12 Chicago-area artists awarded $2.4 million in first-ever Platform Awards

The Skokie-based Walder Foundation is providing the unrestricted grants to music, theater, dance and interdisciplinary performance artists.

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avery r. young, the first poet laureate of Chicago, performs during Poetry Fest at the Harold Washington Library Center in the Loop, Saturday, April 29, 2023.

Chicago Poet Laureate avery r. young is one of 12 recipients of the Walder Foundation’s inaugural Platform Awards.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Twelve Chicago-area artists are being rewarded not only for their creative talents, but their dedication to community.

As part of its inaugural Platform Awards, announced Thursday, the Skokie-based Walder Foundation will give out $2.4 million in unrestricted grants to local mid-career music, theater, dance and interdisciplinary performance artists. Each grantee will receive $200,000, plus professional development and networking opportunities.

Among the recipients are noted actor and playwright Sandra Delgado, celebrated theater director Lili-Anne Brown and Chicago’s first-ever poet laureate, avery r. young. All were selected because of their artistry and practice of incorporating community engagement in their work.

“As a former touring musician, I understand the unique challenges facing performing artists,” Walder Foundation President and Executive Director Elizabeth Walder said in a release. “Through the Walder Foundation’s Platform Awards, we can provide the opportunity for performers to explore their practices and take risks with fewer financial burdens. By supporting these artists who are enriching their local communities, we aim to help shape a vibrant arts sector that continues to contribute to the cultural and economic vitality of our city.”

Other Platform Awards recipients include music artists Lisa Kaplan, Sam Thousand and Matthew Ulery; dance artists Darrell Jones, Chief Manny (Brandon Calhoun), Vershawn Sanders-Ward and Robyn Mineko Williams; theater artist Myra Su; and interdisciplinary artist Brendan Fernandes.

Artists were nominated by 80 Chicago academics, experts and leaders. Semifinalists were selected by a group of artists outside of Chicago, and 20 finalists were determined by local panelists. Grants of $5,000 were awarded to the eight finalists who weren’t selected for the top prize.

Platform Awards recipients will be honored at a ceremony this September. The grants will be given out every three years.

Founded in 2018, the Walder Foundation supports science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life. It has awarded $17 million to performing artists and performing arts organizations since its inception.

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