and sex-trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland.

Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu with Patrick Makuakāne
“MĀHŪ” is a work of multi-media hula dance theater that aims to reclaim and celebrate the traditional place of honor, respect and influence given to māhū (transgender) people in ancient Hawaiian society.

Japanese American Citizens League, San Jose Chapter with Yayoi Kambara
“IKKAI means once: a transplanted pilgrimage” incorporates modern dance, Bon Odori, storytelling and taiko to guide audiences through the impact and legacy of Japanese American incarceration during World War II.

Filipino-American Development Foundation with Alleluia Panis
“Nursing These Wounds” investigates the impact of colonization on Pilipinx health and caregiving through the lens of Pilipinx nurses’ history.

Margaret Jenkins Dance Company with Margaret Jenkins
In “Global Moves,” artists from China, India, Israel and the United States explore the current waves of isolation and xenophobia in their countries and around the world, using cultural texts as prompts to make a work of hope and unity.