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[June 30, 2022, New York, NY]—Laura Cerón Melo, Russell Craig, and Jenny Polak along with The Fortune Society announced today that they received an Artist Employment Program (AEP) grant from Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY). Designed to support employment opportunities for artists, the program is funding 98 collaborations involving a dynamic group of 300 artists employed by community-based organizations, municipalities, and tribal governments across New York State. CRNY has awarded a total of $49.9M in funding to support artists’ salaries and benefits, with an additional $11.7M in funding provided to the organizations holding employment.
“If we are to truly rebuild our amazing state, we must celebrate artists’ contributions not only to the economy but to what makes us human,” says Creatives Rebuild New York’s Executive Director Sarah Calderon. “The incredible work being funded through CRNY’s Artist Employment Program underscores the importance of direct support for both individual artists and the organizations that hold their employment.”
Laura Cerón Melo, Russell Craig, and Jenny Polak will embed with The Fortune Society’s Arts program from July 1, 2022 to July 1, 2024 to facilitate workshops and lead art projects like bookmaking, murals, and larger-scale public art installations. The overarching goal of this project is to envision and create, with intention and care, sustained opportunities for individual and community healing and creative development through arts access. The Fortune Society, which fosters a world where those who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated will thrive as positive, contributing members of society, will use the grant to support the collaboration, including artists’ salaries and benefits.
“The origin story of our nearly 55-year-old organization is in the arts, having been founded after then-Broadway producer David Rothenberg produced the Off-Broadway play, Fortune in Men’s Eyes. Since we first opened our doors, our work has incorporated the healing and transformative power of art. When incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals have the freedom to enjoy their imagination and creativity, they can see for themselves how they can thrive and be positive, contributing members of society—and then we all benefit. We are incredibly grateful for this important grant from the Creatives Rebuild New York Artist Employment Program and we can’t wait to share with the world what we do with it,” said JoAnne Page, President and CEO, The Fortune Society.
“For the past two years, Fortune has nurtured relationships with artists Laura Cerón Melo, Russell Craig and Jenny Polak. These partnerships are rooted in the shared values of radical love, reciprocity, open and equitable creative exchange, and community-building. Creatives Rebuild New York’s vital support will enable us to continue this journey—to build out capacity for our Art program, increase meaningful engagement with participants, and uplift the professional and creative skills of these incredible artists. We are so grateful, and energized by the bright road ahead,” said Jamie Maleszka, Director of Creative Arts, The Fortune Society.
“I am so grateful for this award: it’s a beautiful recognition of the work that the Fortune community has been doing and of my practice in collaboration with and inspired by their powerful voices. The support will be transformative for our shared efforts to expand the ways that art-making can be an act of healing and open new public spaces of empathy. I am excited for the projects to come,” said Jenny Polak.
“CRNY is an extraordinary chance for me to work with an organization whose work I admire and know to be fundamental in helping people not only survive but thrive. It is an exciting and unique opportunity to put my skills in service of a community I love, where I can leverage design’s capacity to create and change systems (in and out of the organization and the program), and build upon art’s innate quality to create beauty and facilitate individual and collective healing. I look forward to co-creating, leading, and learning with/from Fortune’s community members, Jamie, Russell, and Jenny. We will work with care, joy, and focus to add our part in creating a more just world using art and community power as our main tools,” said Laura Cerón Melo.
“Following my recent graduation from Bard College, I’m extremely excited to be in partnership with The Fortune Society and working with people directly impacted by the criminal justice system. Being formerly incarcerated myself, I know first-hand the barriers and obstacles one has to face and overcome as we return to society. That challenge is often difficult, so to be in a position to assist people experiencing these circumstances in any way is a blessing. It’s God’s work, and I’m honored to be an embodiment of that work using Art as our focus,” said Russell Craig.
Artist Employment Program recipients were selected through a two-stage process by a group of twenty external peer reviewers alongside CRNY staff. From an initial pool of over 2,700 written applications, 167 were shortlisted for interviews with reviewers. To view the list of 98 Artist Employment Program participants, visit https://www.creativesrebuildny.org/participants/
For more information about Creatives Rebuild New York’s Artist Employment Program, please visit creativesrebuildny.org.Back