West Side band leader Larry Taylor and fellow blues singer and teacher Katharine Davis are among 13 highly qualified artists to receive the city’s Esteem Artist Award, a special new $10,000 grant for career expenses including studio rental, supplies, travel and equipment.

In celebration of 2020 as the Year of Chicago Music, half the Esteem Artist Awards are going to musicians. In addition to Davis and Taylor, they are: jazz vocalist Deleatrice (Dee) Alexander,  Honduran-American guitarist Carlos Barahona,  Old Town Folk Music School guitarist and songwriting teacher Steve Dawson,  innovative chamber music pianist Mabel Kwan, and Michael Reed, experimental jazz drummer and organizer of the Pitchfork festival.

Receiving awards in other disciplines are Jason Howard (Performing Arts), Sandra Jackson-Opoku (Literary Arts), Ruth Leitman (Film & Media Arts), Fawzia Mirza (Film & Media Arts), Leticia Pardo Rojo (Visual Arts/Design) and Sadie Woods (Visual Arts/Design).

DCASE is awarding project grants of $850-5000 in the 2020 grant period to 158 more musicians, visual artists and designers, writers, dance and theater performers and film and media artists.  Applications for the 2021 grant cycle will be open later this year.

“Chicago’s voice is heard around the world through the creativity, innovation, and vision of incredible artists in every one of our 77 neighborhoods,” said Chicago Mayor Lightfoot. “From the art they make and culture they create, our artists bring joy to our lives, drive our economy, hold the mirror to our faces.” 

She noted this is especially important in light of the coronavirus crisis.  The city-state fund Arts for Illinois is also offering a lottery of emergency grants in an effort to help artists who’ve lost gigs because of the epidemic.   More info and application at: https://3arts.org/artist-relief/

This year, Mayor Lightfoot increased the City of Chicago’s 2020 funding for cultural grants by $1 million, offering equitable grantmaking and microfinancing to individual artists, organizations and arts corridors, with special emphasis on communities of need. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Cultural Grants Program has increased its budget by 59% from $1.7 million to $2.7 million.  DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly said this investment will help more local arts and community organizations “advance their missions, engaging residents and visitors alike.”  

The DCASE Individual Artists Program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.


"Barrelhouse Bonni" McKeown, the author of "West Side Blues Blog," has played piano and written about blues music for over 15 years. www.barrelhousebonni.com  She has led classes for young and old on...